Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

Highlighting our collections and the work that we do

Category: News (page 1 of 4)

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.

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

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!

You Can Go Home Again

You Can Go Home Again

Geoffrey D. Smith

Thieves of Book Row:  New York’s Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It by Travis McDade (Oxford University Press, 2013) chronicles the free-wheeling looting of collegiate and public libraries in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Raiding primarily East coast libraries, particularly the New York Public Library, the book thieves would fence their books on Book Row, the legendary used book store center on Fourth Avenue in New York City. Though most book sellers were reputable, others were complicit in the thefts though criminal prosecution proved difficult. Library security was extremely lax those many decades ago and even volumes sequestered as rare books were easily accessible and vulnerable to theft.  Most libraries, then, were easy targets for the highly organized gangs of book thieves who victimized “Columbia, Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, and other small university and public libraries throughout the Northeast.” (144)

Current security measures in rare book libraries are much more stringent than they were eighty years ago.  Standard operating procedures in most contemporary rare book libraries include dual coverage of reading rooms, sign in sheets and ID requirements, security cameras and improved documentation of holdings.   Still, at Ohio State (and many other institutions) many older, relatively rare books were kept in the general collections for decades and were not transferred to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, on a large scale, until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  A systematic review of general collections at many research libraries was incited by the influential report “Preserving Research Collections:  A Collaboration between Librarians and Scholars” (1999) issued by the Task Force on the Preservation of the Artifact made up of the Association of Research Libraries, the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association with input from numerous other learned societies.  Although the transfer process at Ohio State secured many valuable items from general circulation, it also revealed that many volumes were missing, most likely due to theft.

 This past summer, it came to my attention  from John Howell,  a west coast bookseller, that several volumes of eighteenth-century French books, which were being offered for sale, had markings from the Ohio State University Library (perforated title pages, a practice frowned upon today, but, as evidenced here, an effective means of book identification). A search of our catalog records revealed that the items were, indeed, listed as part of OSUL, but that they had been missing since 2001, the period when Rare Books was doing its sweep of the general collections.  Although the items were identified as being missing since 2001, their actual disappearance may have been ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more years earlier.  Heaven knows where they had been in the meantime, but they were now in the hands of Dato Mio, a New York City artist, who cooperated greatly in expediting their return to Ohio State. They are now stored in the Rare Books stacks rather than the general collections.

We can only estimate how many other early books have left the OSUL shelves over the years.  In terms of rare book value, the returned items were modest, $1,500 –  $2,000, but their scholarly value may be of great significance to our faculty, students and visiting scholars.  More importantly, especially during this festive time of year, their return restores faith in the good intentions of people everywhere:  time cannot face good works or good deeds.

Joyce, Yeats, Beckett Collections on Exhibit until January 2014

The Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library is currently exhibiting of some of their Irish literary holdings, including first printings and signed editions of some very influential and revered Irish writers. Visitors will explore the moment at the end of the nineteenth century and through the twentieth century when Irish writers burst boldly onto the international literary scene as they laid claimed to their cultural identity and political independence.Irish-poster-blog

Of What is Past, or Passing, or to Come:  The Irish Literary Renaissance is now open at the Thompson Library at The Ohio State University  and will run through January 5, 2014, and is located in the Exhibit Hall on the first floor of the Library.

The exhibit features the works of William Butler Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. This remarkable trio were not only the predominant writers of 20th century Ireland, but they are also considered among the greatest influences of world literature. Yeats’ The Tower is among the most appreciated volumes of modern poetry, and Joyce’s Ulysses and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot are arguably the greatest novel and drama, respectively, of the 20th century.  In 1923, Yeats became the first Irish writer to win the Nobel Prize; in 1969 Beckett won his.  James Joyce remains the greatest modern writer not to win the Nobel Prize.

Other Irish writers are featured as well, particularly Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, who died this summer on August 30, 2013; historical pamphlets from the Irish quest for independence from Britain; and selected works from the Cuala Press, a fine press established by Elizabeth and Lily Yeats in 1902.

For further information contact Geoffrey D. Smith, Professor and Head of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, at smith.1@osu.edu or 614.688.4930.

Au Claire de la Lune Then, Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) Now

Deborah Zabarenko of Reuters News recently reported on the recovery of Alexander Graham Bell’s voice from “a wax-covered cardboard disc on April 15, 1885.”  (More details are available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/29/usa-bell-voice-idUSL2N0DG12P20130429.)  As astounding as the Alexander Graham Bell preservation effort is, I was even more impressed by other recovery work, especially “that scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California [the same group that recovered Bell’s voice] had retrieved 10 seconds of the French folk song Au Clair de la Lune from an 1860 recording of sound waves made as squiggles on soot-covered paper. That was almost 30 years before Thomas Edison’s oldest known playable recording, made in 1888.”  First, I am stunned that “squiggles on soot-covered paper” can produce sound.  Secondly, I am floored that someone has preserved that dirty paper for over 150 years.  And, finally, of course, I am absolutely flabbergasted that the sound was recovered, as noted above.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library contends with immediate conservation and long term preservation issues every day.  Barring incidental floods, fire, vermin or mold, books are relatively easy to preserve if housed in a stable and secure environment and monitored constantly from now until eternity.  Of an equal preservation challenge are non-print media – audio, video, computer, etc. – when time has yet to determine the life of these fragile media.  In addition to the materials themselves, there is the challenge of guaranteeing that old formats can be reformatted for new equipment without compromising sound or image.  We are all familiar with the development of audio formats from vinyl records to cassette tapes to CD’s to I-pods.  And, the change will continue: what will people be listening to in 2163?  Rare Books, then, and other special collection libraries around the world, preserve multiple formats of materials with the hope that even if we cannot reformat all our current holdings on a timely basis, technology will prevail.  Certainly, the conversion of “squiggles on soot-covered paper” to an audible version of Au Claire de la Lune is a hopeful sign.  The key, remains, however, to preserving the originals.  The 15th-century print versions of the Bible and the classics would not have been possible had manuscript versions not survived.  Listening to Hard Knock Life 150 years from now will not be possible without conserving some version of it today.

Armory Show opening: February 17, 1913

Armory Show catalogYesterday marked 100 years since the opening of The International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York, the “Armory Show,” long recognized for its significant role in introducing Americans to the avant-garde of modern European art.  Works like Matisse’s Blue Nude and Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 startled visitors and elicited strong negative responses, but also heralded a new direction in American art.   Holding the catalog of the exhibition in your hands stirs the imagination and opens a portal to the sights and sounds of that era.

While there had been a number of independent exhibitions of the works of these artists held in Europe previously, one must not assume that the new styles had become mainstream there.

The complete run of the Paris Salon catalogs are also housed in Rare Books and Manuscripts.  As an art historian, I felt compelled to reach for the catalogs that marked critical years in the careers of Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Courbet or Edouard Manet, but reason suggested that I should highlight the one from 1913.  One will not find works like the Blue Nude or Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 here.  While Realism and Impressionism had gained more acceptance, the traditional Academic fare still dominated the Paris show.1913 Salon Catalog  One finds little change in what was presented to the Parisian public between the years 1863 and 1913. 

Being able to see an artist’s works within the context of an entire exhibit is of tremendous value.  Shelley Staples tackled such a challenge for the Armory Show back in 2001, creating a web site that attempts to recreate the full experience: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~museum/armory/armoryshow.html  Once you enter you can move from gallery to gallery following the exhibit layout provided in the catalog.  If you’ve not visited this site before, take time to commemorate this centennial by exploring the Armory Show yourself!


Older posts