Dr. Henry Coppée is considered one of the most substantial figures in Lehigh University’s development into a world-class institution. Selected by Asa Packer, Coppée served as the first president of Lehigh University from 1866-1875. Coppée Hall at Lehigh University was named after Henry Coppée, and now houses the Department of Journalism and Communications. During his time as a professor at Lehigh, Dr. Coppée taught subjects such as English literature and history. Although an engineer himself, as President of Lehigh, Coppée believed that all students should have a well-rounded, liberal-arts education. Lecture notes taken in 1884 by an engineering student in Dr. Coppée’s class , Henry Bowman Douglass, reveal subject material surrounding the Roman Empire’s influence on the development of Europe. Much of Lehigh University’s current history curriculum focuses on the Roman Empire, offering courses such as “Ancient Roman Religion” and “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”
Research and design projects on colonizing Mars have been a source of wonder for mankind since they began in the 1990s. But, there used to be a different reason that man would look up to the sky in awe. That reason was the belief that sentient intelligent extra-terrestrials lived on the Martian surface.
Percival Lawrence Lowell, a famous American businessman, mathematician, and astronomer fully believed that intelligent life was creating canals on Mars to sustain life on the dying planet. He wrote multiple books on his observations and conclusions on Mars. Shown here is one of his many maps detailing the canal structures included in his book Mars and its Canals, which was featured in Lehigh’s Cartographic Perspectives Exhibit. His views, though debated by industry professionals, took the interest of many people. Lowell and his claims were not well respected by those in the astronomical community of his time. However, he made his mark on history through his theory on Planet X. Lowell’s search for the mysterious planet that supposedly shifted the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, which was erroneously calculated, came up fruitless. However, he started a fourteen year search for the mysterious ninth planet which concluded in the discovery of the dwarf planet, Pluto, located where Lowell had theorized. Despite being a poor astronomer, making exaggerated conclusions about life on Mars, falsely identifying surface features on Venus, and failing to find the massive ninth planet that he theorized, he made a lasting mark on our knowledge of the Solar System and many of his books are available in the Lehigh University Libraries.
At a school that’s former mascot was coined “The Lehigh Engineer,” it can appear as though arts take a back seat to the strong tradition of engineering at Lehigh University. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Lehigh has strong ties to the arts, particularly in theater and music. I had the privilege of delving into these ties through cataloging one of Special Collections’ newest collections devoted entirely to the theater arts. This collection was provided by Jeffrey Milet, an associate professor in the Lehigh University Theatre Department. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Milet was taught and mentored by George C. Izenour, who shared with him an interest in theatrical design, stage lighting, and technical theater and acoustics. Izenour, in addition to teaching theater at Yale and having a four year contract as an adjunct professor at Lehigh, holds several patents and has published books in the realm of theater. Our collection contains a wide breadth of materials and artifacts and, besides the sheer amount of legal and financial documents that go into obtaining a patent, includes copies of Izenour’s books, his original writings and sketches, and literature about and images of theaters abroad.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this collection is placing those works written by Izenour alongside his other original works: drawings and blueprints, photographs, sketches, and etchings of theaters, auditoriums, and large group spaces from around the globe as depicted in the works of painters, magazines, and newspapers. We are able to see how Izenour pulled together many different influences from a variety of sources, analyzed them in his writings, and essentially made theater designs and acoustics as we know them today. Italian columns, classical British ceilings, and stylistic components from Asian and French theaters are just a few of the foreign influences drawn together to define an ideal theater.
Prints of a Japanese theater (left) and the London Royal Circus Theater (right), elements which inspired Izenour’s designs.
Without such influences, Izenour would never have been able to earn his patents in the realm of stage lighting. Nor would these inventions be implemented in so many spaces today. A copy of Theater Lighting Archives included in the collection lists numerous applications of Izenour’s inventions from famous television studios, museums and hotels to secondary schools and universities in the United States and abroad. Lehigh University is itself home to theaters designed by George Izenour. Baker Hall in Zollener Arts Center, upon its opening in 1997, was complimented in several platforms for its fined tuned acoustics. In an article published in The Brown and White publicizing the opening of the center, Cameron Pelton, a former professor of voice at Lehigh, describes the acoustics as “amazing,” considering it a “grateful hall, because when you perform, the music comes back to you.”
