Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blog of Hope and Glory

In 1987, the college-radio/alternative rock/children's music duo They Might Be Giants achieved critical praise (if not commercial success) with their eponymous first album.  That album burrowed one line of one song deep into your loyal blogger's brain, ready to return every time I sit down to type a blog post.  Buried between tracks "Don't Lets Start" (perhaps the band's single most beloved song) and "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" (the supreme example of how to play the Casiotone MT-100 keyboard) is the song "Number Three".  And as Number Three's writer laments of his own songwriting: "I don't know where I got the inspiration, or how I wrote the words... I've got just two songs in me, and I just wrote the third."

Preach on, Giants, preach on.

Going in, I have no clue how to string together enough nonsense to pass for a blog post.  And because I'm always grasping at material to write these posts (like the entire first paragraph), I frequently fear I'll cover the same topic twice.  I'm especially afraid of covering the same topic twice and being worse the second time around.  And so, while poking about through past posts today, I realized I have written about hoodoo magic, Jacques Derrida, Billy Beer, and Fournier gangrene, yet still totally missed Country Life magazine.

Country Life, for those who don't know, is the journal of the British countryside.  So utterly thorough in its Britishness, in fact, that I can't describe it.  So I'll share a small sample of recent cover blurbs:

Marmalade: a perfect antidote to winter

The bluffer's guide to Chopin

Knot in the club?  What your tie says about you

The Archers: why we're still addicted after 60 years

The Archbishop of Canterbury's favourite painting

1,600 years on: what have the Romans done for us?

Roman Britain 1600 years later: if nothing else, it makes a pretty great Dr. Who finale.

All that plus forty pages of property listings in the front; classified advertisements for thatchers, oil painters, bespoke gunsmiths, etc. in the back; and in the middle, all the depth and erudition you'd expect from something like Foreign Policy or The Week.  Except it's about handcrafted West Country cheeses and the eternal glory of the red postbox.

In short, it's people of wealth (or at least wealth's appearance) hunting, sailing, traipsing from the city to the farm, propping up giant ancestral homes, maintaining early 1990's Range Rovers and Jags, and fighting to maintain a unique regional identity against an increasingly homogenized culture.

Basically... it's a mashup of Charleston Magazine with The Village Green Preservation Society.

Subscription costs around $400 a year, and it's worth every penny.  It is by far our highest-circulating periodical, and dozens of members line up for a crack at back issues come discard day.  Heaven alone knows how many patrons would drop their memberships in disgust were we ever to discontinue it.  The Library Society was founded by folks to pool their money in order to procure the latest books and periodicals from London: perhaps Country Life's contemporary popularity can best be seen as a statement on the endurance and strength of that vision.

Either that, or Charlestonians really love their handcrafted West Country cheeses.

EVENT UPDATE: Join us next Wednesday, December 22nd, 7PM-8:30PM for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Strings Quintet and Holiday Brass Quintet.  Enjoy your favourite holiday songs in the beauty of the Library Society, with CSO concertmaster Yuriy Bekker leading the performance.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Her hardest hue to hold...

It only took a month. While the ginkgo leaves started falling steadily as early as last week, today was the first day for a fully golden front lawn. This is what the front of the library looked like this morning:

Bingo.  Drop day.

 Ginkgo-tacular.  Even the tree we keep indoors isn't too bad:

Pretty sweet, eh?  Though if you haven't seen it in person, you should.  And no better time for it than this Thursday night at 7PM, when fiction writer, member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and part-time Charleston resident Bernard Cornwell will be with us.  A few tickets for the event  are still left, so give us a call (843.723.9912).  C'mon, it'll make some historical fiction fan in your life very happy...

A couple of librarians wouldn't mind, either.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dear readers: help us trim our tree!

The final grains of sand are falling through the hourglass that is 2010.  One and one half months to go.  One month, one day until your loyal blogger's birthday.  [If you don't know what to get, Barbancourt rum is always nice.  C'mon, consider it a donation to needy Haitians.]

And with just a week of Library services left until Thanksgiving break (next Wednesday through Saturday), we have to start thinking of the holiday season.  Holly, tinsel, razzleberry dressing, all that jazz.  And while there are plenty of Christmas season blog post topics out there (like how you should buy our advent calendar... or how you need to get tickets now for the Unedited Christmas concert), I'm going to present one directly related to decking our halls...

Dear readers, what shall we put on the Christmas tree?

Last year, as you may recall, our book ornaments included tiny tomes from Josephine Pinckney, DuBose Heyward, Beatrice Witte Ravenel, and, of course, the December fundraiser guest of honor's latest book, South of Broad by Pat Conroy.

This year, they're all going back, along with miniature copies of The Fort, Bernard Cornwell's newest novel.  [Take that as a reminder to reserve your tickets for Bernard now.  Now!]  But it's a big, big, Christmas tree a'comin, and we're gonna need more little, little books.

So how about it folks?  Ideas, suggestions?  What do we add to the Library's pantheon of Lowcountry literary greats this year?  If you've got an idea, leave it in the comment section, email us, call, write, carrier pigeon, whatever it takes, get it to us.  The CLS staff will pick the best submissions, and on December 1st, we'll put it to an online vote.  Whomever wins will be immortalized in the boughs of the Library's tree for generations to come.  Quite the honor!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Slouching toward Bethlehem... (or at least trying to figure out where to put a Christmas tree in here...)

The tide is loosed, and everywhere the Society's events season's hours come round at last...

Monday was the Verdura jewelry lecture and exhibition, when your loyal blogger played with Cole Porter's "Night and Day" cufflinks (and now regrets not wearing French cuffs so that he might try them on).  Thursday was the end of Bret Lott's writing salon, and the start of the second session of Nan Morrison's Shakespeare course.  Wednesday, the end of the "Cocktail Party of Ideas".  Thursday, the end of the first series of Wide Angle Lunches (look for them again come March), and a fully packed-to-the-gills, turning-people-away-at-the-doors Unedited concert.  And tonight, mere minutes from now, the Poetry Society of South Carolina will have their monthly meeting with Michael McFee.

[Which reminds me, in case you haven't heard, Billy Collins will be the special guest for the PSSC's January Meeting / 90th Anniversary Spectacular.  Which isn't exactly what the Poetry Society is calling it, but we're talking national Poet Laureate... that's pretty spectacular.

Also spectacular: tickets for Mr. Collins are totally free.  All you have to do is be a member of the Poetry Society, and make a request for tickets.  Which you can do here.  $25 for an individual.  Not too shabby.]

