October 26, 2004
Public can touch history at Purdue exhibit
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University today (Tuesday, Oct. 26) invited the public to see and touch three dozen original and early edition historic documents focusing on the quest for freedom and human dignity as part of a display that will run for six weeks beginning Jan. 10.
The collection, loaned by the Hagerstown, Ind.-based Remnant Trust, includes titles such as the "Emancipation Proclamation," "Magna Carta" and Machiavelli's "The Prince." They will be on display Monday, Jan. 10, through Sunday, Feb. 20, in Stewart Center Gallery. Purdue faculty may borrow the documents and, along with K-12 teachers, are being encouraged to incorporate them into lesson plans.
A lecture series by Purdue faculty, appropriate for middle school through college-age students, as well as the general public, also is planned in addition to a related exhibit from Purdue Libraries Special Collections. All exhibits and lectures will be free and open to the public.
"The ideas contained in the Remnant Trust books and manuscripts are of immeasurable value," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "They are the basis of our civilization.
"Remnant Trust founder Brian Bex should be commended for going to such great lengths to secure, preserve and make accessible to everyone these treasures of historic thought. These early documents will stimulate young and seasoned minds alike to ponder a wide range of human experience, from the abolition of slavery to women's suffrage, the definition of freedom and the rights and challenges of self-government."
Bex, of Richmond, Ind., said he started collecting old volumes of historic documents in the late 1980s when he found two volumes of the first printing of Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations."
"I wanted to authenticate them, so I showed them to my old friend John Ryan, the former president of Indiana University," Bex said. "We compared them to IU's first edition copies of the same books. Then I started wondering what the interest would be if we had a collection of documents dealing with liberty and human dignity. We gathered more documents, tested the interest at a small group of colleges and universities, and enthusiasm was overwhelmingly positive."
The Remnant Trust sponsors about a dozen exhibits per year and is a public not-for-profit organization. Purdue faculty and k-12 teachers are being encouraged to incorporate them into lesson plans. In addition, members of Purdue faculty may borrow the documents for use in class.
Margaret Rowe, Purdue vice provost and coordinator of the Purdue exhibit and related events, said she hopes Purdue professors and educators in the community will start planning now to incorporate the Remnant Trust documents into their curricula.
"The exhibit opens seven days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and 10 days before the inauguration of the president of the United States," Rowe said. "Students who are able to touch and see the historic documents in the exhibit, including early editions of 'The Bill of Rights' and the 'Declaration of Independence,' will undoubtedly gain a keen sense of how those early ideals apply to issues that affect us today."
Purdue is taking extra steps to reach out to area middle schools and high school teachers.
Phillip VanFossen, director of the Purdue School of Education's Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship, is contacting teachers and encouraging them to bring groups of students to not only see the documents but also to attend any of the six public presentations. The presentations are scheduled to take place each Tuesday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. from Jan. 11 through Feb. 15.
"We are waiting to hear back from those teachers before we pick the venue for the talks," Rowe said. "We want to involve everyone in this rare opportunity, so we want to be certain the facility we choose is the right size to accommodate their interests."
The collection of 36 documents was chosen from among the more than 500 documents in the trust. A 1496 manuscript of Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics," one of Purdue's selections, will be on public display for the first time in centuries, Bex said.
The document, written in ornate calligraphy 46 years after the invention of the printing press, is a transcription of the original treatise on ethics written in 350 B.C., including the virtues of rational thought, erring on the side of the lesser evil, defining happiness, and a comparison of courage and rational fear.
"We allow the hosting institution to pick whatever documents it wants," Bex said. "This Aristotle manuscript is the only thing like it in the world. We acquired it about a year ago, and before that, it had been stored in the library of a castle in France for centuries."
Bex encourages the institutions that borrow from the Trust to allow visitors to touch the documents, asserting that the contact with human hands will not endanger them.
"The trust is based on a hands-on experience with these documents that have been locked up in vaults, hidden for centuries, that only the super-rich have ever had access to," Bex said. "The Remnant Trust wants to share. Great ideas belong to everybody. It won't hurt them to have people touch them carefully."
The manuscript based on Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics," for example, is written on a much more durable material with longer-lasting inks than commonly used today, so it is not fragile as long as it is not abused, Bex said.
"That manuscript has been around for more than half a millennium, and it's in mint condition," Bex said. "As long as your hands are clean, just touching it won't hurt it. The oil in our skin is no different than the oil in the skin of those who made it. They printed it by hand, wrote it by hand and turned the pages by hand, and 600 years later it's still in perfect condition."
