Day at the John Muir Archive


Today was an exciting and fruitful day at University of the Pacific, tracing down the ways John Muir was reading and responding to Swedenborgian thought. The wonderful Muir archive in the Holt-Atherton Collection houses Muir’s former library, which includes several books by / about Swedenborg, and/or Swedenborgian figures like Sampson Reed and James John Garth Wilkinson…

To hear the full story of some of what I uncovered there today–really the tip of an iceberg, I feel–you’ll simply have to come to my talk this Saturday in San Francisco… : ).

My favorite moment was while reading Sampson Reed’s Observations on the Growth of the Mind — gifted to him by Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 1870’s — and though the finding-aid catalogues made no mention of anything special in this copy by way of annotations or the like, the pages revealed some undisclosed surprises, including:

pressed mountain flowers between the pages, and

small sketches of forest leaves (oak?) in the margins, and, most exquisite:

an ethereal, tiny sketch of a jagged mountain peak, complete with an alpine lake that reflects a shoreline of evergreen trees. Here’s a big question for those of you who are familiar with the Sierras: where do you think this mountain peak, likely sketched in-situ, while Muir was lounging under a tree in the wilderness reading his Swedenborg and Sampson Reed, was done? Pinning down where Muir was when he read this would be very helpful; as someone who has spent very little time in the Sierras, nothing beyond Yosemite valley, any suggestions are appreciated.

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