NEWS: December 2010

Vol. 3, No. 12

In This Issue:

Banner Image: Silhouette depicting a game of chess between Athenaeum Librarian William McIlhenney Jr. and George Spackman, his fellow alumnus from the University of Pennsylvania.  Probably by Auguste Edouart, c1840-1850.



As we make our way toward the first Roger W. Moss Symposium on 3 December 2010, we are pleased to receive generous support for this endeavor from the Barra Foundation. Roger worked closely with Robert L. McNeil, Jr., to plan a symposium fund which would allow the Athenaeum to offer scholarly programs at a reasonable price with special pricing for students. Many of you will be attending the first of this series on Friday, and we hope that you will continue to attend as the years pass, and new topics are presented. 

There are just a few seats left for the symposium. If you missed the registration for "The Landscapes of William Birch: Providing a Context," here is the link that you need for online registration and payment. 


Reminder: The Athenaeum will be closed Dec. 24-27 for Christmas and Dec. 31-Jan. 1 for New Years.


Banner Image: Silhouette depicting a game of chess between Athenaeum Librarian William McIlhenney Jr. and George Spackman, his fellow alumnus from the University of Pennsylvania.  Probably by Auguste Edouart, c.1840-1850.


New Books for November

Athenaeum Bookshelf  12-2010

William Birch Exhibition

Coming to Philadelphia in 1794, William Russell Birch (1755-1834) would become the first artist successfully to publish engraved view books in the United States.  He arrived with a letter from Benjamin West and with a successful publication, Delices de la Grande Bretagne, a series of 36 engraved views of picturesque settings after such artists as West, Joshua Reynolds, and Thomas Gainsborough.  Although he immediately found some success as a copyist of portraits by the reigning portrait painters of the time, Birch never lost his desire to create picturesque views based upon the American experience, and in 1800 he published The City of Philadelphia, a series of 28 views which would become the touchstone for future artists, engravers, and architects desiring to present images of the city.  The success of this set of large-format prints encouraged Birch to undertake The Country Seats of the United States of North America, published in 1808.  Although Birch's reputation has chiefly rested on these two publications, the Athenaeum exhibition brings his English work together with his American and makes clear his role in conveying English ideas about the Picturesque to the United States. 


William Birch: Picturing The American Scene

December 3, 2010- January 8, 2011
Free Admission

Anne Trubek Lecture and Book Signing

In A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses Anne Trubek takes a vexed, often funny, and always thoughtful tour of a number of house museums across the nation which have become meccas for the literary public.  These include Ernest Hemingway's shrine in Key West, the home of the young Samuel Clemens in Hannibal, MO, homes for Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau in Concord, MA and the many sites devoted to Edgar Allen Poe.  Cited as an anti-travel guide, A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses explores places that have served as pilgrimage sites, tokens of local pride and color, and zones that make us think about the complexities of literary and historical interpretation.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 5:30 PM


Free to members. RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or


Non-members click here to register


Member Critics

Amir D. Aczel.  Entanglement.  The Greatest Mystery in Physics. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001.


Entanglement in the book's title refers to the ongoing relationship between two (or possibly more) tiny particles of energy (quanta) originally together but "mysteriously" functionally bonded together despite being widely separated, so that influences on one will immediately produce similar responses in the other.  Chapters in the book describe experiments performed by theoretical physicists (who are bonded by their mutual interests in quantum mechanics). WARNING!!! Quantum mechanics or quantum mathematics isn't your grandfather's science or mathematics!


I keep reading their books, but nevertheless feel increasingly like the jazz musician who tells the classical artist, "If you don't understand it and have to ask what it is, you'll never get to know."  I don't often get it either, but then it slips away.  But to the believers it's "established law."  I'm encouraged that Einstein, one of the founders of the "movement," called it "an incomplete system."


Submitted by Dr. Harold Rashkis.


Do you have a book that you loved (or hated), and would you be willing to share that opinion on the Athenaeum e-newsletter?  If so, please send your short essay to


Save the Date:  

December 3: Symposium- The Landscapes of William Birch, Providing A Context. Register Here

December 4: First Saturday, Athenaeum Open 10:00am-2:00pm

December 8: Anne Trubek Lecture and Book Signing, A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses, 5:30pm

December 14: Socrates Cafe, 11:00am


See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.


The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of the month from 10:00AM to 2:00PM (excluding the summer months). The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. Please visit our website for more information, or call 215-925-2688.


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