Mortimer Rare Book Room History

The McConnell-Bohning Fund

In February 1976, the Rare Book Room acquired an unusual dance instruction book , one of Ruth Mortimer’s earliest purchases as curator. This ballroom dance for one couple was choreographed by English dancing master Mr. Isaac (circa 1640-1720) and preserved in Feuillet notation which visually traces the pattern of the dance. The bar lines in the dance pattern correspond to bar lines in the music score. One of the dance patterns was reproduced for a number of years on the cover of the Rare Book Room brochure.

The McConnell-Bohning Fund, established in the early 1970s in memory of Elizabeth McConnell, class of 1918, and Anne L. Bohning, class of 1915, gives Smith the opportunity to purchase striking items for use by students and outside researchers. This commonplace book, contains works copied from a variety of sources, penmanship practice, drawings, letters, and watercolors. It was created by Grace Fisher (1786-1811) of Westhampton, Massachusetts. It is a unique record of a local young woman in the early years of the 19th century. Shown here, facing her copy of a letter from her cousin William Ware of Conway, MA, is Grace Fisher’s elaborate watercolor portrait of Isaac Watts, author of Divine Songs and other instructional books for children. Smith’s acquisition of this book was requested by the Westhampton Historical Society. When Smith had a conservator repair the book, it was taken apart and the pages scanned. The digital version is available for study in addition to the original volume at Smith.

The Royal Portuguez Mr. Isaac’s New Dance Made for Her Majesty’s Birthday 1709. London: Printed for I. Walsh & P. Randall, 1709.

This book was purchased from New York State bookseller William Salloch, upon whose death in 1997 Smith received funds for another endowment which is used both to purchase rare book collection materials and to fund salaries for part-time staff and cataloguers.

Grace Fisher. Commonplace book, 1800-1813. MS 76

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