While Milet and Izenour’s work does relate more to the technical and engineering aspects of the theater, perhaps this is for the best. Their work creates a seamless, comfortable, ideal theater experience, focusing on the viewers and allowing them to immerse themselves in the true art that is seeing a live performance. They are the ones truly devoted to the audience.
If you would like to view more of this collection, please contact Special Collections.
Dr. Claude G. Beardslee was a professor emeritus of moral and religious philosophy at Lehigh University while also serving as the university’s chaplain from 1931 until he retired in 1947. As a professor of moral philosophy, he was interested in the decision making process that people went through, especially in relation to our democratic system. Lehigh’s Special Collections currently holds three sets of boxes that could have been used for his classes. Upon opening the box, two books sit on top, both written by Beardslee himself. The first book is Analysis of Moral Problems. In this document, he aims to preach the betterment of society and democracy through the strengthening and teaching of the public in morals and self-governance. The second book is Student Philosophy, which aims to help develop a personal philosophy for students who read it. It is surmised, as there are multiple sets of boxes, that Dr. Beardslee would give these to his graduate students in his Proseminar classes (M.R.Phil. 100 & 101).
The most interesting object in these boxes is a large wooden tablet with small planks that have a multitude of moral definitions and suggestions printed on them. The tablet and planks fit together to create an “Executive Sense Slide Rule.” The Executive Sense Slide Rule is a device for analyzing problems and questions in light of different ethics systems and different situations. Dr. Beardslee, in Section A of the slide rule’s instructions, says “The purpose [of the slide rule] is to aid self-education in a spirit which employs the forms of certainty in the personal skills of wisdom.” Earlier in this section, he expressed his belief that the “best conduct and best happiness” come from those whose internal morals are cemented as their character. He does not mean that the morals must be static; he says that there are at least three different moral systems, only one being truly static.
The slide rule is used by going through and thinking about how the situation being analyzed fits within the “five forms of character”: thinking, communicating, knowing, judging, and acting. Each movable plank represents one of these characters and has sections for different ways and perspectives from which to look at a problem. Once decided upon one, the rule will give a list of philosophical definitions, wisdom, or knowledge that may be applicable to the situation. This is done for all five forms of character and then the user will have a well formed view of the problem at hand and, ideally, know the implications of the decision they make.
The attempt to systematize a philosophical system such as ethical decision making is a noble effort. The way in which Dr. Beardslee went about creating this system was undoubtedly inspired by the engineering influence at Lehigh University. With the pursuit of engineering and scientific advancement at the university, all should be mindful that any progress is best made under an ethical code. This is to ensure that we do not harm or hinder our neighbors, country, or environment. Dr. Beardslee seems to be creating a unified philosophy for those who are making decisions that will affect everyone. This pursuit aligns with the creation of engineering ethics in the major engineering associations in the early 1900s.
Roughly 500 bright eyed and bushy tailed “sub-froshes” (prospective freshman) got more than they signed up for on a fateful morning in May, 1937. Apparently, they didn’t see “Communist flag viewing party” in the fine print of their schedules. Also, University admission tour guides must have forgotten to mention the day’s special event.
Students swarmed the courtyard, which, on any other day would’ve meant there was free food, but today it was to gape in disbelief as a Soviet Union flag waved atop the University flagpole.
Believed to be an elaborate prank put on by sympathizers of the communist movement, or perhaps just a couple of goons looking for a good laugh, the flag caused quite the frenzy.
The pranksters had managed to jam the flag’s pulley system so it could not be simply lowered to the ground. Incidentally, the fire department’s longest latter was “too short.” Thus, all hope fell into the hands and spikey feet of a daring steeplejack.
