February 10, 2011

Five Favourite Songs: Royal Charlie; John Anderson My Jo; Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad; Love and Glory; Nobody Coming to Marry Me

Robert Burns (1759-96) is best known for his poems and songs that reflect Scotland's cultural heritage. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first of seven children belonging to William Burnes, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Burns had little formal education, but he read English literature and absorbed the traditional, largely oral Scots-language folk songs and tales of his rural environment. He began to compose songs in 1774, and published his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, in 1786. The work was a critical success, and its poems in both Scots and English, on a range of topics, established Burns’s broad appeal. While building his literary reputation, Burns worked as a farmer, and in 1788 he was appointed an excise officer in Ellisland. He spent the final 12 years of his life collecting and editing traditional Scottish folk songs for collections including The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Original Scotish [sic] Airs for the Voice. Burns contributed hundreds of Scottish songs to these anthologies, sometimes rewriting traditional lyrics and setting them to new or revised music. Burns’s works were widely distributed throughout Scotland and beyond in chapbooks. These small, inexpensive eight-page booklets were often illustrated with woodcuts and printed on coarse paper. Chapbooks (called garlands if they included songs) were a popular form of entertainment in the 18th and early 19th centuries and the principal way that ordinary people encountered songs and poetry. They were distributed by traveling “chapmen” who sold the books at markets and door-to-door in rural areas. Chapbooks often included poems by more than one author, and the authors were not identified. This book, from the G. Ross Roy Collection at the University of South Carolina, includes Burns’s "John Anderson, My Jo," and "Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad."

Primer with Various Instructions

Beron’s Primer with Various Instructions is the first modern Bulgarian primer. Used by children throughout the 19th century, it contained, in addition to the rules of grammar, general information about nature and basic arithmetic. The book is better known as the “Fish Primer” for the picture of the whale at the end. Beron is considered the father of modern Bulgarian.

Conditions as Created by their Lords Burgomasters of Amsterdam

This pamphlet, published in Amsterdam in 1656, contains information about the patroonships offered by the West India Company to settlers in the Dutch colony of New Netherland, and in particular about the policies of the city of Amsterdam toward overseas colonization under the terms of the agreement between the city and the West India Company. Intended to help populate the colony, the patroonships were large grants of land made to Dutch investors who agreed to establish a colony of “fifty souls, upwards of fifteen years old.” The pamphlet was, in the form of an appendix, a part of the book by Adriaen van der Donck, Beschryvinge Van Nieuw-Nederlant (Description of New Netherland), published in 1655, but was produced by a different printer.

Prosperity of the West India Company

This pamphlet of 1642 contains a number of proposals to increase the profits of the Dutch West India Company for the benefit of its shareholders. The company was established in 1621 under a charter granted by the States-General, the governing body of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Similar to the Dutch East India Company, which was founded in 1602 to promote trade with Asia, the West India Company was granted a 24-year monopoly on all trade by Dutch merchants and inhabitants in a region that included the Americas and West Africa. The Dutch maintained a colony on the northeast coast of Brazil between 1624 and 1654, and the proposals in the pamphlet mainly relate to Brazil and the sugar trade, as well as to the financing of the West India Company’s military force and some issues having to do with slavery. Many of the pages show, on the right-hand side, detailed sums of costs and profits, calculated in gulden, the currency of the day. The pamphlet is signed “P. Le Candele,” in the city of Middelburg, Province of Zeeland.

Freedoms, as Given by the Council of the Nineteen of the Chartered West India Company to All those who Want to Establish a Colony in New Netherland

The Lords Nineteen, the governing body of the Dutch West India Company, established the patroon system as a way to encourage the settlement of New Netherland, the Dutch colony in North America that covered parts of present-day New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware. Patroons were wealthy Dutchmen who were given extensive tracts of land, powers of local government, and some participation in the fur trade in exchange for settling colonists in New Netherland. In June 1629, the West India Company issued the Charter of Liberties and Exemptions, which declared as patroons of New Netherland all "who shall, within the space of four years . . . . undertake to plant a colony there of fifty souls, upwards of fifteen years old." Patroons were entitled to extend their colonies "four miles along the shore or along one bank of a navigable river (or two miles along both banks of a river), and so far into the country as the situation of the occupiers will permit." The most successful patroonship was Rensselaerswyck, which was granted to the Amsterdam diamond merchant Kiliaen Van Rensselaer in 1629, and which came to extend over a million acres (400,000 hectares) in the area of present-day Albany, New York. This pamphlet, published in Amsterdam in 1630, contains the text of the Charter of Liberties and Exemptions.

True History and Description of a Country in America, whose Inhabitants are Savage, Naked, Very Godless and Cruel Man-Eaters

Hans Staden was born in Hesse, Germany, sometime between 1525 and 1528. He made his first voyage to Brazil in 1547-48, serving as a gunner on a Portuguese ship. In 1550 he joined a Spanish expedition to the La Plata River but was shipwrecked and eventually captured by Tupinamba Indians, who were known as cannibals who ate their captives. Staden managed by various means to avoid being killed, but spent nine months as a captive of the Tupinamba. In February 1555 he escaped to a French ship. He returned to his native Germany, where in 1557 he published a lurid account of his adventures and his life among the Tupinamba. Staden’s book became an immediate best-seller that was reprinted several times in German and translated into Dutch, Latin, and French. This edition, published in Amsterdam in 1595, is one of many editions published in Dutch between 1558 and 1736. Staden’s work contains drawings and detailed descriptions of Tupinamba villages, food, pottery manufacture and other crafts, religion, marriage customs, and political practices. The book is regarded by many scholars as an important primary source for the study of the Tupinamba culture, which is now extinct.