the end of the world as seen through American literature and
history in the Special Collections exhibition, free and open
to the public. Alderman Library's hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
explores 300 years of American views on apocalypse
By Melissa Norris
often have American "prophets" predicted the end of
the world? Puritan preacher Cotton Mather did so in 1697, 1716
and 1736. Apocalyptic thinker William Miller saw the end coming
in 1843 and again in 1844. More recently, writer Hal Lindsay predicted
the end of the world in 1988. Is the Y2K bug the latest in these
predictions of the end of the world?
White, Blue and Brimstone: New World Literature and the American
Millennium," an exhibition that opened Nov. 19 and runs through
April 28 in the McGregor Room of Alderman Library, explores American
views of the apocalypse. Rare books, manuscripts and engravings
illustrate apocalyptic and millennialist movements in American
history. The exhibition surveys the range of national writings
from the 17th century to the present day, including early colonial
sermons and histories of New England, Bibles from the 16th through
19th centuries, as well as missionary tracts for indigenous Americans,
broadsides from obscure religious cults, tabloids and popular
literature, and tracts from contemporary millennial movements.
exhibition may also be viewed online at http://www.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/brimstone/
apocalypse and the millennium have long been a subject of American
thought, and thus expressed through early writings to present-day
novels, according to Heather Moore, head of public services for
the library's Special Collections department.
in the exhibition are original sermons and letters from American
theorists and preachers such as Cotton Mather, who delivered fiery
sermons on topics of sin and described the end of the world as
a great cataclysmic battle between good and evil.
Eliot "Indian" Bible, one of the earliest pieces on
display, dates back to 1663 and is the first complete Bible printed
in America. John Eliot translated the Old and New Testaments into
the language of Algonquian in hopes of converting the Native Americans
so that they could be reconciled with Christ at the end of time.
Jefferson was familiar with apocalyptic theorists such as Emanuel
Swedenborg, Alexander Smyth, and the Shakers. On display is Jefferson's
own copy of "Notes on the State of Virginia," the only
book he ever wrote and which is said to contain apocalyptic metaphors.
20th century includes its share of millennialist groups preparing
for the end of the world. These views can be seen in items on
display such as the best-selling book, The Late Great Planet Earth,
by Hal Lindsay, who predicted the world would end in 1988. Other
writers can see 666, the mark of the beast, in the "New Money
System" of check-out counter barcodes, in fiber-optics, and,
not surprisingly, in the Y2K scare, as is depicted in N.W. Hutchings
and Larry Spargimino's book, How Will January 1, 2000 Affect You?
Y2K=666, published by Hearthstone Publishers in 1998.