Thankfully, the steeplejack succeeded in his mission unharmed and once the flag was finally taken down, it was replaced by the glorious Lehigh University brown and white.
The Soviet flag fell into the custody of a Delta Tau Delta fraternity brother, who allegedly hung it up in his room. Yet today, the flag’s whereabouts are unknown.
Bob Dylan first performed at Lehigh’s Stabler Arena in 1981. This performance came during what has been described as Dylan’s preaching, gospel, or “born-again” phase, which followed his conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s. The set list for this concert, as well as all of Dylan’s other concerts, is available on his website. Since 1981, Dylan has made six additional appearances at Stabler arena in 1995, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2010, and most recently in 2013. His initial visit to Lehigh in 1981 proved to be on the earlier end of his career, with his first album released in 1961.
Prior to his appearance at Stabler in 1981, Dylan’s influence on the student body was apparent in both the favorable and unfavorable references to him made in the Brown and White. In comparison to another folk music act that played at Lehigh in 1965, the student reviewer commented, “I can only describe Dylan’s voice as a premature senile croaking coming through a musty rain-barrel.” It seems that after 51 years, the Nobel Prize Committee has repudiated this reviewers opinion that “ranting and wailing, moaning and groaning about how the world is going to hell in a bucket isn’t my idea of good folk music.”
Throughout much of the latter part of the written word’s existence, books, especially of the science and fiction genres, have been banned for featuring content that went against the social or religious norms of society. One of the most famous conduits of these bans has been the Catholic Church, which published an index of banned books considered sinful to read, titled the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This index lasted from 1529 to 1966, when it was declared to not have paramount moral authority. Other sources of book bans throughout history have been governments, school systems, and religions. The targets of many early bans were scientific works such as those of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo in the 16th and 17th centuries. As history crept into the modern day and fiction became a more common genre of writing, banning books for sexual depictions, violence, and unpopular political views has become more common. In the modern age, with much emphasis being put on tolerance and acceptance, people may think that we are beyond the banning books, but we still see bans ranging from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, J.D. Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Authors can face bans on their books due to a book’s content and because they draw from facts in the real world.
In 2000, when Daniel Gerhard “Dan” Brown released his first Robert Langdon novel, Angels and Demons, he sparked a worldwide conversation on the content of literature and its relation to the real world. The book was a mystery which concluded in a camerlengo planting an antimatter bomb in the Vatican and faking a vision from God in order to save what he believed to be a dying Catholic Church. Brown’s consistent use of scientific facts and religious beliefs in his story added to the realism for which he became known. Many were infuriated for the insinuation that the Catholic Church’s hierarchy could be corrupt. This became a full-fledged debate with Brown’s 2003 publication of The Da Vinci Code. This novel is a mystery-thriller focusing on a murder connected to a secret society that was created to protect the Holy Grail. In the novel, Brown evokes the idea that the Holy Grail refers to Mary Magdalene and her descendants, who began with the children she bore with Jesus of Nazareth. Despite this idea being unoriginal, Brown brought it into the spotlight and offered the evidence for it in the novel. Some viewed this claim to be an affront on the Catholic Church and Christians everywhere. This led to the book being banned in countries such as Lebanon, Manila, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Samoa, Sri Lanka, and Jordan and being severely criticized by other countries including the Vatican. Brown’s books continue to use the themes of science and religion to analyze views on religion, the soul, morals, and hidden history. As movies based on his work come out worldwide, more and more governments and religions have been banning and criticizing the content of his writing.
We are now at an impasse in the debate where we can decide that Brown’s work is an example of artistic freedom and one man’s view on the world or denounce his work for going against traditional views and blurring the line between fiction and reality. This is a choice for our generation and for all future generations so that all views of a topic may be known and maybe, like in the case of early astronomers, the controversial views expressed may be proved true. This is why no book, written word, or even speech should be silenced or censored “for even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
Today we continue our celebration of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, a week dedicated to bringing forward challenged books, by looking at some of these books in our collection. This journey takes us to the post-reconstruction United States in the South, in the arms of the beloved Uncle Remus as he passes on traditional African folklore. The comical stories of the mischievous Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox entertained the children on Uncle Remus’s lap and readers alike.
