Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

Highlighting our collections and the work that we do

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Happy Birthday, Sarah Piatt!

19th century painting of a party

“Hip, Hip, Hurrah!”  Peder Severin Krøyer, 1888 (Gothenburg Mus. of Art)

We recognize today the 1836 birth of poet Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt.  Born in Kentucky, she married into the Piatt family in 1861, whose castles in West Liberty,  Ohio are a popular tourist destination ( http://www.piattcastles.org/ ).  The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library holds a valuable collection of research material on Piatt as well as original published versions of her poems in books and newspapers, making it a destination for Piatt scholars. Contact rarebooks@osu.edu for more details about the collections, and watch this space for announcements about two digitization projects currently underway.

On this special anniversary therefore, we claim her as our own, and raise a glass to her memory!

Japan after August 6, 1945 (The Allied Occupation)

On this day after the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing we might turn our thoughts to post World War II Japan, the subject matter of a collection of photographs donated to Rare Books and Manuscripts in 2003 by anthropologist John W. Bennett.  His photographs document the period 1948-1951.  They were published, along with excerpts from his journals and other textual material, as an online exhibition: “Doing Photography and Social Research in the Allied Occupation of Japan, 1948-1951: A Personal and Professional Memoir”  ( http://library.osu.edu/projects/bennett-in-japan/  )

The photographs have been the focus of considerable interest since made available to the public.  Most recently  they were the subject of an article by Morris Low – “American Photography during the Allied Occupation of Japan: The Work of John W. Bennett,” The History of Photography: An International Quarterly  39 no. 3 (2015): 263-278.  This was just published in a special issue of The History of Photography entitled “American Photography in the Asia-Pacific.”

JWB_in_Japan-10(400w)John W. Bennett, “The Rice Ration in Suburban Tokyo”
(from a selection of Urban Images)

From Astrology to Astronomy: Cassini Maps the Stars

Image of foldout from the back of the book that has a diagram of the path of the comet from the view of a telescope in February 1681 with illustration of a winged foot at the bottom of the page

From Astrology to Astronomy:  Cassini Maps the Stars

Abregé des observations & des reflexions svr la comete qui a paru au mois de decembre 1680, & aux mois de ianveir, fevrier, & mars de cette Anneé 1681 was the first book I examined as I began working on the Provenance Project.  It is an account of observations of the path of a comet recorded over several months.  The author, Giovanni Domenico Cassini (also known by the French translation of his name, Jean-Dominque Cassini), was a 17th century astronomer.  He was born in Italy but eventually moved to France where he became a citizen (Zimmerman, 2012).  Cassini’s interest in astronomy derived from his study of astrology.  He was appointed a position at the Panzano Observatory in Bologna and later became a professor at the University of Bologna.  Cassini was known for many things including his observations of comets, planets, and orbital patterns. Image of an illustration of the constellation virgo taken from a large foldout of a map of the stars found in the back of the book He was also a knowledgeable mathematician and engineer (Zimmerman, 2012).  He believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, which was reflected in his work.  He was the first to calculate the rotation of Jupiter and Mars and to see the spots and moons of Jupiter.  At the request of Louis XIV, Cassini moved to Paris to become head of the Paris Observatory where he made more significant discoveries such as finding four moons of Saturn and a gap in Saturn’s rings that has since been named the Cassini Division (O’Connor & Robertson, 2003).  His son eventually took over his position at the Paris Observatory.  Cassini started a family legacy of astronomers, and his influence continues to inspire scientists.

RBMS’ copy of the book, Abregé des observations & des reflexions svr la comete qui a paru au mois de decembre 1680, & aux mois de ianveir, fevrier, & mars de cette Anneé 1681, is a beautiful book with its gilded, leather binding, decorative borders, and detailed illustrations.  Some of the most fascinating parts of the book are the three foldouts.  The first is a chart of the path of the comet with an illustration of a winged foot.  The second is a map of constellations and stars.  The third is another chart.  The book was one of two works printed at E. Michallet, a publisher that appears to have specialized in scientific work, in that year (Open Library).





A Quick Peek At Images In Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”

Dust jackets for a Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

While working on the Provenance Project, I was fortunate to come across a copy of Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, in pristine condition.  It is not part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection but is actually part of the collection belonging to the Theater Research Institute.   I thought it seemed a relevant topic, nonetheless, with the release of the movie, The Theory of Everything, based on a book written by Hawking’s ex-wife, Jane Wilde, about their life together.  It occurred to me that the movie has most likely renewed interest in the work.  From my personal observations, this seems to be the case.  I cannot speak on a national or global level, but when I attempted to check out a copy of the book from my public library, every copy in the system was already on loan.  Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to feature some elements of the book that has attracted such a large audience.   (See Coyle for more information about the importance of the book.)

