Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

Highlighting our collections and the work that we do

Photo Open House to Celebrate 50 Years of OCCS

The Ohio Camera Collectors Society (OCCS) was founded fifty years ago, after the Photography and Cinema Department at OSU held one of the earliest conferences in the country devoted to the history of photography.  We join the group in their anniversary celebration by holding an open house on Saturday, May 19, from 1-5, in Thompson Library Special Collections.  An emphasis will be placed on Ohio connections, including a camera designed and manufactured in Ohio during the early years of flight.  From 3-4 local photographer, Ed Gately, will present a demonstration of the collodion wet plate process, the technology used by the earliest photo students on campus back in the 1890s.  We’ll even display some of those early student works!

image of photo open house flyer

  Full-size version of the flyer available for sharing: Photo Open House Flyer

Chester Himes Collection Now Available

This post was written by Diego Arellano.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library is excited to announce that the Chester Himes Collection, 1932-1978 is now available. Chester Himes (1909-1984) was an American author best known for If He Hollers Let Him Go and the Harlem Detective series of novels. Many of Himes’ writings explore racism and the experience of African Americans in the United States. He also wrote essays about civil rights, riots, and the relationship between black communities and law enforcement. The collection contains materials related to Himes’ writings and films adapted from his works that were part of the blaxploitation genre.

Chester Himes
Alex Gotfryd/ Corbis

Himes was born in Jefferson City, Missouri. His family later moved to Cleveland, Ohio and Himes attended Ohio State University, but was expelled for playing a prank. In 1928, Himes was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to jail and hard labor for 20 to 25 years. While in prison, he wrote short stories and had them published in national magazines. Himes’ stories appeared in The Bronzeman in 1931 and began appearing in Esquire in 1934. In 1936, Himes was released from prison on parole. After his release, he worked part-time jobs and continued to write.

In the 1940s, Himes spent time in Los Angeles working as a screenwriter and writing two novels, If He Hollers Let Him Go and The Lonely Crusade. Both of these books dealt with the experiences of African American migrant workers. During this time, he also provided analysis of the Zoot Suit Riots for The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP.

In the 1950s, Himes decided to settle permanently in France, where he met his second wife and was part of literary and political circles. In 1958, Himes won France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Policière.

Four of Himes’ novels were made into movies, including the 1970 blaxploitation film Cotton Comes to Harlem, directed by Ossie Davis. Himes originally wrote the script for the film, but ultimately his script was not used.

The Chester Himes Collection is arranged chronologically and contains materials dating from the author’s career between the years of 1932 and 1978. It includes speech transcripts, screenplays, publicity, correspondence, photographs, and critiques of Himes’ works. Among the screenplays in the collection are those for Baby Sister, Night Hunt, and Cotton Comes to Harlem. To learn more, please visit the Chester Himes Collection finding aid.

Welcome Kapil Vasudev to Thompson Library Special Collections!

The new year brings the happy addition of Kapil Vasudev to Thompson Library Special Collections as the Mary P. Key Resident for Cultural Diversity Inquiry. Kapil comes to us from Davidson College in North Carolina where, as a Library Collections Assistant, he facilitated the acquisition, description, and preservation of library collections, including the processing of oral histories of the African American community in North Mecklenburg County. In his previous roles at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, he worked with diverse communities and participated in a system-wide effort to increase cultural inclusivity of library programs. He was a teaching assistant for North Carolina State University’s Department of History, and earned his MLIS at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Working as part of the Thompson Special Collections team with Rare Books and Manuscripts, the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, and the Hilandar Research Library, Kapil will connect our distinctive collections to curricular opportunities where special collections can enlighten and inspire a deep understanding of diversity.

OSU Libraries’ two-year Mary P. Key Diversity Residency Program provides professional development and mentorship for a successful transition from academic training to research librarianship, provides hands-on exposure in many areas of the University Libraries, and contributes to advancing diversity initiatives for both the academic librarianship profession and The Ohio State University Libraries.  Before retiring from the Agriculture Library in 1998, Mary P. Key served as the first chair of the Libraries’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which has served an important role in advising our diversity residency program. She was the second African American librarian to head a department at the OSU Libraries.

“A Refugee of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of April 18th, 1906”

The photograph collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts offer students a strong historical survey of processes and movements, from daguerreotypes to modern digital prints, as well as selections by some of the most recognized names in the medium.  Researchers are less likely to know about the less aesthetic and more purely historical collections, such as those documenting life in central Ohio in the early twentieth century, or the experiences of soldiers and researchers outside of Ohio.  On this anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake we call your attention to a collection of photographs taken by individuals living in that city, who responded immediately to the devastation around them.