The character of Uncle Remus was brought to life by author Joel Chandler Harris. Harris was born in Eatonton, Georgia on his family’s slave plantation, and heard these dialect tales as a child from slaves. He later crafted these tales into a narrative and made them available to a large white audience. Other writers of his generation recorded these stories, but Harris’ creative use of African-American vernacular and ability to further universalize the conflicts between the weak and the powerful made his collection the only one that really caught on with readers.
Harris’ original collection of stories, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings (1880) has gained popularity across the globe, having been translated into over 40 languages, and it has never gone out of print. Special Collections holds an 1881 edition of this book, which is representative of the beginning of the folklore movement.
To get his works from the original storytellers to readers around the world, Harris was said to have found inspiration in a novel nearly equal in controversy: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. At Special Collections, we have several editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a variety of languages, with the 1852 first edition being shown here. Both novels deal with the spread of opinions of race, slavery, and discrimination through storytelling to young children. Even as a piece of anti-slavery groundwork for the Civil War, Harris felt Stowe’s novel remained sympathetic to the institution she wished to condemn by painting a too-generous picture of the slave master. Through the Uncle Remus stories, Harris attempted to set aside the southern defeat that had divided America, and instead create a romantic and endearing story to reconnect the two sides. This charges the main controversy, both at the time of publishing and still today.
Many readers and scholars have noted the theme of race and presence of racial stereotypes would still be offensive to modern readers, earning the stories what seems to be a permanent seat on the banned books list. Further adding to the controversy of Uncle Remus, Disney produced a movie in 1946, Song of the South, as a visual interpretation of Harris’s work. The movie never was made available for public purchase because of the same racial themes, despite it’s famous song “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” and legacy as Disney’s first film to feature “flesh-and-blood-players” (Song of the South’s 1946 Campaign Book). What scholars have called “the negro situation” has resulted in Disney Park’s Splash Mountain log flume as perhaps one of the only tangible memories of Song of the South.
Despite the challenged legacy of the stories, historical merit remains strong. President of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, Tyrone Brooks, believes:
“There should be an appreciation of all that history because it tells you where we were, and how far we’ve come. But it also tells you have far we have to go.”
Looking back on this piece of reconstruction history and analyzing sources like Harris’s works, although controversial, allows us to accomplish the very thing Brooks is describing. Controversy can breed change even in contemporary times.
While Banned Books Week now provides the opportunity to celebrate the reading and expression of unpopular or challenging ideas, the suppression and censoring of controversial ideas in printed books has a long and well documented history.
With the advent of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century came the ability to rapidly and widely disseminate information. This new method of printing made hand-written manuscripts largely obsolete, and in the process broke the Catholic Church’s near monopoly on the written word. In conjunction with the Christian Reformation, this literary revolution challenged the Roman Church’s moral and theological doctrines. In an attempt to combat this threat to Catholic dogma, Pope Paul IV published the 1559 Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This publication was an official list of “books which were not to be read or possessed by Roman Catholics without authorization, or which could be read only in approved or expurgated editions” (Glaister, p. 242). A more moderate, revised list was published in 1564 following the Council of Trent, which was later followed by another revision in 1897 by Pope Leo XIII. The final version of the list was published in 1948 and the Index was officially abolished by the Vatican in 1966.
The first librarian of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, Thomas James, anticipated Banned Books Week by several centuries. In 1627, James published his Index Generalis, which was based on the Index Expurgatorius, a list of works in need of revision or alteration for Catholic approval. James‘ Index was used “as an invaluable reference work to be sued by the curators of the Bodleian Library when listing those works particularly worthy of collecting” (Encyclopedia of Censorship, p. 133). According to the Encyclopedia of Censorship, James’ preface to the Index Generalis “makes his contempt for the Papacy clear, both because it extended so pervasive a censorship system and, perhaps more so, because the system was so poorly, ignorantly and unprofessionally implemented” (p. 133). Like the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, James’ Index continued to be used into the 20th century.