And next week?  9 AM tomorrow the Fall Book Sale starts, and runs 'till 5PM, then again from 1PM-5PM Sunday.  Independent Lens Film Series is 4:30 this Sunday.  Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (and recipient of the Order of the Polar Star) rounds out our Authors Series next Thursday at 7PM.  Our long fall events schedule continues to turn and turn in the widening gyre, moving its slow thighs towards the two ultimate happenings of the Society's season: our next Unedited concert (link goes to tickets.  Get them now.), and A Special Evening with Bernard Cornwell, our second annual December fundraiser.

A blog post inspired by a terrible demotivational poster.  A new low for your loyal blogger.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Drop Day: it's not just for Comm majors!

It's been six months since your loyal blogger wrote about the two (award winning) ginkgo trees in front of the Charleston Library Society's Main Building... and quite frankly, if I didn't stop myself, I could fall into the trap of writing about them every week.  Without devolving to mushy Joyce Kilmer poetry: they're really wonderful things.

There were eight golden yellow leaves amongst the sea of green when I counted at lunch today: depending on the vagaries of wind, biology, and tourists with sticky fingers, I'll assume they're still there.  Hopefully - and with the past few weeks being mostly dry and warm, it'll take a lot of hope - the other few thousand leaves will lose their chlorophyll in an equally glorious manner in the next few days.

And then: Drop Day.  Usually the Library Society's pair take a day or two to lose all their leaves, but it's not rare for ginkgos to go from golden to utterly bare in a few hours.  One majestic, aurulent shower of perfectly proportioned little fans.  As Joyce Kilmer might have said: It's pretty cool.

Also the day the South Carolina General Assembly gets off its duff and allows nonprofits to legally hold raffles and competitions of luck, we're opening book on Drop Day... so, go write your assemblyman!

I don't know what the heck Ginkgo Pearl Oral Liquid is, but it's the funniest SFW thing Google Image Search had for "ginkgo".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More important than the following blather: happy birthday Pat Conroy!

It's always interesting to browse the minutes of old CLS board meetings.  262 years of mostly boredom interspersed with virulent fighting.  Perhaps my favourite: a particularly heated record of one late 1950's meeting at which a trustee suggested smoking be allowed in the Main Reading Room. 

As every television/film Eisenhower/Kennedy period piece has taught me, in the late 1950's, EVERYBODY smoked.  Grandmothers, titans of industry, Blue Collar Joe, Presidents of the United States, newborn babies...  from the offices of Sterling Price, to NASA's Mission Control, to the office of your very own doctor, everybody smoked.

But not at the Charleston Library Society.  Thanks to the valiance (and vehemence) of trustee Mrs. I'on Rhett, it was not to be.  The motion went from near passage by acclimation, to a long, (one-sided) bargaining for "half the room" to "part of the room" to "one smoking chair", to the cold hell of being infinitely tabled.  The anger and the yelling of the whole affair really does come right through all the stuffy, formal language of board meeting minutes...

So that's why, sixty years later, the Main Reading Room doesn't reek of cigarette smoke.  Kudos, Mrs. Rhett.

Remember, smoking is not attractive.  Except on Mad Men... then it's cool.

Another interesting thing from the minutes is the hours of operation the Library has held.  While I've never seen a record of us being open on Sunday, the other 144 hours of the week have been fair game.  Open at five, open at six, open at eleven in the morning; closed at three, closed at six, closed at nine at night... as customs evolved  (and indoor lighting, and air conditioning, and the standard 9-5 business day came into existence), we've changed our hours of operation.

And as of tomorrow, we're doing it again.  Every Wednesday through the end of cotillion season, the Library Society will remain open after 5:30 until 8:30.  Circulation will remain open, through research services- i.e., trips to the vaults - will not be available.  We hope you'll stop by and grab a book, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the South's oldest cultural institution during our new "after work, during cotillion" hours.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Also, Norwich F.C. has soccer's oldest fight song. Pretty cool.

Patrick McMillan's here Thursday night with a Speakers Series lecture entitled Nature On the Move: Reclaiming Our Place In the World.  Patrick is host of the ETV series Expeditions with Patrick McMillan, a terrific naturalist, and the director of the Campbell Museum at Clemson University.  We hope you'll be able to make it to this event, co-sponsored by the Coastal Conservation League.  Thursday October 21st, 7PM.  Free.

Mid-day Thursday we'll have the fourth installment of our Wide Angle Lunches as Geoffrey Van Orden, MBE MEP, joins us for a lunchtime lecture.  Van Orden is a member of European Parliament, a member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, a former British Army Brigadier-General, and likely the first Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers to lecture before the Library Society.  The View From Europe: Turkey and Its Relationship With the West is this Thursday, 12:15-1:30 PM (lecture starts at 12:30), $10 for members, $14 for non.

And from the hills of Clemson, to the East of England and the Middle East, we move on to one more exotic* locale: Palermo, Sicily.  Home to Italy's largest opera house, di Lampeduesa's magnificent The Leopard, and the city from which your loyal blogger's patrilineal predecessors set forth for America. 

On November 8th, we'll host a lecture concerning one of Palermo's most notable sons, the Duke Fulco di Verdura.  Born in Palermo in 1898, Verdura moved to America as a young man.  When he wasn't hanging out with buddies like Cole Porter, he was making exotic jewelry for the likes of Coco Chanel, Greta Garbo, Wallace Simpson.  Ward Landrigan of Verdura jewelers will be visiting the Library Society to give a presentation about the Duke and his company that will include rare pieces and original designs from the collection.  Verdura and Women of Style is November 8th at 7PM.  Admission is free, but please RSVP (843.723.9912 or

*Okay, the "hills of Clemson" aren't all that exotic.  And neither, for that matter, is the East of England.  Though the Magic Roundabout is there.  And Stephen Fry spent some time in Norfolk growing up.  So they've got that going for them.

And once upon a time, this chick was in charge... awesome.  [Though I prefer more blue paint and red hair.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies! It's blood book time.

Today your loyal blogger realized (with some help from the handy search field in the top left of the blog) that he has never never shared the Henry Timrod Death Manuscript story on the pages of Shh!.  And since today marks the Henry Timrod Death Manuscript's first day on display this season... here goes.  [Fair warning: it's the long version, so stick with me.]

William Ashmead Courtenay would be on anyone's shortlist of Great Charleston Mayors, should anyone be so inclined to write such a list.  [I think Johann A. Wagner is my vote for the Worst Charleston Mayor, which would would probably be more interesting list, but I digress.]  Courtenay came to power in a city hemorrhaging money and overly focused on its antebellum glory.  He fixed one of those problems.  [Then he paved the major streets, and developed Colonial Lake and Marion Square, and saw the city through a major hurricane and the Earthquake of 1886 and their recovery efforts... heck of a guy.]