Stephen Hawking began his work in physics in the 1960’s and has continued to contribute to the field despite suffering with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The book was first published in 1988 by Bantam Books and was a best seller.  It presents some of science’s most fascinating questions in a way that is accessible to the everyday reader.  This is a major factor in the book’s ongoing success, selling over 10 million copies, as well as turning Hawking into “a curious kind of cultural icon” (Benford, 2002, Coyle;  BBC page).  In fact, in an article written about the book for the Wall Street Journal, Hawking talks about what a long and arduous process it was to complete the book and how surprised he was at its immediate success.  Hawking states that, “It was on the New York Times best-seller list for 147 weeks and on the London Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks, has been translated into 40 languages, and has sold over 10 million copies world-wide” (Hawking, 2013).

The book, in itself, is a fascinating object.  A photograph of Hawking sitting in front of a starry background graces the front of both copies held in Special Collections, the book jacket of the original edition and the updated paperback from 1998.  Inside there are numerous illustrations, graphs, and diagrams to enjoy.  Interestingly, when discussing the reasons people have purchased the book, Hawking claims that some have admitted that they just thought it would look nice on their bookshelf or coffee table (Hawking, 2013).

Summer Intern Introduces Herself

Image of Megan StypinskiHello!  My name is Megan Stypinski, and I am interning with Eric Johnson, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts, at Ohio State Univeristy this summmer to learn about working with Rare Books and Manuscripts Library and Special Collections department.  I am currently a graduate student at Kent State University.  This opportunity is fulfilling my Culminating Experience requirement for the Masters of Library and Information Science degree.

My specialization is in museum studies, so I will be working with social media to highlight some unique and interesting pieces that I discover while learning about the collections held here at the university.  I will also be working on a small exhibit as my final project that I hope to share as well.

Aside from my studies at Kent State, I work as a part-time Circulation Assistant for the Worthington Libraries.  I also have a MA in Liberal Studies from Ohio Dominican University as well as a BA in English and a BS of Ed. in Secondary Language Arts from Ohio University.  Spending time in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library and learning from the valuable professionals in Ohio State University’s Special Collections is a wonderful way to combine my interest in museums with my work experience in a library setting.  I am grateful for the time that I have been granted to learn about the profession, and I hope you enjoy my contributions.


The Fruits of Research: A Public Symposium

Professor Elizabeth Renker of the Department of English has been among the most stalwart users of the holdings from the William Charvat Collection of American Literature. Of especial note, Professor Renker originated and developed a literary archives course that, over the years, has enlightened both undergraduate and graduate students on the rewards of hands-on research of primary materials. Her students have won numerous research awards for their papers on nineteenth-century American culture, particularly, Sarah Piatt, other period poets, story papers, sheet music, trade catalogs and more.

On May 25, 2015 (Memorial Day) members of the 2015 literary archives course will be presenting their research at a special event sponsored by Mac-O-Chee Castle, a private, family-owned museum that interprets over 200 years of history of the Ohio land and Ohio people. The event is part of Castle’s Centennial Season that celebrates the cultural ideas that defined the 19th Century.

Program and contact information can be found at: http://library.osu.edu/documents/rarebooks/events/PiattCastlesSalonMay2015.pdf

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage – October 27

Rare Books and Manuscripts Curators, like our colleagues around the world, worry every day about the lifespans of the audiovisual materials entrusted to our care.  We welcome this opportunity to remind the wider community just how valuable AND how vulnerable they are, calling attention to the UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage poster

At the same time as this year’s celebration of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2014, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library is delighted to officially announce the completion of one of our many digitization projects, the videotaped interviews in the Jessica Mitford collection. The Mitford Collection has been particularly popular among researchers. The videos, recorded on U-matic tapes, were no longer accessible for viewing in the reading room. Even if we were to borrow a U-matic player from another campus office we would be hesitant to play the tapes for fear of causing permanent damage. Instead, we entrusted professionals to play them and simultaneously transfer them to digital format in the process. At the same time, the University Libraries is in the process of establishing standards and guidelines for preserving the digital files locally, so that we are prepared to transfer these precious recordings to new formats and storage media in the future.

467 Years Old and Still Kicking: Cervantes at Ohio State

Don Quixote in battle

September 29th marks the birthday of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1547.  Author of Don Quixote, Cervantes is often credited as being the first novelist in the western literary tradition, the novel being considered as a separate literary genre from chivalric romances that Don Quixote satirizes.

The Cervantes holdings in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library are among the richest of our collections, beginning with the 1605 first edition and other editions of Don Quixote through the ages up to Edith Grossman’s 21st century translation in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of that monumental work.  I append John M. Bennett’s introduction to the Cervantes finding aid, which can be fully accessed at  http://library.osu.edu/finding-aids/rarebooks/cervantes.php:

a later engraving The Talfourd P. Linn Cervantes Collection is a significant gathering of Cervantes Materials, especially strong in the areas of early editions of Don Quixote in Spanish, fine and illustrated editions, translations into English and French, and translations into numerous other languages. It also includes other valuable materials, such as early and important editions of Cervantes’ other works, including Las Novelas Ejemplares and Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, adaptations, criticism, illustrations, and works by other authors inspired by Cervantes. As of the end of 2001, the collection consisted of more than 425 titles.

