Summer Vibes

Summer Vibes, a pop-up exhibition at the Folger, took place on July 27, 2018, from 1-4 pm. It was curated by Rachel B. Dankert.

Ahh, summer. Sunshine (or torrential downpours), warm and lazy breezes, baseball, day trips to the beach, brunching on the patio of your favorite restaurant, or…stealing away for precious research time at the Folger. We all have summer rituals. We revisit these summer memories in the dead of winter, when we wish we hadn’t complained so loudly about the heat.

In this pop-up exhibit, I hope you enjoy connecting with sweltering people from summers past, in their quest to beat the heat or rhapsodize summer’s charms.

Beach vibes only, Rachel

The exhibition catalog and flyer are available for download as PDF files.

Items included

No SPF Needed

SPF 12, tank top, shorts, sandals—my summer uniform. Summer fashions have certainly changed since Wenceslaus Hollar’s Summer engravings (one of four seasons represented in seasonal sets common in the era). The engravings feature women wearing veils for sun protection and carrying fans to cool off. Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil definitely thinks Stella is beyond needing any sort of sun protection, however—“Stella alone, with face unarmed marcht”! She doesn’t even sunburn. In fact, the sun should probably worry that Stella will outshine us all. How’s that for a blazon?

  • Wenceslaus Hollar. Aestas = Summer W. Hollar inu: 1641. Folger call number: ART Box H737.5 no.8 (size S), digital image
  • Wenceslaus Hollar. Summer, W. Hollar inu. et fecit, Londini 1644. Folger call number: ART 252- 175.2 (size M), digital image
  • Sir Philip Sidney. Sir P.S. his Astrophel and Stella : wherein the excellence of sweete poesie is concluded. At London : Printed for Thomas Newman, anno Domini 1591. Folger call number: STC 22537

Summer Lovin’

Depicting the seasons is a common literary and artistic move that traces the passage of time in nature through blossom, abundance, decay, and renewal. Summer is the time of abundance, typically represented by sheaves of grain, a cornucopia, and scythe—motifs based on depictions of Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture holding her favorite accessories. Faithorne’s A perpetuall ephemeris is a feast for your eyes, depicting the major symbols for all seasons, but especially Summer, who is Ceres in 17th century dress. The calendar itself gestures towards the cyclical nature of the seasons and revolutions of time. Also pay close attention to how long Faithorne thinks “forever” lasts according to his calendar…(1727).

Shakespeare’s "Sonnet 12" marches through the seasons in efficient space. He describes the summertime of life as the peak of attractiveness and vivacity. Youth, like “summer’s green all girded up in sheaves,” is fleeting, though, thanks to “Time’s scythe.” Utilizing the traditional motifs for each season, Shakespeare seemingly wants to harvest some of the youthfulness of his sonnet’s subject, stealing for himself some of what Time has gathered from him already. At the very least, he wants to soak up some of the subject's rays of youth. Any warnings to the subject to “gather ye rosebuds” are fruitless—so there are none. "Sonnet 12" succinctly packages the tension between Time as a Devourer and Time as a Revealer of changes in nature, loss of youth, waning of love, and diminution of beauty. Time, that relentless jerk.

  • William Faithorne. A perpetuall ephemeris, or, table shewing the day of the month for ever. London : Are to be sould by Will. Faithorne at the Signe of the Shipp within Temple Barr, [1655?] Folger call number: ART 265- 109 (size L), digital image
  • William Shakespeare. Shake-speares sonnets. : Neuer before imprinted. At London : By G. Eld for T[homas]. T[horpe]. and are to be solde by William Aspley, 1609. Folger call number: STC 22353, digital images

You Reap What You Sow

If you’re a grain, summer is when you fear the reaper. June through August is traditional harvest time for grains, with wheat usually harvested in July and August. Much of what we know about historical work practices come from Labors of the Months—sequences of images that depict work for the growing cycles of the year. One of the sources of inspiration for these sequences is Genesis 8:22: “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (KJV). The trend of Labors of the Months reached its pinnacle in medieval and early modern art and calendars.

In the examples in this section, characteristics of traditional Labors of the Months for July and August emphasize the idealized moral and spiritual obligation of work. We also can see these ideals beginning to unravel in Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calendar, which mostly depicts the harvesters resting during and after work. The “lazy peasant” motif was a popular one in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the “August” eclogue, Perigot and Willye really don’t want to work in the blistering heat and are clearly too lovelorn to focus on the task at hand, so they decide listen to Colin’s song instead. Good choice. It is summer, after all.