Though a modernizer and an ardent proponent of the idea of the "New South", Courtenay was nevertheless a great fan of pre-war Southern arts and letters.  As a result, he purchased every book of poems, every scribbled couplet, every jot and tittle of work produced by 19th century Southern writers that he could get his hands on.  And when those hands were stilled by death in 1908... he left his library of Southern letters to the Charleston Library Society.

So some original stuff by Simms, and P.H. Hayne and James Ryder Randall, amongst others, are all in our collection thanks to dear Mayor Courtenay.  But perhaps the crown jewel of his collection is the Henry Timrod Death Manuscript.

Henry Timrod, the walrus-mustache wearin', Bob Dylan inspirin', Poet Laureate of the Confederacy was a very, very sickly man throughout his stay upon this mortal coil.  So sickly the Confederacy sent him home.  The same Confederacy that was desperately conscripting old men and young boys basically said "Henry, we'd rather lose the war than carry you around while you cough on everybody.  Go home and write!"

And write Henry did, penning "Ode to the Confederate Dead", "Ethnogenesis", and our state song, "Carolina".  But Henry continued to cough.  Big, bloody, tuberculosis-filled expectorations.  Then, late one night in 1867, with one final sanguinary convulsion, he hacked up his last.

And, according to the story, that's it.  Right there on the page.  Hank T.'s last sputtering of life.  Tasteful chaps that we are, it traditionally goes on display here at the Library Society every October.

(And don't forget, if you want to see something equally historical, but a little less morbid, the Mouzon Map Unveiling is this Saturday at 7:30.  $15 conservation contribution, please.  Hors d'oeuvres by Rue de Jean.  843.723.9912 for more info)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Komm, gib mir deine geld

As you most likely already know, tomorrow night is the second concert in the Unedited series, Unedited: Beatles, Bach &; Beer.  [7PM, Main Reading Room of the CLS, $15, get em online here.]

Dear reader, your loyal blogger is resisting the temptation to turn this blog post into one long string of Beatles puns... and opening up iTunes and seeing that I've got 604 tracks tagged "Beatles" is not helping.  I mean, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite", "Come and Get It", "Please, Please Me"... these things are begging to be punned upon!

But I won't.  Instead, how about a preview of tomorrow night's terrific setlist: "Something", "Hey Jude", Bach's chorale no. 6, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and a whole lot more.  Music, beer, audience participation (you'd better be prepared to bark and howl during "Hey Bulldog"), and even a little door prize (somebody's getting a Charleston County Parks Gold Pass, good to get you into any county park for a year fo' free).  Be there.

[And if you can't be there, you can still support the series.  Go here to make a donation to Unedited via PayPal.  'Cause quality arts programming is not cheap.  And what says quality like "Why Don't We Do It In the Road" performed on a cello?]

We all work in a Yellow Library...

Other music news: the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Leagueis having a black-tie fundraiser this weekend - details here - and Charleston Library Society members who wish to purchase a table at the event can get $250 off the price.  If you're interested in this night of dinner, music, mingling, and a $200,000 silent auction, call Tara Scott, 843 723-7528, extension 102.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chapter Two in an emerging tradition...

Fry up your stubble-goose and bake up some bannockbread: it's Michaelmas! Term starts at Oxbridge and the Inns of Court, accounts are settled, reeves are elected for the shire, and (just like last year) the Library Society announces it's big Christmas season event! If you were at last year's Cocktail Party with Pat Conroy, you know what a wonderful night we had. So for chapter two, we announce,

A Special Evening with Bernard Cornwell, OBE.

Bernard's now a part-time Charleston resident; you might have had the privilege of hearing him at this year's Annual Meeting of the Library Society. If you did, then I'm sure you're skipping this part to get straight to the date/time/ticket info. If you missed him, then you missed a lecture at once erudite and compelling, but also witty and lively and just exceptionally, utterly enjoyable. And he's got a new book out, too, just his second on the American Revolution. Bernard+lecture+cocktails+Library Society at Christmas... It's going to be a great evening.

The Details: It's going to be 7PM on December 9th. Tickets will go on sale in late October. Prices and exact date of sale TBA. Look for it here first.

GIS for "Michaelmas". Seriously, England? Snape Kills Dumbledore,
Harry marries the hot chick, Universal builds a theme park... it's over.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And think of how cool trance music would sound with mandolins!

As the ever-brilliant webcomic xkcd recently pointed out, "there's no reason to think that people throughout history didn't have just as many inside jokes and catchphrases as any modern group of high-schoolers."  Tonight at the Library Society, we'll see another riff on the same theme.  Dr. Nic Butler will present "Concert Night in Colonial Charleston; Or, How to Snare a Mate With Music".  Nic wrote the excellent Votaries of Apollo: The St. Cecilia Society and the Patronage of Concert Music in Charleston, South Carolina, 1766-1822 (USC Press, 2007), and probably knows more about Charleston nightlife circa 1770 than anyone else around.

So if you're ready to find out about the colonial equivalent to our modern club scene, you need to get down here.  Personally, I'm enjoying the mental image of a illuminated underfloor dancing surface, a la Club Light over on East Bay Street, existing in the 1700's.  Fire, metal grating, etc.... it might actually be an improvement over the real Club Light.

7PM tonight, in the Main Reading Room.  Free.  There will be audio and visuals accompanying the talk, which Nic promises "will be light, fun, and just a little scandalous."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

As an added bonus, we won't yell at you like those guys at Moe's Southwest Grill. So there.

Wide Angle Lunches.  Starting a week from today (September 21st), the Library Society will host the first of its new lunchtime lecture series.  Targeted at young professionals looking to get out of the office and kick their brain into a different gear during their midday break, this fall's Wide Angle Lunches will feature six great speakers on six diverse topics - Nigel Redden talking about Spoleto, a Brit MEP discussing Turkey and the EU, the president of the SCHS on Reconstruction in Charleston... all sorts of interesting people taking on any topic.

It's fresh, it's challenging, it's engaging, and it comes with a sandwich and a soda.

It all starts Thursday September 21st.  All lunches run from 12:30 to 1:30, and are $10 for members, $14 for non-members.  Drop ins are okay, but please try to let us know in advance if you're coming... we want enough lunches to go around!  843.723.9912 or to reserve a seat, or for more information.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Unedited (and very brief).

If you missed it, you messed up.  Last night's concert, Unedited: Favorite Arias and Duets was by far the best fifty minutes of your loyal blogger's week (and it's been a pretty good week).  If you missed Thursday, then we expect to see you for Unedited:Beatles Bach and Beer.  It's October 2nd.  Tickets are already available at the Library, and will be available online by the start of next week.