View Towards Market Street

View Towards Market Street

This collection of well over 100 images was created by DeWitt C. Morrill, brother of Mrs. Frank H. Haskett, former University photographer, and son of Harrison D. Morrill, alumni secretary of OSU, whose 1925 funeral was presided over by President William Oxley Thompson.

Looking Toward Market Street from Howard and Third (to the south)

Looking Toward Market Street from Howard and Third (to the south)

DeWitt took photographs as he wandered the city immediately after the earthquake, and kept careful notes, which he entitled “Notebook of a Refugee of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of April 18th, 1906.”  He rounded out his historical collection with post cards and additional photographs from the Pillsbury Picture Company, established earlier that year by Arthur C. Pillsbury (perhaps a friend).  While many photographs of the San Francisco Earthquake are available at other institutions, the notes taken by D.C. Morrill, and the identifications on the versos of his photographic prints bring an added value to this collection.


Morrill’s notebook

Wholesale District, Corner of Sansome and Pine

Wholesale District, Corner of Sansome and Pine

Artists’ Books on Display, March 23

view of an artist's book

Please stop by Thompson Library room 150  from 2-6 PM on Wednesday afternoon, March 23, to see a large selection of artists’ books on display.   Artists’ books have been a collection focus for both the Fine Arts librarians and Rare Books curators for decades, and as a result, the collection is quite extensive.  We can’t possibly pull them all out for you, but there will very likely be something available to please every visitor.  Be sure to inquire about the new acquisitions!colophon of artist's book

“A little world of one’s own”

“I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful,” says Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, first introduced in Virginia Woolf’s premiere novel, The Voyage Out, published on this day in 1913. Woolf’s revolutionary career as a novelist, essayist, and Modernist thinker began with this novel about young Rachel Vinrace’s journey from Edwardian society to exotic South America, where her freedom of thought and feeling grow the further she gets from home.

portrait of Virginia Woolf

English novelist and critic Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941), 1902. (Photo by George C. Beresford/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Though Rare Books and Manuscripts does not possess a first edition of this particular work, we do hold copies of many of Woolf’s most popular writings, including several first editions from her and husband Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press, a signed copy of Orlando (1928), and a copy of her last novel, Between the Acts (1941), published after her suicide and signed by her husband.

~ Cecelia Bellomy

Photograph Collections Open House in Thompson Library

Stop by next Thursday afternoon to take a look at some examples of the impressive photograph collections held by OSU Libraries, and housed in Thompson Library Special Collections.   I think you’ll be surprised by the range – including art photography, celebrity portraits, scientific experimentation and social documentary, dating from the very beginnings of the medium through the present day.  You’ll see some big names that you recognize, and learn some new ones that you’ll want to remember.

The open house runs from 1-5 p.m. March 3 in Room 150 of the Thompson Library, 1858 Neil Ave.,  Columbus, OH  43210.

flyer for photo collection open houuse

Download a full-size PDF of the flyer to share.

Coloring Our Collections, Part 4: The Nuremberg Chronicle!

Who doesn’t love the imagery of the Nuremberg Chronicle, taking us through the history of the Christian west from Genesis through the lives of the saints up to the reign of Maximilian I, and introducing us to exotic places in the world of the late fifteenth-century?  There are digitized copies available online, such as that owned by The University of Cambridge, but those are deluxe painted versions.  Our copy was not painted, and in addition, received a cleaning as part of a preservation project in 1999.  The selection of images that we offer are fresh and clean and ready for your colored pencils.  Enjoy!



Color Our Collections, Part 3: Fashion

Today we’ll dip into our huge and wonderful collection of historic trade catalogs and find some fashions from the turn of the century – not this century, mind you, but the late nineteenth- and early twentieth- centuries.

girls in hats from catalog


To be fair, some boys’ and mens’ wear have also been included, but the shading tends to be rather dark on their clothing, so perhaps not the best for coloring.  However, you might be amused by the “university”  and “fraternity” clothes.  These are all everyday garments, from mail order catalogs, not illustrations from the high fashion magazines of the time.  Here’s your coloring book of the day.   Have fun!


Color Our Collections, Part 2: Herbal Illustrations

Today’s coloring pages come to you from the late sixteenth-century Herball Or Generall Historie of Plantes by John Gerard.  We’ve made a PDF for you to print out as a coloring book.  The frontispiece is lush and detailed, so we left it relatively intact for you to admire.  The rigid garden layout represented in the oval frame at the bottom was the standard, unlike our more meandering, seemingly “natural” flower garden designs.

The individual images have been stripped down to black and white for easy coloring.  Some of the nicest images we could not provide because an earlier owner of the book could not resist, and painted them!  (As you can see, the edges of the title page were repaired since the book was so well worn from use.)  There are many more illustrations, and of course, a descriptive text.  Let us know if you’d like to see it sometime.

frontispiece, John Gerard, Herbal


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