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The Nova Convention

The Nova Convention was held November 30-December 2, 1978, in New York City in honor of Burroughs and his influential body of work.  Called “the Charles Dickens of our age” by poet Anne Waldman, Burroughs’s influence was far-reaching as the 1970s drew to a close— Burroughs’s Naked Lunch was central to the 1960s psychedelic aesthetic; his cut-up technique deconstructed the linearity of narrative and influenced musicians like David Bowie, whose 1974 album Diamond Dogs was composed using cut-ups; his dystopian landscapes set the stage for science fiction cyberpunk; and the developing iconic persona of Burroughs was enthusiastically incorporated by the punk rock scene.

The convention brought together artists, writers, and musicians for three days of lectures, panel discussions, films, exhibitions, performances, readings, and concerts.
Shown here is a program sent by Brion Gysin to Paul Bowles including Gysin’s handwritten edits to the line-up: most notably, Frank Zappa filled in for Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, whose originally scheduled appearance had been a major draw. (MSS 163, Paul Bowles papers)





Check out more from Special Collections’s current gallery exhibition Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted: William S. Burroughs at 100 at http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/burroughs/intro.html

Referring to the blooms evoked in The Flower Book, Pre-Raphaelite artist/designer Edward Burne-Jones (b.1833-d.1898) wrote, “It is not enough to illustrate them, I want…to wring their secret from them.”  Rather than presenting the flowers themselves, the prints found in this stunning book are evocative, dream-like images  inspired by floral names.



"Love in a Mist"

“Love in a Mist”


To escape the busyness of life in London, Burne-Jones repaired to his cottage on the southern English coast, where he painted watercolors based on some of the hundreds of unusually named floral varieties he observed.


“Grave of the Sea”
(click to enlarge)


After the artist’s death in 1898, his widow Georgiana Burne-Jones arranged for the paintings to be reproduced in a book, published in conjunction with the Fine Art Society of London. Frenchman Henri Piazza produced the prints based on Burne-Jones’s watercolors.  Three hundred copies of the book were printed in 1905.



“False Mercury”
(click to enlarge)


It has been suggested that the remarkable vividness and depth of the prints in The Flower Book are the result of a French printing process called pochoir, in which layers of hand-colored stenciling are applied to a type of black-and-white photographic print (a “collotype”).  This might explain the almost three-dimensional quality many of the prints display.




“Helen’s Tears”
(click to enlarge)


Others have speculated differently, without offering a  definitive explanation of the printer’s process. Thus, the remarkable images retain an aura of mystery that adds to their appeal.

This copy of The Flower Book is  from The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, a privately owned collection associated with University of Delaware Special Collections. 



“Flame Heath”
(click to enlarge)


The Flower Book: Reproductions of Thirty-eight Watercolors by  Edward Burne-Jones. Reproduced for the Fine Art Society by Henri Piazza.  London: 1905.  Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library.

Join us for a curator-led gallery tour of Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted: William S. Burroughs at 100 in Special Collections:

Friday, March 28: 12-1pm

April: TBA

Friday, May 30: 12-1pm

Friday, June 13: 12-1pm

Senator Kaufman flanked by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at a press conference about the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), April 28, 2009.

Senator Kaufman flanked by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at a press conference about the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), April 28, 2009.

Today the University of Delaware Library opened a new research collection, the papers of Senator Edward E. “Ted” Kaufman. Kaufman served on the Senate staff of Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. from 1973-1995, first as state director and then as chief of staff. In 2008, Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner appointed Kaufman to fill the Senate seat left vacant when Joe Biden was elected Vice President of the United States.

The collection consists of approximately 29 linear feet and 60 gigabytes of correspondence, legislative bills, photographs, press clippings, schedules, speeches, and other materials. The papers reflect his work on the Senate committees on Foreign Relations and the Judiciary; his leadership in reforming the American financial system; and his commitment to promoting the expansion of education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The papers also include records from Kaufman’s time as chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP), which he served on from October 2010-March 2011 overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Visit the Edward E. “Ted” Kaufman Papers at the University of Delaware Library website to learn more about Senator Kaufman, and check out the online exhibit 22 Months: Ted Kaufman in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Kaufman's electronic records are available to researchers on the Special Collections reading room workstation.

Senator Kaufman’s electronic records are available to researchers on the Special Collections reading room workstation.


The Kaufman papers finding aid provides a detailed description of the collection. Please contact the library with questions about materials and information about visiting Special Collections to view the papers.

Additionally, an exhibit featuring the Kaufman papers will be on display in the Special Collections reading room on the second floor of Morris Library through April 7, 2014 to celebrate Congress Week!

As part of our artist books collection, Special Collections recently acquired a copy of Orihon, the first book printed using a three-dimensional printer. It takes the form of an accordion fold book, with the individual printed plates attached through folding connectors, all of which are made out of plastic.

[Burtonwood, Tom. Orihon. Chicago, Ill: Tom Burtonwood, 2013.]

[Burtonwood, Tom. Orihon. Chicago, Ill: Tom Burtonwood, 2013.]