Perigot: That shall yonder heardgrome, and none other,
Which over the pousse* hetherward doth post.
Willye: But for the Sunnebeame so sore doth us beate,
Were not better, to shunne the scortching heate?
Perigot: Well agreed Willy: then sitte thee downe Swayne:
Sike a song neuer heardest thou, but Colin sing.
  • pousse obviously refers to a “crop of legumes”—why didn’t you know that already?—E.K.
  • Pieter Jalhea Furnius. Julius, 7. Folger call number: ART 266- 524 (size M)
  • Etienne Delaune. "The Labors of the Months, August". Folger call number: ART Vol. c96, [ digital images]
  • Edmund Spenser. The shepheardes calender : conteyning tvvelue aeglogues proportionable to the twelue monethes. Entitled to the noble and vertuous gentleman most worthy of all titles both of learning and cheualrie M. Philip Sidney. At London : Printed by Hugh Singleton, dwelling in Creede Lane neere vnto Ludgate at the signe of the gylden Tunne, and are there to be solde, 1579. Folger call number: STC 23089, digital images

The Dog Days Are Over

Mark your perpetual ephemerides for July 3 through August 11! Those are the days when Sirius the “Dog Star,” a.k.a. Canis major, rises in conjunction with the sun. The simultaneous rising of the sun and the brightest star in our night sky was thought to have made the summer extra hot. Sir Thomas Elyot defines Canicula in 1538, the earliest printed instance of “dog day” according to the OED, as “a lyttell dog or bytche. Also a sterre, wherof canicular or dogge days be named Dies caniculares.”

Robert Stapylton opens his play Hero and Leander on a sticky day, with characters Castor and Stredon, “puffing and blowing,” complaining about the dog days of summer. Sound familiar?

Castor: Mate, O for a fresh gale, to give me breath.
Stredon: Master, this Feast of Venus and Adonis
Is hotter than a dog-Day: how I sweat?
  • Sir Thomas Elyot. The dictionary of syr Thomas Eliot knyght. Londini : In aedibus Thomae Bertheleti typis impress. Cum priuilegio ad imprimendum solum, [Anno .M. D. XXXVIII. [1538]]. Folger call number: STC 7659
  • Robert Stapylton. The tragedie of Hero and Leander. : Written by Sr. Robert Stapylton Kt. one of the Gentlemen Ushers of his Majesty’s most honourable Privy Chamber. Licenced August 25. 1668. Roger L’Estrange. London : Printed for Thomas Dring the Younger, at the White Lyon next Chancery-lane in Fleet-street, 1669. Folger call number: S5262

Holiday, Oh, a Holiday—and the Best One of the Year

Road trips, Disney Land, camping in the great outdoors—something about summertime says, “I need a vacation.” One family traveled England’s countryside in August 1824, touring country houses, taking in the natural wonders of the Peak district, and visiting…manufacturing plants. The unknown young woman who authored the travelogue pasted engravings of the places she visited with her family next to her diary entries for those visits. Many hot spots included haunts of famous actors (Garrick) and playwrights (Shakespeare and Congreve). On Thursday, August 26, the family visited Dove Dale, a limestone valley cut by the River Dove, filled with tall rock formations. Charles Cotton’s fishing house, inspiration for Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, is located in the woods near the river. You might also recognize the name from your summer re-read of Pride and Prejudice—Elizabeth Bennet mentions having visited Dove Dale to Mr. Darcy when she goes to Pemberley to scope out his house (and subsequently decides he’s a catch).

If long trips aren’t your thing, take an afternoon off at your local swimming hole, or at least kick back in the Reading Room admiring the detail of Wenceslaus Hollar’s summer revelers on the water. I think I’ll be on the next plane to Strasbourg, bathing suit in tow.

  • Journal of a tour into Derbyshire, Warwickshire, etc. made in the summer vacation of 1824, [ca. 1827]. Folger call number: M.b.20
  • Wenceslaus Hollar. Aestas. [Strasbourg] : [Jacob van der Heyden], [ca. 1628-1629]. Folger call number: ART 252- 551 no.2 (size XS)

Some Like It Hot

Henry Clay Folger had a love other than Shakespeare. While he assuredly loved his wife Emily, I’m talking about golf. Like any industrial magnate worth his salt, HCF loved his golf. In fact, he loved golf so much that he invented a tried and true way of putting his way to success. It’s now considered unsportsmanlike to golf this way, but who wouldn’t want to join this awesome guy out on the links near his home in Glen Cove, Long Island? You might learn a thing or two.

  • Henry Clay Folger putting in his innovative golf stance with his bespoke putter. Folger Archives: Box 41

You may find this hard to believe (you in your sweaters and wraps, shivering it out in the Reading Room), but in the early days of planning the Library, Henry Clay Folger didn’t quite understand the necessary expense of A/C. His letter to one of the building’s architects, Alexander Trowbridge, regarding the need for cool air in summer is a perennial staff favorite. In a follow up letter, Trowbridge assures Mr. Folger that the A/C is not for people—it's for the books.

Summer is one of the Library’s busiest times of year—it’s hard to imagine closing up shop until the heat breaks. We certainly wouldn’t get very much work done—and neither would you.

  • Henry Clay Folger (New York) to Alexander Trowbridge (Washington, D.C.), February 18, 1930.

Transcription of the letter:

Dear Mr. Trowbridge:

Thank you for your letter of the 14th, explaining the contract for “Air-Conditioning”; but I am surprised that anyone will undertake, in a building of that size, in Washington, to secure a temperature of 85º in the Summer with a 50% humidity. We will certainly have a popular room if this is accomplished. What cooling medium are they planning to use? Knowing the conditions in Washington in Mid-summer we had supposed it might be necessary to close the building for several weeks.

Yours very truly, H.C. Folger