Okay, I'm off to set up those ticket sales.  And get ready for the next big event announcement... look for it next week.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things...

Tuesday the 31st: August is now at a close, and all Fall stands before us.  It's also the 588th anniversary of the death of Henry V, and with over fifty events taking place at the Library between now and year's end, we can repeat the chorus's question from Shakespeare's eponymous play: Can this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France? Or may we cram within this wooden "O" the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt?  

Well, we're not presenting live theatre (yet), but our "wooden O" will host half-a-dozen concerts, Toddler Tuesdays, a new film series, three exciting Lifelong Learning Series classes (including the Bard's tragedies, led by Nan Morrison), and a whole lot more.

Tomorrow night: a pair of films on architecture in Venice and Northern Italy.  Drayton Hall is leading a tour group to the Veneto in September, and, in preparation, has some short films to show about the sights to be visited.  Screenings will be here at the Library Society, and members of both organizations are invited to attend.  6-7:30 PM, Wednesday the 1st and Wednesday the 8th.  Free for members.  Please RSVP, 843.723.9912 or shoot us an email.

On sale now: tickets for Unedited: A Concert Series with Laura Ball and Friends.  Tickets for Favorite Arias and Duets, the September 9th concert, and the whole series are currently available.  Get them at the Library, over the phone (843 723 9912), or via the interweb by clicking here.  $15 for one, $85 for all seven.  Cheap.  Get 'em quick.

Not on sale for much longer:  Lifelong Learning Series classes start next week.  More info here.  Both are almost sold out, so if you want in, call us ASAP.

Final random fact for the day: it's Dubose Heyward's 125th birthday.  Perhaps you should celebrate by visiting the CLS's "Rabbit Hole", dedicated to his children's classic, The Country Bunny.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lisztomania (not Lizstomania, stupid), like a riot, like a riot, ohh...

And so it begins, the first Monday of the rest of our lives (or at least the rest of our Fall events season).

Only two events this week: Thursday morning we're hosting a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training session.  This is a free training session addressing the issue of child sexual abuse.  No registration is needed, and everyone is welcomed and encouraged to attend.

Thursday evening we're hosting Morsza, a voice and piano recital concert.  Pianist Oszkar Morzsa and soprano Eva Morzsa, along with local violinist Nicholas Bentz will perform a program of Mozart, Chopin, Verdi-Liszt, Puccini, and Lehar in the Main Reading Room of the Charleston Library Society.  Twenty bucks, cash only, at the door.

As for Lisztomania (and my apologies to the Morszas, Franz Liszt, and everyone else with the "sz" construction... bocsánat, bocsánat, bocsánat.  Heaven knows how many times I have transposed those letters in the past few weeks.)... we hope you'll make it to the concert; we hope you're wildly excited about how great the concert is: but, we will have to ask that no one bottle the performers' coffee backwash...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good morning, Tweetnam!

So there are just under fifty days marked, for some reason or another, on the Library's events calendar between now and the end of the year as having some sort of Official Library Function.  Plus, there's new construction aplenty around here- the revamped Research and Writing Center is largely complete (new doors just passed by my desk a few minutes ago).

 Notice the chop saw in the new Librarian's Office... this is going to come in handy.

And as if that wasn't enough... well there's wine and goat cheese in the staff break room right now.  'Cause we're the library that dials the cool up to 11.  Except for in the vaults, of course, they're permanently set at 22.2 degrees C.  Anyhow, we're busy, and we're happening, and all the cool kids these days are doing it, and I wanted to use the atrocious stolen pun in this post's title... you can now follow the Library Society on Twitter, at #librarysociety.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Me and you, your momma, and your cousin too...

It's hot, it's rainy, and now the elevators are dead.  The minsis horribilis continues.  SCE&G has swapped a transformer on our block, and until we get compatible motors, our elevators are just a pair of storage closets with electrically actuated doors.  Oh well: the good folks at SCE&G are on top of it, so the elevators should be back posthaste.

But the bitter always comes with the better.  Butter.  Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.  How many boards could the Mongols hoard if the Mongol hordes got bored.  Irish wristwatch.  Arg!

Okay, no more of that rubbish.  The better = Unedited: A Concert Series with Laura Ball and Friends, which premiers about a month from now on September the 9th.  A series of seven unique concerts, Unedited will present a wide spectrum of artists and styles, captained by inimitable soprano Laura Ball.  September 9th is Favorite Arias and Duets, featuring a selection of film soundtrack favorites.  Single event tickets are $15, and series tickets are $85 (about a twenty percent discount from single event price).  Get 'em via paypal through our website, linked above, or call us, 843.723.9912.

Monday, August 2, 2010

But the real problem is the 7.2 inches of average monthly rainfall.

August is a deplorable month.  Perhaps its the heat, or the grinding boredom of the tail end of summer; whatever it is, August is the sweating, stinking cesspool of human history.  Just pick a random August date - let's use today's,  2nd - and you'll find nothing but trouble.  August 2nd, 216 BC: Roman defeat at Cannae.  August 2nd, 1934: Hitler becomes führer.  August 2nd, 1939: the Einstein–Szilárd letter kicks off the atomic bomb project.  August 2nd 1964: Gulf of Tonkin incident.  August 2nd, 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait.  It's the death date of Caruso, Raymond Carver, Steven Vincent, and (the mournfully underrated) President Warren G. Harding.

In short, August is rubbish.

Except: the Library Society is kicking off its fall event season here in just a few weeks, and it's all going to start in August.  So mark your calendar: August 26th, at 7 PM, we're hosting Morza, a voice and piano recital concert.  Pianist Oszkar Morzsa and soprano Eva Morzsa, along with local violinist Nicholas Bentz will perform a program of Mozart, Chopin, Verdi-Lizst, Puccini, and Lehar in the Main Reading Room of the Charleston Library Society.  Twenty bucks, cash only, at the door.
It doesn't make up for August and its heat, its rain, and its apparent propensity for terrible historical events, but it's going to be a heck of a concert.  More info on our upcoming events page, as always.

WGH sez: be there.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Things I've said today

It's July 26th, the birthday of novelist Aldous Huxley, and the death date of King Offa of Mercia, the guy who established the border between England and Wales (likely in an attempt to keep England safe from excess l's and y's, rarebits, and rogue Methodist men's choirs).  It's also the 46th birthday of A Hard Day's Night, possibly your loyal blogger's favourite Beatles album.