The core of the collection is a 1965 gift from the family of Talfourd P. Linn, a noted attorney from Zanesville and Columbus, who collected Cervantes materials throughout his life. His collection consisted of 114 titles, and includes some of the most important pieces in the collection, such as the 1605 first edition of Don Quixote, and the 1614 first edition of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda’s “falso Quijote.”

Shortly afterwards, the library acquired the Cervantes collection of Oscar B. Cintas, a Cuban industrialist and ambassador to the United States. This consisted of some 171 titles, and enormously enriched the collection as a whole.

The collection has also grown due to the efforts of the librarians and staff of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, who have acquired numerous titles over the years and continue to do so. Today the Talfourd P. Linn Cervantes Collection must be regarded as one of the best in its field, and as a major resource for research not only into Cervantes, but into the fields of book publishing, bindings, translations, and the illustrated book.

In this guide, entries are arranged chronologically by publication date, except in the Adaptations and Other Literary Works, and Illustrations sections.

Further bibliographic details on the titles in the original Linn gift may be found in A Catalogue of the Talfourd P. Linn Collection of Cervantes Materials, 1963, Z8158 L5.

John M. Bennett, PhD
November 2001

Sancho Panza celebrates the birthday!

Happy Birthday, Man Ray!

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) was born in Philadelphia on this date,  August 27, in the year 1890.

The Ohio State University owns copy number 3 of a limited edition portfolio of Man Ray’s prints, Champs délicieux: album de photographies (1922).  This was a 1969 gift of David Howald Shawn, in memory of his great-uncle, Ferdinand Howald.  Howald, of Columbus, Ohio acquired an impressive collection of Modern paintings, of which a significant number were donated to the Columbus Museum of Art (then the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts).  Howald also provided financial support to Man Ray during his early years in Paris.  In return for that patronage he selected works of his choice from Man Ray’s production.  It is not clear exactly how the portfolio came into the possession of the art collector, but this selection of photographs, and the letters written by Man Ray to Howald remained in the family until donated to OSU.

Champs délicieux: album de photographies

Each copy of the portfolio contains his own photographic reproductions  of a  selection of “rayographs,” images made on photo-sensitive paper without the use of a camera (photograms).   Man Ray’s illusions of space, texture, translucency and opaqueness in these works have served as an inspiration to photography students, who often try their own hand at this process.

Man Ray describes the project briefly in a letter to Howald dated May 28, 1922.  Excerpts are provided below.  ( I also include his comments about the more abstract quality of some of his paintings at that time, and mention of his new friends.)

Letter from Man Ray to Ferdinand Howald, May 28, 1922



ManRay rayograph #11

Spotlighting the Photograph Collections: Berenice Abbott (1898-1991)

July 17

Berenice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio on this date in 1898.  She was raised in the Buckeye State and graduated from Lincoln High School in Cleveland, Ohio in 1917.  In the autumn of that year she returned to central Ohio to begin her studies at The Ohio State University.  The freshman soon left Columbus however, moving with friends to New York in 1918.  She developed an interest in the arts, and moved to Paris in 1921 to study sculpture.  It was there that she met Man Ray, and was hired as his darkroom assistant.  Man Ray’s Champs délicieux: album de photographies (a copy is owned by OSU), is representative of his experimental work at the time.

Abbott found her true calling in photography.  She set up her own studio in Paris in 1926, and remained there until 1929, when she returned to New York and established an independent studio in the U.S.  She operated from that studio until 1966, while doing freelance and contract work, as well as teaching courses in photography.  Abbott was also fascinated with science and challenged by the limitations of the equipment available to her.  She explored alternatives, receiving six patents for her inventions.

Soon after arriving in New York in 1929 she began shooting architectural images inspired by the Paris views of Eugène Atget, and from 1935-38 directed the “Changing New York” Project, part of the Federal Arts Project within the Works Progress Administration.  The photographs owned by OSU were made as part of that effort.   The following is a small selection from the collection.

Cathedral Parkway, No. 542, Manhattan

Cathedral Parkway, No. 542, Manhattan

Brevoort Hotel and Mark Twain House

Brevoort Hotel and Mark Twain House

Of course, nothing can substitute for the experience of seeing the original prints in person.  One appeal of these photographs is their integrity as artifacts.  All but one are signed, still affixed to the boards that Abbott mounted them on, and include labeling related to the WPA project.

Brevoort Hotel and Mark Twain House

Brevoort Hotel and Mark Twain House, labels on verso

Jefferson Market Court and 647-661 Sixth Street

Jefferson Market Court and 647-661 Sixth Street

While some works lure us into a seemingly comfortable pace of everyday life in the 1930s, others present a more daring approach to space and perspective.

Squibb Building, Fifth Avenue at 58th Street

Squibb Building, Fifth Avenue at 58th Street


In 1986 OSU held a symposium and an exhibition of the works of Berenice Abbott and awarded the photographer an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.   For more information about her visit consult the 1986 issues of The Lantern  The “Changing New York” prints held in Rare Books and Manuscripts represent one part of that exhibit.  Also included were some of her scientific images.  For a more complete view of the career of the artist, visit the galleries of the online archive.

To see some actual prints that were touched by the artist herself, visit the Special Collections reading room in Thompson Library.




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