The book’s plates contain three-dimensional images of sculptures at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In order to construct the book, creator Tom Burtonwood used a digital camera to take multiple photographs of the sculptures. The photographs were then digitally stitched together  to construct a three-dimensional wire-frame which could be printed on a three-dimensional printer.

Colophon for Orihon. The text is printed in three-dimensions.

Colophon for Orihon. The text is printed in three-dimensions.

Although initially issued in a print-run of fifty signed and numbered copies, Orihon is also available as a free open-source, print-on-demand project. The files used to print Orihon  are available for download at the Thingiverse website; each printed copy was also issued with a flash-drive containing all of the necessary files. One could use the files to print additional copies of the book, and one could even use the files to create variations on the original by altering the order of the images or introducing new ones.

Detail of three-dimensional images from Orihon.

Detail of three-dimensional images from Orihon.

English visual artist, writer, and performance artist Brion Gysin (1916-1986) was one of William S. Burroughs’s most trusted friends and his closest collaborator. Burroughs remembered Gysin as “the only man he ever respected.” Interdisciplinary, inter- and multinational in scope, Gysin is credited for being ahead of his time, transcending generic boundaries, and experimenting with new media. Gysin’s calligraphic painting style was heavily influenced by Arabic calligraphy he discovered in Morocco, his study of Japanese, and black magic spells. His writing also incorporated experiments with audio tape, cut-ups, and permutation poems.

This silver gelatin photo collage by François Lagarde depicts Burroughs (left) and Gysin’s heads atop statues from Geneva’s Reformation Wall. Lagarde (b. 1949) had taken a series of ten photographs of the pair in Geneva, which were published in a portfolio titled Le Colloque de Tanger in 1976.

François Lagarde. [The New Reformers.]  Le Colloque de Tanger.  Geneva: François Lagarde, 1975. Photographer’s stamp on verso; number 8 of an edition of 50.

François Lagarde. ["The New Reformers."] Le Colloque de Tanger. Geneva: François Lagarde, 1975. Photographer’s stamp on verso; number 8 of an edition of 50.


Check out more from Special Collections’s current gallery exhibition Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted: William S. Burroughs at 100 at http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/burroughs/intro.html

In the early 19th century when paper was made by hand, a watermark was produced when thin wire was shaped into a design or letters, and then sewn into the mold used to make the paper. When a sheet of paper was held up to the light, the watermark could be read. It would identify the maker of the paper or, in some cases, the paper broker.


Photograph of a watermark, from UD’s Thomas Gravell Watermark collection


Thomas Gravell (d. 2004) was an engineer for E.I. Dupont de Nemours and Company for thirty five years.  After his retirement in 1975, he discovered a means of accurately and inexpensively reproducing watermarks, and he became an authority on early American varieties.  Gravell spent the last part of his life tracking down, identifying, and reproducing a huge number of early American watermarks, for a number of institutions, including University of Delaware Special Collections.

In 1979 Gravell and George Miller published an annotated catalog  entitled American Watermarks, 1690-1835.  Containing 700 illustrations, it became the definitive work on the topic. In 2002 Delaware’s Oak Knoll Press published a greatly revised and expanded edition .


Cover of the revised edition of American Watermarks 1690-1835, from Oak Knoll Press, 2002


In 1980 UD Special Collections began acquiring  collections of manuscripts of Gravell’s two books on early watermarks, along with slides, index cards and photographs.  In 1995 two professors at Virginia Tech created a searchable, online database of 7,000 images from the Thomas L. Gravell Watermark collection at UD.

Three of the watermarks in Gravell’s book came from one or both of the paper mills of Roger Kirk and his sons. The paper mills of R. Kirk & Sons operated in Chester County Pennsylvania during the first decades of the nineteenth century.

Recently L. Harvey Kirk II (UD ’69),  a descendent of Roger Kirk,  contacted UD Special Collections, looking  for reproductions of the Kirk watermarks found in Gravell’s book.

After he was directed to the online database from Virginia Tech,  Mr. Kirk discovered an image of one of the watermarks that included a detail not found in the version published in Gravell’s book.  Because it was exposed differently, the version in the database reveals a signature from the page:  “Thomas Jefferson Esq.”  The identity of this particular document is uncertain. The original document is part of  the Thomas Jefferson papers at the Library of Congress, one of the institutions for which Gravell reproduced watermarks.

Needless to say, Mr. Kirk is excited to find out the identity of at least one person who used paper from his ancestors’ paper mill!



Detail of a page with the watermark of R. Kirk and Sons, bearing Thomas Jefferson’s signature, from the Gravell Watermark Archive database



Inverted image of the R. Kirk watermark, with the signature of “Thomas Jefferson Esq.” right side up. From the Gravell Watermark Archive  database.



Link to the finding aid for the Thomas Gravell Watermark collection at University Delaware Special Collections.

Link to the Gravell Watermark database at Virginia Tech.

From the Stacks


Detail of Light House Establishment bookplate.