It's also the one-week birthday of the Research and Writing Center's new construction project: a new office and a smaller, quieter, dedicated research room.  Construction is moving along very quickly, and we'll be moving into the space before you know it.

They've been workin' like a dog...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"A thousand twangling instruments / Will hum about mine ears..."

At least that's how Caliban put it in The Tempest.  And it's not just true on Shakespeare's windswept isle, but true as well in the Library's Research and Writing Center.  The Center is being thoroughly renovated, with new offices and reading bays in their own private, quiet space.  The project is on schedule, and should be completed and ready for use by next week.

Until then, the twangling of power tools and hanging drywall and painting will hum about your ears, if you're in the other half of the Research and Writing Center.  The rest of the Library, including the Main Reading Room, is as calm as ever.

In "The Spirit of Music", Geddy Lee reminded us the "machinery making modern music / can still be open-hearted, / not so coldly charted; / It's really just a question of your honesty."  And- honestly- that little snippet of Canadian prog-rock might describe the renovation even better than the Bard.  And, it's what the construction workers were listening to yesterday, so it's stuck in my head...

Rush: Canada's Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Still waiting for our first Bar Mitzvah...

Hotter than hades outside, fewer patrons inside, and no events on the calendar 'till September: summertime means project time around the Library.  Latest result:


That's the front room of the Barnwell Annex, once home to audio books and lots and lots of beige.  Now?  It's a snazzy conference room; home to the Library's collection of French books; our 1825 Jean Alexandre Bouchon map of South Carolina; and this fall, home to our restored Mouzon map of South Carolina.  It's a great space finally getting put to great use.

Speaking of using space around here, there is now a dedicated page on our website covering the basics of renting our rooms for your events.  The info is also available in the downloadable .pdf on said page, if you'd prefer it that way.  We've hosted parties, investment groups, genealogical conferences, a couple of weddings, and all sorts of other stuff here before: if you've got a get together, we'd love to host it.

It's not like our event calendar isn't free at the moment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

E pur si muove...

It's June 22nd, the 377th anniversary of Galileo's forced abjuration of heliocentrism.  Obviously neither Galileo nor the inquisitors were correct: the Earth and the Sun are consubstantial!  Proof?  Here in Charleston, it's 95+ degrees all week, with 70%+ humidity.  Earth=Sun, Q.E.D.

Still, we're used to it, right?  And warm weather will be no excuse come next Monday, as we march in the Carolina Day parade.  3 PM, Washington Park... be there!

ALSO HOT: our Fall events schedule!  Programs with Nic Butler, Jack Weatherford, Patrick McMillan, and more!  The return of our Lifelong Learning series, with Nan Morrison and Bret Lott!  Concerts galore!  Dates, times, and more info as it becomes available...

Also, I'm fairly sure the universe revolves
around Scottish actress Karen Gilian.
Prove me wrong, "science"!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love letters from Mountain View

You like us, you really like us!

Okay, sorry for (mis)quoting Sally Field and her Places In the Heart Oscar speech.  [Besides, everyone knows her career peaked with Smokey and the Bandit.]  No, your loyal blogger is gushing because we're now a Favorite Place on Google.   During recent testing period, the CLS was one of the most popular local businesses on the ubiquitous search engine/knowledge repository/future artificially intelligent Emperor of Earth (all hail Google!).  And we've now received our official "You're a Favorite Place" kit from the Googleplex.  Now you can come in with your smartphone, scan our "Favorite Place on Google" sticker, and read reviews about us or access special coupons.

Of course, we don't have any special coupons, and and it doesn't look like anyone's written a review of us (hint, hint).  But it's still nice to be liked, and even better when people codify exactly how much they like you, whether it's being voted President of the US, or becoming Miss Boiling Springs, SC, to merely being top 1% of businesses searched in the US (that's us!).

ALSO NICE: We're less than two weeks away from Carolina Day!  Join us June 28th, at Washington Park, at 3PM for the march on to White Point Gardens.  And don't forget the seersucker!

It worked for Joakim Noah!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Heat index: 103. Inside the library: 74. Where should you be right now?

The Piccolo Spoleto Literary Festival was a terrific success.  A big thanks to our sponsors, Duvall Catering and Wachovia/Wells Fargo; to our Programs Committee, especially the indefatigable Dr. Jane Tyler; and, of course, to the six speakers -John McCardell, Louis Rubin, James Kibler, Farrell O'Gorman, Dacre Stoker, and Bob Anderson- who were the stars of the event.  And, of course, one last huge "thank you" to all of y'all who came and paid your fifteen-dollars-for-the-event-plus-one-dollar-processing-fee and enjoyed the Festival.  We can't wait for next year's series.

 Are you in the photo above?  If so, thanks!

But, with our part of Piccolo Spoleto over, it is officially summer around here.  We've no events; no speakers; Toddler Tuesday is on hiatus... other than marching in the Carolina Day parade(seventeen days to go!), there's not much doing around here.

So stop by and grab a DVD or some light summer reading!  We're all still here, and happy to help (except on the mornings of June 18th and 23rd, when the USA has World Cup games... then you can check out your own bloody books.)  And don't forget, we're hard at work planning a great fall schedule, and we'll be announcing Autumn's events as we finalize them...  Exciting speakers?  Extended hours?  Washed-up D-list celebrity guest librarians?  A small green alien only Fred, Barney and Pebbles can see?  Tune in next time to find out!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Only a few more months 'till we get Bernard back...

For those of you who missed his excellent speech at this year's Annual Meeting of the Library Society, here's part-time Charleston resident, full time friend of the Library Society, and all-around awesome guy Bernard Cornwell, delivering the commencement speech for Emerson College. Not many commencement speakers manage to keep their audience awake... Bernard got them on their feet, earning a standing ovation by the end of his address. If you've got ten minutes, spend it watching this:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Off, to the land of cheesesteaks and Tastycakes!

Well, your loyal blogger is about to take his first vacation day of the year.  The US men's national soccer team has their last home match before the World Cup in Philly this weekend, and that's where I shall be.  I couldn't be more excited about my first visit to a city that's been so well depicted in art and culture- Philadelphia, thirtysomething, Boy Meets World, Dawn of the Dead, 12 Monkeys, the opening credits to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, One Life to Live, Always Sunny... okay, most screen depictions of Philadelphia have been kinda terrifying, or at least kinda depressing.  Still, great art museum, great music and sculpture, and I get to watch us whip Turkey's keister... pretty great.

