Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ephemera reveals Michigan rare books and collections

I recently purchased a couple of books dealing with Michigan history. The ephemera angle for this blog post comes into play in two different ways.

One book could actually be called ephemera; it's a paper-bound library catalog of rare books pertaining to Michigan's history. Its title is One Hundred Michigan Rarities, published as Bulletin LX (revised from Bulletin XXVII) by the Clements Library in Ann Arbor, 1950.

The other is a hardback book about Michigan history in the era of President Grover Cleveland. Inserted inside the book is a promotional piece of ephemera titled Why Michigan and the Cleveland Era was Written. This is of more interest to me than the book because it led me to an interesting site where I learned about the Michigan Historical Collections housed in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.

Here you'll find a treasure trove of historical ephemera--more than 4,500 archival collections, 65,000 printed works, over 10,000 maps, and nearly 1.5 million visual images (including photographs, negatives, films, and videotapes). The collections comprise all periods of Michigan history, drawn from all 83 of its counties, from early exploration to present.

Back to the library catalog... The three shields, or crests, on the cover of the catalog depict the three eras associated with Michigan's history and the catalog's corresponding content. First up is the era of French rule over Michigan, up to 1763. The arms of France with the three fleurs-de-lis depict this era.

France was the first European country to claim by exploration and colonization that part of North America which is Michigan. Samuel de Champlain reported the existence of the Detroit River as early as 1603, though apparently he never reached Michigan; Etienne Brule visited the present area of Michigan in 1622; Jean Nicolet attended a banquet in Michigan in 1634; fur traders crept into the virgin land; missionaries carried the cross to the Indians; settlers and traders established homes. Until 1763, Michigan belonged to France. Stories of those tears appear in the books and manuscripts which follow.
A few of those titles with corresponding catalog and plate numbers, and descriptions, which represent France's rule during this time, are shown below:

1. GABRIEL SAGARD-THEODAT. Historie du Canada... Paris, 1636. Samuel de Champlain, one of the greatest of all French explorers, mentions Lake Superior and the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula in his first book Des Savages, (Paris, 1603). But his information came from Indians he had met on the St. Lawrence River. Etienne Brule and a companion named Grenolle re believed to be the first white men to visit the part of Michigan described by Champlain. At least, their visit in 1622 is the first recorded in a printed book. Brule was a fur trader and Indian interpreter who traveled widely in the Great Lakes country. His visits and reports about the Upper Peninsula appear in Sagard's History of Canada for the first time. Sagard was a Recollect (Franciscan) priest from Dieppe, France, who was a missionary among the Huron Indians in 1623 and 1624. [Plate I in the catalog]

[Left plate above] 8. PIERRE FRANCOIS XAVIER de CHARLEVOIX. Historie et Description Generale de la Nouvelle France, avec le Journal Historique d'un Voyage...dans l'Amerique Septentrionalle. Paris, 1744. Three volumes. The first volume treats of Canadian history before the settlement of Michigan. Volume Two contains a brief account of the founding of Detroit by Cadillac in 1701 on the orders from Louis-Hector de Callieres, governor general of New France. The third volume, comprising the Journal Historique, consists of thirty-six letters addressed to the Duchesse de Lesdiguierres. Letters XVII (written from "la Source du Theakiki[Kankakee River]" on September 17, 1721) describe a three month tour of Michigan. [Plate VIII in the catalog]

[Right plate above] 11. JACQUES BELLIN. La Riviere du Detroit Depuis le Lac Sainte Claire jusqu'au Lac Erie. Paris, 1764. Bellin's famous map of the Detroit River was based upon surveys made between 1749 and 1755 by Chaussegros de Lery, a French engineer stationed at Detroit. The inset "Plan du Detroit" is the first printed plan of the city. The map was published in Bellin's Le Petit Atlas Maritime, Paris, 1764. [Plate IX in the catalog] The Royal Arms of Great Britain introduce the second era of Michigan's history represented in the catalog.

