Besotted: Wine and Words at the Rosenbach Museum

With all the recent cultural brew ha ha over Prohibition, Philadelphians may wish to further their exploration of the anti-alcohol hysteria that led to the 18th amendment (after visiting American Spirits at the Constitution Center, of course) with a visit to the Rosenbach Museum & Library for a private or group tour through the library’s collection of temperance writings and drawings.

As part of a series of guided Hands-On Tours that let visitors leaf through rare manuscripts and early editions, participants in the “Besotted: Wine and Words” tour will view prints of histrionic teetotaling propaganda drawn by George Cruikshank, a friend of Charles Dickens who illustrated Oliver Twist and who had, years before becoming the primary illustrator for the Total Abstinence Society in Ireland (obviously a very successful group…), been a satirist who poked fun at the movement in a different etching viewed on the tour. (Side note: the etching of wise-cracking wine bottles is contained in a tome that’s 2.5 feet high and at least a foot wide; visitors can’t pick that one up.)

If reading about booze is more your thing than reading about the abolition of it – and we suspect if you’re reading this blog, it probably is – there’s plenty on the tour for you, too.

You’ll be led by employee Patrick Rodgers (who created the tour), and will get to handle a Jewish prayer book from 1732, a copy of Henry IV that contains references to sherry and a passage from Ulysses that mentions Burgundy (no shortage of those). During the show-and-tell, Rodgers explores the history of wine and its role in literature.

Some of the items aren’t normally on public view, and because the library doesn’t contain enough wine-related items to create an entire exhibition around it, these tours are one of the ways the Rosenbach seeks to provide intimate access to its collections. The next Besotted tour isn’t until December 28, but if you call more than 48 hours in advance, Rodgers can accommodate a group as small as one on most Fridays and Sundays. The tour costs $5 per person above the normal admission price, though if Rodgers comes in on a Sunday to give you a private tour, we recommend you take him out afterwards for a glass of vino.

Besotted: Wine and Words [Rosenbach museum]