But what I'm missing is going to be pretty great, too: the CSO Spirituals Ensemble is performing here at the Library Society this Saturday (May 29th) at 7:00 PM.  Tickets are $21, and are available through Piccolo Spoleto.  The concert, Circa 1748: Bridging Oral and Literary Traditions, is a joint project of the Ensemble and the Library Society, and will explore traditional historical connections between vocal and written arts.  Mostly, it's going to be the CSO Spirituals Ensemble doing what they do best, which is being awesome.  I might be missing Saturday's performance, but I was able to make it to their rehearsal last night: they're going to rock the roof off.  Also great, Literary Festival next week.  See you there!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ed il vostro uccello può cantare

Monday night's Dixie, Denim, and Drinks was a smashing success, and if you missed it, you really missed out.  We would like to give a big thanks to all of the performers- Laura Ball, Peter Kiral, Courtney Sharp, Edoardo Carpenedo, and Erica Carpenedo- and hope that they'll be back to perform for us again.  While we're big fans of "quiet in the library", this concert certainly showcased the joy of a little occasional noise around here!

So we are now officially "warmed up" for Spoleto; on to Piccolo proper.  First up is another great concert called Circa 1748.  This is a joint project of the CLS and the CSO Spiritual Ensemble, incorporating our historical written materials with the vocal talents of the Spiritual Ensemble.  May 29th, 7PM, here at the CLS.

June 3-5 is the Piccolo Spoleto Literary Festival, kindly sponsored by Wachovia and Duvall Catering.  Starting at 10 AM on the 3rd, John McCardell will discuss The Civil War and Historical Memory; at 3 PM Louis Rubin will talk about his new book, Uptown/Downtown in Old Charleston.  June 4th at 10 AM we'll have James Kibler present Getting Reacquainted with William Gillmore Simms, Poet; at 3 PM Farrell O'Gorman will give Writing Faith and Doubt in the Contemporary South: Walker Percy's Legacy.  At 10 AM on the 5th, former 60 Minutes producer Robert G. Anderson will tell us What NOT to Say to Mike Wallace; and at 3PM Dacre Stoker will discuss Unlocking Some of the Mysteries of Dracula, from the Stoker Family Perspective.

Event tickets for Circa 1748 and the Festival are available wherever Piccolo Spoleto tickets are sold.  The concert is $21, and the literary lectures $16.

Immediately following the will be our annual Literary Soiree, at 7 PM on the 5th.  Join some of our speakers and your fellow festival goers, and have a nosh courtesy of Duvall Catering.  Tickets are $15, and are available directly though the Library Society, 843.723.9912.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

They're so old, we're thinking about naming them "Strom" and "Thurmond"...

The Library Society is now about 260 years old.  That makes us the oldest cultural institution in the South; it impresses the heck out of visitors from out West who seem to think anything predating the Carter administration is ancient; and it secures us a spot near the front of the Carolina Day Parade line.  Being 260 years old is kinda cool.

But our collections include a few manuscripts from as far back as the 15th century, and some Indic statuary from as far back as the 10th.  Absorbing that level of historicity is always amazing- to pick up a document and think, "This book was written the year Lorenzo de' Medici died", or "That little statue was around before the Normans conquered England".  Everyday, you're gobsmacked by the elastic nature of time on a grand scale: how can I call George Washington's letters as "old" when something created eight centuries prior sits a few yards away?

But then, then!, there are the twinned doyen of our collections: the ginkgos that flank our Main Entrance.  While ours were planted Garden Club in 1922 - practically yesterday, right? - the ginkgo is a survivor from the Permian Era - 270 million years ago.  Our Society might predate the United States; but ginkgos were around before flowering plants.  Before birds.  Before mammals.

That is old.  That is awesome.

And now, best of all?  That awesomeness has been formally recognized!  Our ginkgos are not just living fossils, they are the Charleston Horticultural Society's 2010 Outstanding Trees Award in the "Nonprofit" category.  We've even got a nifty trophy to boot.  There are a lot of great trees in the Lowcountry, and we're in really good company with our sister organizations that have won this award before: we really couldn't be prouder that the great organic members of our collections have been recognized in this manner.

Other reasons to stop by soon: "Dixie", Denim, and Drinks is this Monday night, it's going to be terrific, and tickets are going fast.  Call us and buy yours today.  Circa 1748 is just over a fortnight away (May 29).  The Piccolo Spoleto Literary Festival is the weekend after that (June 3-5).  Tickets for 1748 and the Festival are all available through Piccolo Spoleto.  Also, Toddler Tuesday is going on summer break, as of June 1.  It'll be back this fall, having failed to do its summer reading but sporting a wicked tan.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Next year I'll talk about something pleasant... like Bohemia or Dos Equis...

Having written about Cinco de Mayo last year, your loyal blogger thought he might preface this post with some alternative May the fifth trivia.  Originally, this paragraph was to be about the death of Galerius (May 5th, 311 AD), the Roman emperor who was a major architect of the Diocletianic Persecution.  Then I realized the only interesting thing about Galerius was his death:as St. Luke said of Herod Agrippa, he was eaten by worms.  Thanks to Google, I learned that "worms" probably indicates Fournier gangrene.  And thanks to Google Image Search, I've learned exactly what Fournier gangrene is... and I shan't be able to eat for days.  Not cool.

What is cool is the Lifelong Learning Series classes slated for this fall.  Following on the tremendous success of the winter salon, Bret Lott will be back to guide a ten week course on fiction writing.  Across the hall, the Shakespeare scholar, former department chair, and CofC legend Nan Morrison will be teaching a six-week course on the tragedies of Shakespeare.  Also cool (for us) is how fast these classes are filling up: they don't start until September 7th, we've barely advertised them, and they're already three quarters full.  If you want in on either of these great programs, contact the Library Society ASAP.

Also, next Thursday, May the 13th the CLS will host Jennie Stephens of the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation to discuss the Center's work in providing free legal, educational, and other services to people attempting to clear title to Heirs' Property.  The free event runs from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

Don't forget for more info on any CLS event (like "Dixie", Denim and Drinks; Circa 1748; and the whole bleeding Piccolo Spoleto Literary Festival), check our website, give us a call at 723.9912, or send us an email.  'Cause missing our great events would be terrible... terrible like Fournier gangrene!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday night's alright for singing...

"Spoleto's winged chariot is hurrying near, and yonder all before us lie artistic and cultural events." 

Andrew Marvell never said it, but it's still true: May is next week, and that means it's Piccolo Spoleto time.  Of course, the Library Society will once again host the Piccolo Spoleto Literary Festival: full details here.

But that's not all!

But that's not all!

We've also got Circa 1748: Bridging Oral and Literary Traditions.  This Piccolo event will be a unique and engaging evening illustrating connections between written and oral art traditions.  We'll be using the written materials of the Library Society, and the vocal talents of the CSO's Spiritual Ensemble. Circa 1748 will be Saturday, 29th at 7:00 PM, at the Library Society.  Tickets are $20, available wherever Piccolo Spoleto tickets are sold.