One of the most famous authors on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was Galileo Galilei, who defended the Copernican model of a heliocentric solar system. Following his trial by the Roman Inquisition, Galileo’s Dialogo was added to the Index and he was officially prohibited from publishing any future works. This historic 1633 prohibition is noted in an 1830 publication titled Literary Policy of the Church of Rome, which was discovered in the circulating collection of Fairchild Martindale Library while researching this post and pictured above. This book was written by a British reverend and presents a historical analysis of the Catholic Church’s policy of censorship. Galileo did not abide by the Church’s ruling, publishing his seminal work Two New Sciences in 1638. Lehigh’s Special Collections holds several editions of Galileo’s Two New Sciences, including a copy of the first edition, which was the one millionth volume acquired by the Lehigh Libraries in 1992.
A 1564 version of an Index Librorum Prohibitorum is available online at The Internet Archive provided by the National Central Library of Rome.
A 1576 version of an Index Expurgatorius is available online at Hathitrust provided by Duke University.
Glaister, G. A. (1996). Encyclopedia of the book (2nd ed.). New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press.
Green, J. (1990). The encyclopedia of censorship. New York, N.Y.: Facts on File.
Every year, the American Library Association (ALA) dedicates one week to education and advocacy about the problem of book censorship. This year, staff and students from Special Collections will be writing a series of blog posts examining controversial and challenged books in our holdings.
ALA’s top ten most challenged books of 2015 are listed below, three of which are currently available in the collections of the Lehigh Libraries. The absence of commonly challenged books in Lehigh’s collection is not indicative of censorship but rather a reflection of the collection development and purchasing priorities of an academic institution, with a focus on research and scholarly support.
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
- I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
- The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
- Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
- Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
- Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
- Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).
While not on this year’s list of most challenged books, one of the most well-known and frequently contested books of the past one and a half centuries is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain and Huck Finn are of particular interest to us in Special Collections as they feature prominently in the ongoing exhibit in Linderman Library, Visual and Verbal: The Deborah and Alfred Judson Barcan Collection. Banned Books Week happens to coincide with an event honoring the Barcans for their gift, which will be held Wednesday, September 27 at 4:10pm in the Scheler Humanities Forum (Linderman 200). This event features a presentation by Associate Professor of English Seth Moglen, who will focus on the works of Twain in the Barcans’ collection. For more information on the Barcan Collection, visit the online exhibit, which includes images and descriptions of the books on display, including numerous works by Twain.
According to the ALA,
Since its publication in 1884, “Huck Finn” has been the subject of intense criticism and also acclaim. Initially dismissed by some for its “coarse” vernacular language, the book faced new objections in the twentieth century to its racial language and themes. In May 1996, a class action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, alleging that the district deprived minority students of educational opportunities by requiring racially offensive literature (including “Huck Finn”) as part of class assignments. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, stating he realized that “language in the novel was offensive and hurtful to the plaintiff,” but that the suit failed to prove the district violated students’ civil rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that requiring students to read literary works that some find racially offensive is not discrimination prohibited by the equal protection clause or Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Montecito v. Tempe Union High School District). Today, “Huck Finn” remains a classic contribution to American literature and is often ranked among the truly great American novels.
While the modern challenges against Huck Finn focus on its frequent use of the n-word and its racist portrayal of black people, these challenges are somewhat ironic considering that Twain was one of the more progressive writers of his era. In addition to the vernacular language, which readers at the time of its publication considered too vulgar for “real” literature, Huck Finn was also controversial for Huck’s decision to help Jim escape from slavery. In line with the prevailing sentiments of the time, Huck considers Jim to be the lawful property of the Widow Douglas. However, through their adventures together, Huck starts to see Jim as a human being and questions the morality of what for the time should have been the clear course of action – to return the Widow’s stolen property to her. Instead, Huck decides that he would rather endure eternal damnation for stealing and helps Jim to escape.