In the nineteenth century, American lighthouse keepers and their families faced a difficult existence, as they often lived in difficult and remote locations, without access to local stores and entertainment. As a result, they had to rely on the Light House Establishment, the U.S. agency in charge of lighthouse operations, to deliver them supplies via boats, called lighthouse tenders.  Included in the list of supplies for light keepers were portable wooden library boxes, which contained a variety of books meant to help light keepers pass the time.


Cooper, James Fenimore. The Pathfinder. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1841.

Portable libraries were first introduced by the Light House Establishment in 1876. Each library was contained in a portable, solid-wood case, and fitted with brass handles, as well as a printed listing of its contents inside the door. The books included in the cases were selected by public library personnel, and tended to be fiction, though technical books could be requested by the light keepers.

The library’s contents were frequently revised, in order to keep up with suggestions from library officials. Each of the selections were marked inside the front cover with a Light House Establishment bookplate, which contains images of a light ship (a ship which acts as a lighthouse), an iron pile lighthouse, and the likeness of the Minot’s Ledge Light, a lighthouse in Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

The University of Delaware Special Collections possesses an 1841 edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s (1789-1851) The Pathfinder, which was included in the Light House Establishment’s portable library system.


Gysin, Brion. William S. Burroughs. Paris, 1959. in Burroughs, William S. Die Elektronische Revolution. Göttingen : Expanded Media Editions, 1972

February 5, 2014,  marks the 100th birthday of William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), the godfather of the Beats, el hombre invisible, the gentleman junkie.

Burroughs was a founding member of the Beat Generation, which paved the way for counterculture movements in the 1960s. He addressed early themes of gay liberation, deconstructed the linearity of narrative fiction, and influenced cyberpunk and punk rock. Burroughs did not achieve the instant celebrity that came to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, but his achievements and his legacy eclipsed them both.

William S. Burroughs believed that the 1951 death of his wife Joan Vollmer by his own stray bullet “maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle in which I had no choice but to write my way out.” His innovative and experimental writing style, his insistence on confronting systems of authority and control, and his explorations with drugs, sex, magic and dreams, perception and reception, utopias and dystopias, technology, art, and the written word radically shifted the landscape of American literature and culture in the twentieth century. His landmark 1959 novel The Naked Lunch exposed and probed topics too taboo for the 1950s American psyche. His work over the next forty years would test boundaries and transcend genres with the fundamental knowledge that if “nothing is true, everything is permitted.”


Dustjacket, Burroughs, William S. The Naked Lunch. Paris: Olympia Press, 1959.

Special Collections’s current exhibition, “Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted”: William S. Burroughs at 100 pays tribute to this most famous junkie writer, the iconoclast, and the reluctant icon. An online version can be viewed here.

Morris Library has a great collection of Burroughs’s books, including Naked Lunch, Junky, the Nova Trilogy (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express), the Red Night Trilogy (Cities of the Red Night, The Place of Dead Roads, and The Western Lands), as well as great biographies and published letters and journals.

The Film & Video Collection in the Lower Level has several films and documentaries related to Burroughs: David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991); William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2011); William S. Burroughs: Commissioner of Sewers (1991); Towers Open Fire and Other Films (1989); Drugstore Cowboy (1989); and Burroughs: The Movie (1985).

Norman Mailer said of Burroughs, “I think that William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.” Celebrate Burroughs’s legacy and influence as a writer, a mad prophet-philospher, an artist, and a performer with a book, a film, or come by the exhibit in Morris Library.

In curating our current exhibit of poetry written in response to the death of John F. Kennedy, we were forced to greatly limit ourselves. The exhibit featured  John Hollander’s  poem “November 22, 1963″ from the book Of Poetry and Power.  The online version of the exhibit also presents “Assassination of John F. Kennedy”  by Gwendolyn Brooks, from the same anthology.

Cover of "Of Poetry and Power"

Front cover of anthology “Of Poetry and Power”

The volume includes much interesting work, reflecting the variety of poetic responses that followed the events of November 22, 1963.  One example is an entry from one of the journals of poet Allen Ginsberg, dated November 22, 1963:

The black & white glare blink in the inky Air Force night
as the Helikopter rose straight up in the television frame
carrying President Johnson toward the newsphoto White House
past the tail flag of the giant United States of America super-jet
settled at rest and lonesome under the klieg light field
swarmed with cops brass photographers mikrophones blip
                                                                                      Macnamara chill

Long nosed Oswald suspect in Dallas of half mast pro Castro

Rather than striking an elegiac tone,  Ginsberg’s entry employs a distancing technique, evoking the aftermath of the assassination  as a set of media images, complete with “mikrophones blip.” Ginsberg  is reminding us that November 1963  was the first time Americans “experienced” a presidential assassination via television reports.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections has a number of volumes of Ginsberg’s published journals, including a first edition of The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice, which contains the poet’s earliest  journals and poems.

Front cover of “The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice”

 Special Collections also has Ginsberg’s published journals from the mid 1950s, as well as two signed copies of  journals from the  early 1950s and 60s.

Front cover of Ginsberg’s “Journals: Early Fifties Early Sixties”


Title page of Ginsberg’s “Journals,” signed by the author

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