And finally (because I'm announcing events in the reverse order they will occur), on Monday, May 17th, we're having a "warm-up for Spoleto", entitled "Dixie", Denim, and Drinks.  DDD is going to be a fun, light (about 50 minute) program, featuring musical glimpses of the American folk tradition from Dvorak, Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen, and Carlisle Floyd.  Laura Ball, Peter Kiral, Courtney Sharp, Edoardo Carpenedo, and Erica Carpenedo will be performing.  Tickets are $15, available through the Library Society, 843 723.9912.  As the title suggests, the dress code is informal, and there will be drinks.  Sounds like a good way to spend a Monday to me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"He turned to me as if to say, Hurry boy, It's waiting there for you."

Since there are no more events left at the Library Society this month (other than standing events like Toddler Tuesdays), your loyal blogger is going to make a book endorsement, preceeded by a brief story.  Because today, April 20th, is the 182nd anniversary of René Caillié's entrance into Timbuktu.

In the late 1700s, European soldiers left unemployed by the end of the Seven Years War, lined up in the search for the fabled lands of the African interior.  Legend held it to be the home of the great river Niger, which flowed into the Nile, and drained a valley filled with rich kingdoms and cities.  The greatest of these -and the rumour that kept European explorers awake at night- was a city of solid gold, known as Timbuktu.

A Scot named Mungo Park became the first white man to reach the Niger River (1795), but was forced by bandits and ill health to return home before reaching Timbuktu.  Soon after, another Scot, Alexander Gordon Laing, crossed the Sahara and became the first European to visit Timbuktu: he received twenty four wounds fighting with desert raiders on the way there, and lost his life shortly after leaving, leaving the "golden city" as distant and mysterious to Europeans as it ever was.

It took René Caillié to get there and get back.  Caillié was a sickly orphan, born in the west of France in 1799.  A voracious reader, the young Caillié's favourite book was Robinson Crusoe, and at age sixteen he set off for adventures that would impress even Defoe's fictional hero.  He worked in West Africa- even helping to resupply a failed British mission to Timbuktu- and became familiar with the string of elaborate expeditions that, one after another, could not manage the trip to Timbuktu.  Caillié decided that he, individually, could succeed where great collective effort had failed.

To do this Caillié went native.  He moved to Mauritania, living with Senegalese Moors, absorbing their language and culture.  Having done this, he moved down the coast to a British indigo plantation, where he worked to save up money for his trip.  One day he put on his best Moorish garb and declared he was an Arab from Egypt, abducted by the French on the way to Mecca, and joined a native caravan headed east.

Caillié blended in well enough.  His ostentatious show of Muslim prayer probably aroused more suspicion than it allayed, but was certainly received better than the bombastic shows of Christian religiosity performed by prior British travellers.  Largely he was ignored because he was too poor to steal from.  Arriving safely at Timbuktu, he spent a few weeks wandering the ancient city, noting that it was made not of gold, but "...a mass of ill-looking houses, built of earth."  While it was once an important city during the Mali and Songhai empires, its glory days were long gone.  He caught a caravan headed north, trekked across the Sahara, and arrived safely back in France.  He became a national hero: he was awarded many francs, the Légion d'honneur, and the state even underwrote the publishing of his book Travels through Central Africa to Timbuctoo; and across the Great Desert, to Morocco.

The other half of this story- and my endorsement- is what France later did in pursuit of Caillié's legacy: thirty years of failed expedition after failed expedition in an attempt to tame the Sahara and open a north-south route from Algiers to the Niger.  This (perhaps surprisingly) interesting story is covered in Douglas Porch's The Conquest of the Sahara.  It's at the Library Society... upstairs, to the right, fourth isle down, number F78 P82.  And don't forget, reading 300 pages describing the Sahara makes good preparation for the upcoming Charleston summer...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Celebrating Thomas Jefferson's birthday with a little paper chasin'...

Event news: Gordon Rhea will be here Thursday evening at 6:00 PM for a lecture on Charles Whilden, an unsung hero of the War Between the States, and about whom Rhea chronicled in Carrying the Flag. The lecture is free; copies of the book will be available for $17.

Non-"events" event news: the Library Society has recently received an anonymous pledge to match up to $25,000 worth of giving!

The aim of the gift is to both increase membership, and to increase the giving of existing membership levels. Any giving above the normal $75 Friend of the Library membership level counts towards the matching pledge. So, if you're currently a Friend of the Library, consider throwing in an extra $25 bucks and upgrading to the Beatrice Witte Ravenel Circle.

To better recognize and facilitate this giving, we've split the Beatrice Witte Ravenel Circle of giving (formerly $100-$499) and created the John Bennett Circle for gifts of $250-$499. Not only does this honor a great Charleston novelist and poet
, it's a great way to help the Library meet this challenge grant. Call with a credit card, stop by or mail in a check, or you can always donate via Paypal here. We hope you will consider helping the Library take full advantage of this $25,000 opportunity!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jazz at the Library (and the Girl in the Curls!)

April 8th!  The anniversary of Roman Emperor and notorious bath-designer Caracalla's assassination (the jerk!); President of the United States and notorious balcony-designer Harry Truman's steel seizure (the jerk!); and Canadian starlet and notorious Douglas Fairbanks-designer Mary Pickford's 118th birthday (not a jerk, I suppose).

Rambling, pointless story time: Mary Pickford starred in Kiki with Reginald Denny, who (in addition to designing America's first UAV) starred in the 1966 film Batman, which of course starred Adam West and Burt Ward, who teamed up for the terrible early-2000s TV movie Return to the Batcave, which also starred a young Amy Acker, who played Whiskey/Dr. Saunders on the sadly-short-lived TV show DollhouseDollhouse starred Albanian-American megababe Eliza Dushku, whom your loyal blogger once sat behind at a Red Sox game (which thoroughly made my Summer of 2007).  So that, kids, is my Mary Pickford story...

And on the topic of the world of entertainments, a LIBRARY EVENT: we've got a brass quintet playing the Library Society this Friday night at 7 PM.  This event was originally scheduled through the CSO; and while the CSO has suspended operations, we are still hosting the same great musicians (including world-renowned jazz drummer Quentin Baxter), and ticket sales ($15) go directly to the musicians.  Tickets are available at the door, or call us at 843.723.9912.  To recap, IT'S NOT CANCELLED.  See you there!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"If it's Truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall."