The accompanying text reads as follows:
France's dream of an empire in North America was blacked out when she lost the Seven Years' War. Part of that war (which we know as the French and Indian War) was fought in America. One of the stakes was Michigan and, when the treaty of peace was signed, our part of the country fell into British hands. Officially, we were a possession of Great Britain for just twenty years, but actually Michigan was kept from United States control for another thirteen years. What happened in the years of British possession is told in the following books, manuscripts, and maps.
Twenty one examples are cited, two of which are shown below.

20. PERKINS MAGRA. Sketch of the fort at Michilimackinac. 1766. Manuscript Map.
Fort Michilimackinac was the most important white settlement in Michigan until about the middle of the eighteenth century. It dominated the movement of traders and adventurers in three of the Great Lakes and the upper reaches of the Mississippi River. Lieutenant Magra's plan of the fort on the south shore of the strait shows how the settlement looked when it was in English hands. Mackinac State Park at Mackinaw City includes the site of this old fort. [Plate XVI in the catalog]

25. GEORGE MORGAN. Intelligence from Detroit receiv'd at Pittsburgh 12th. Decem:r 1776. Manuscript.
This document, which is docketed "State of the Naval Force on Lake Erie & of the Garrison at Detroit--Oct.r 18th. 1776," furnished intelligence to the Americans about the condition of the British forces in Michigan at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. It is amusing to note that "The Garrison [is] constantly alarm'd with Indian News of great Armies coming... to attack Detroit. Indian Runners [are] well paid for bringing the intelligence." [Plate XVII in the catalog]

The United States: Michigan's third and last owner.

Michigan was ceded to the United States in the Treaty of 1783 and thus passed to its third and final owner. But Great Britain was reluctant to give up her strong posts on the frontier. Not until 1796 did she finally relinquish her hold on Michigan. The years since 1796 are many and so are the changes Michigan has seen. First, she was part of the Northwest Territory, then, she was the Territory of Michigan and finally the State of Michigan. The records described on the following pages reflect the various events which we now call our state's past.

54. ESTWICK EVANS. A Pedestrious Tour of Four Thousand Miles...Concord, N.H., 1819. "Pedestrious" Evans started from Hopkinson, New Hampshire, in February, 1818. He reached Detroit on March 20 and wound up his hike in New Orleans "about the middle of June." Of Michigan, he wrote, "There is no state or territory in the union that merits so much attention on the part of the General Government as the Michigan Territory." He also remarked, There is also an Academy in this place; and it is superintended by the learned Mr. Monteith. In time, this city [Detroit] will become conspicuous for its literature, and for its propriety of its customs and manners." The "Academy" became the University of Michigan. Gift of an Associate. [Plate XXXVI in the catalog]

Items 63 and 64 below offer a sampling of Michigan's history after it was turned over to America.

[Left plate above] 63. JAMES OTTO LEWIS. The Aboriginal Port-Folio: A Collection of Portraits of the Most Celebrated Chiefs of the North American Indians. Philadelphia, 1835-36. Lewis was resident in Detroit for some years. He was employed as an artist by the Indian Department and accompanied Lewis Cass and others to various Indian Treaties. On these excursions, Lewis painted numerous portraits of the most notable Indians and also scenes of the treaty camps. He brought these portraits together in The Aboriginal Port-Folio, which was issued in ten parts, each blue-wrappered part containing eight lithographs. Very few sets (of which the Clements Library copy is one) of the full eighty plates are known, the work being more commonly found with seventy-two plates only. [Plate XXXVIII]

[Right plate above] 64. MICHIGAN. CONSTITUTION. Constitution of the State of Michigan, as Adopted in Convention, Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Detroit, on Monday, the 11th Day of May, A.D. 1835. Detroit, 1835. The constitution was the first active step toward statehood in the Old Northwest Territory. Michigan held her constitutional convention in 1835. Two years later, she was admitted to the Union. Exactly fifty years had passed between the passage of the Ordinance of 1787, creating the Northwest Territory, and the statehood of Michigan. [Plate XXXIX]

Fine Books & Collections has a feature this month on Michigan bibliophile William L. Clements and the library named for him (he was the benefactor).

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