The parallel exhibit in the Libraries Special Collections on the second floor of Stewart Center comprises 33 rare volumes by authors including John James Audubon, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Euclid, Homer, Karl Marx, Sir Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Booker T. Washington, said Cheryl Kern-Simirenko, associate dean of libraries.
"These books are in our rare and special collections for many reasons," Kern-Simirenko said. "Some date back to the 16th century. Others are fine arts and design editions and others are limited editions."
The 36 original manuscripts or first editions that will be on display at Purdue are:
"The Bill of Rights," 1789, first printing.
Pamphlet printing of the "The Constitution of the United States," 1787, first edition.
"The Declaration of Independence," 1776, third edition.
"Domesday Book," 1986, 900th anniversary edition.
"The Emancipation Proclamation," 1863, first edition.
"Habeas Corpus Act," 1679, first edition.
"Magna Carta," 1542, one of earliest English translations from original Latin.
"Nicomachean Ethics," Aristotle, 1483.
"Commentaries on the Law," William Blackstone, 1771, first American edition.
"A Fragment on Government," Jeremy Bentham, 1823, first edition, first published work.
"Reflections on the Revolution in France" (bound with three responses), Edmund Burke, 1790, no edition information listed.
"Morals of Confucius," 1691, first edition.
"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," autobiography, 1846, (no edition listed).
"Essays," Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841, first edition.
"Inquiry Concerning Political Justice," William Godwin, 1796, first edition.
"On the Law of War and Peace," Hugo Grotius, 1682, first edition.
"Leviathan," Thomas Hobbes, 1651, first edition.
"Essays Moral & Political," David Hume, 1742, second edition.
"The Gettysburg Address," Abraham Lincoln, 1863, first edition.
"Two Treatises of Government," John Locke, 1700, second edition.
"The Prince," Niccolo Machiavelli, 1595, first English edition.
"Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production," Karl Marx, 1889, first American edition.
"On Liberty," John Stuart Mill, 1859, first edition.
"The Subjugation of Women," John Stuart Mill, 1869, first American edition.
"Areopagitica," John Milton, 1644, first edition.
"Common Sense," Thomas Payne, 1792, no edition listed.
"Republic," Plato, 1763, first English edition.
"Social Contract," Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1797, first edition.
"Works of Seneca," Lucious Annaeus Seneca, 1614, no edition listed.
"Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith, 1776, first edition.
"Theory of Moral Sentiments," Adam Smith, 1759, first edition.
"A Tale of the Tub" and "Battle Between the Ancient and Modern Books in St. James Library," Jonathan Swift, 1710, no edition listed.
"A Yankee in Canada," Henry David Thoreau, 1866, first edition.
"Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville, 1836, second English edition.
"A Vindication of the Rights of Men," Mary Wollstonecraft, 1790, no edition listed.
"A Vindication of the Rights of Woman," Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792, first edition.
Purdue faculty will be allowed to check out a document from the Stewart Center Galleries in much the same way that they would check out a library book, according to Craig Martin, director of Purdue Galleries.
"They will be able to borrow a document for one day, use it in their classes and bring it back within 24 hours," Martin said. "Purdue Galleries doesn't normally showcase documents, let alone provide them for loan. It's intriguing. These are historical objects, and they carry with them a great deal of significance in their themes and subject matter."
The Stewart Center Gallery, on the first floor of the Stewart Center, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, until 8 p.m. on Thursday, and from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. To schedule class or group visits or for private appointments outside normal operating hours, contact Mary Ann Anderson at (765) 496-7899. All Purdue Galleries exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. Teachers and faculty who want to reserve a book or manuscript in advance should contact Martin at (765) 494-3061, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer: Reni Winter, (765) 496-3133, email@example.com
Sources: Brian Bex: (765) 489-5566
Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708
Craig Martin, (765) 494-3061, firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret Rowe, (765) 494-0608, email@example.com
Cheryl Kern-Simirenko, (765) 494-2900, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
Note to Journalists Audio will be available later today. Video is available from Jesica Webb, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079, firstname.lastname@example.org
A publication-quality photograph is available at https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2004/bex-remnant.jpg
A publication-quality photograph is available at https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2004/remnant-trust-nicomachean.jpg
A publication-quality photograph is available at https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2004/remnant-trust-nicomachean2.jpg
A publication-quality photograph is available at https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2004/remnant-domesday.jpg
A publication-quality photograph is available at https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2004/remnant-swift.jpg
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