Today is the 414th birthday of Rene Descartes!  Perhaps best known as the cogito ergo sum guy, the works of Descartes were rooted in methodic doubt: grinding one's own beliefs and sensory input up against rigourous skepticism.  Only by pounding away the falsehoods of irrational thought could one attempt to discover Truth.

More importantly (sorry, philosophy majors), the guy kinda invented analytic geometry, laid the foundation for modern calculus, discovered the law of reflection (and first published the law of refraction), and devised exponential notation.  For a guy who spent most of his time thinking his basic senses were lying to him, he was kind of a genius.

That's why the early Library Society picked up a 1664 copy of his Principia Philosophiae.  Before Descartes' Principia Philosophiae, European colleges were teaching physics with the works of Aristotle.   Think about that the next time you see a middle school complaining about thirty-year old civics books (not that I can remember a teacher ever getting past WWII, anyway).

How to get young males interested in physics:
put Wisdom in a tight breastplate and have her show some midriff.

FACTS: The CSO has suspended operations, but the concerts scheduled for the Library Society this spring are still going to happen.  The first one is Friday, April 9th.  Tickets are $15, available though the CLS.  Also, Gordon Rhea is giving a lecture here on April 15th.  There's no cover, and if you like War-Between-the-States history, you should be there.  Call 843.723.9912, or email us at

Monday, March 22, 2010

This Post, by Clifford Jacobs (with Maxine Paetro)

It's March 22nd!  Happy 63rd birthday James Patterson, and a happy day to the dozens of other babies born on other dates but celebrating "collaboratively" under his name.

Last week was the last week of Bret Lott's Writing Salon here at the Library Society.  It was, by all accounts, a runaway success: if there was a problem, it was only the disappointment of the people who discovered its existence too late to sign up.  To make sure that problem doesn't repeat itself, we are announcing the next two groups for this "Lifelong Learning" series months ahead of time.  This fall, Bret Lott will return for another Writing Salon; and Nan Morrison, former chair of English at The College of Charleston, will host a six-week course on the tragedies of Shakespeare.  We couldn't be more excited about both programs...

 Keanu Reeves as Don Juan: actual Shakespearean tragedy, dude.

Friday, March 19, 2010

When the seersuckers come back to St. Phillip's...

"When the swallows come back to Capistrano,
That's the day I pray that you'll come back to me"
                             -"When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano", Leon René

It's St. Joseph's Day, the day the cliff swallows (in theory) return to San Juan Capistrano.  Charleston might not have petrochelidon pyrrhonota punctually popping in, but we do have our own sure signs of the season... Mr. Michaux's camellias start to bloom; tourists clot every crosswalk; CofC coeds treat Marion Square like a beach teach Wendell Gilliard about the first amendment...

Leon René might never have written a song about the onset of spring here in the Holy City, but it is very nice nonetheless.  Also nice?  Upcoming Library Society Events!

NEXT MONTH:  CSO Brass Ensemble, evening of the 9th.  Later, on April 15th, we're hosting a talk by attorney, author, and guy-who-knows-more-about-Grant-and-Lee's-Overland Campaign-than-anyone-else-on-the-planet, Gordon Rhea.  Mr. Rhea will be sharing the story of Charles Whildon.  An unsung hero during the American Civil War, Whilden grew up on Magazine Street, and his father was editor of the Carolina Gazette, begun in about 1820. Whilden fought in Virginia and his story was movingly told in Rhea's book, Carrying the Flag.  More info soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bestriding the narrow world...

Happy Ides of March!  It's been 2054 years since Julius Caesar took a trip to the theatre, and 24 hours since your loyal blogger took a (pre-)St. Pat's trip to Savannah...  Happily (for me, if not for Republican Rome), I made it through my trip in better shape than Caesar did his.  Sorry, Julius, the fault wasn't in your stars, but in yourself.

Last Thursday's lecture and book signing for Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America was a massive success.   A big thanks both to John Avlon for lecturing, and to all of our members who attended for attending.  And not to preach, but last Thursday should also be a reminder of the increasing importance of RSVPing early: I think the days of having empty chairs at lectures are now long gone!

This week: the NEGHS event is this Thursday: more info here

Next week: Steve White, director of the Karpeles Manuscript Museum and founder of the Charleston Historical Society, amongst other things, will be giving a talk on March 25th at 7:00 PM up at the Karpeles (68 Spring Street) on Irish president Eamon DeValera's 1920 visit to Charleston.  Steve's been doing a good bit of the research for this stuff down here at the Library Society, and has kindly treated your loyal blogger to some early insights from his work... lemme say now, this is going to be a great lecture.

Week after that: Spring Book Sale...  see you at the Barnwell Annex, Saturday the 27th!

Next thirty days: Charleston Symphony Orchestra's Brass Quintet will be here, the Charleston Bible Society will have a big anniversary bash, and a lecture from noted American Civil War historian Gordon Rhea.

Monday, March 8, 2010

From the collections: Happy 264th, Andre! edition

While I should plunge right into reminders of this month's full event's schedule, I'll put that off for tomorrow.  More importantly, it's the 264th birthday of French botanist Andre Michaux.  While Michaux had some formal education early in life, his great botanical skills were developed working on his father's farm near Versailles.  This proximity to the royal palace, coupled with Michaux's ability to grow almost anything, brought him to the attention of the French court.  He was sent to learn under the best botanists in the country, and soon sent to work as a botanist in the field.

It's this field work that brought Michaux into contact with the Library Society.  After a three-year trip through the Middle East, he was named the Royal Botanist, and sent to North America.  He spent some time in Philadelphia: hanging out with Ben Franklin, establishing a research garden.  After about a year, he sailed south for Charleston.  He grew his experimental plants- crepe myrtles, mimosas, camellias- at Middleton Place; and he met with the foremost scientific minds in Charleston - the intellectual heirs to Alexander Garden and John Lining- here at the Library Society.

Though further travel led him all across North America, he kept a home base here in Charleston until his return to France in 1796.  From the time of his arrival here, until his death in 1802, Michaux would send books and manuscripts back to Charleston.  One of these, the Ikhtiyarat-i Badi'i, is pictured here:

 The leg-bone's connected to the thigh bone...

The Ikhtiyarat-i Badi'i, written in 1492, is one of the oldest manuscripts the Society possesses.  It is a medical textbook from Isfahan, Persia, written at what, in the 15th century, was the world's most advanced hospital.  Today it's available for viewing here at the Society (and available for reading if you can read middle Farsi...), so come by soon and ask for the Ikhtiyarat-i Badi'i by Haji Zayn al-Attar, Zayn al-Din 'Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Ansari (but be sure to pronounce it right so we know what you're talking about).