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New Digital Collection: Cuneiform Tablets

June 19, 2014

The Florida State University Digital Library now shares a selection of the cuneiform tablets held by the Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.

In 1922, Dr. Josiah Bethea Game (1869-1935) negotiated the purchase of twenty-five tablets for the Florida State College for Women (FSCW). The tablets range in size from one to two square inches, and are square, rounded and cone shaped. The tablets were found by archeologist Dr. Edgar J. Banks (1866 –1945)  while excavating in Babylonia (present-day Iraq) for the University of Chicago in 1903-1904. The ancient inscribed Babylonian clay tablets illustrate the oldest of writings and were are mostly temple records and business documents dating from over 4000 years ago.

Among the cuneiform artifacts are a ritual tablet from Warka dated 2100 BC; a memorandum from Senkereh, the ancient Larsa, 22 BC; a temple record, sealed with the royal seal of the King of Ur of the Chaldees, 2350 BC; sun-dried business contract, 220 BC; sun-dried exercise tablet, 2200 BC; butchers bill for four sheep, 2150 BC; a votive cone, King of Amanu, from the temple of the goddess Ishtar, which he built in the royal residence of his kingdom 2100 BC; a tax bill, 2350 BC; and a business contract dated in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.

This selection of our cuneiform collection was digitized and translated as part of a project in 2008 and now join the growing digital collections in the FSUDL!

Heritage Protocol marks the passing of Dr. J. Stanley Marshall

June 9, 2014

Heritage Protocol and our entire community is saddened to learn of the passing of former Florida State University President and Trustee Dr. J. Stanley Marshall, who died earlier today, June 8, at the age of 91. From Garnett Stokes, Interim President, Florida State University: Dr. Marshall leaves a truly remarkable legacy. Following his service in World War II, he became an educator and statewide leader in higher education, earning an international reputation for his work in reashaping the education of science teachers. As an entreprenuer, Dr. Marshall lived an engaged life of excellence and integrity; and our faculty, staff and students are grateful for his leadership and influence on the Florida State University campus, as well as our city and state. While serving as Florida State’s ninth president, from June 1969 to August 1976, Florida State was known as the “Berkeley of the South” as student protests and faculty dissension placed the institution in the national spotlight. Notwithstanding the social and political upheaval of the time, he thoughtfully guided the university with a policy of “firmness coupled with fairness.” Because of this policy, campus protests resulted in arrests, rather than violence or casualties. In his 2006 book “The Tumultuous Sixties: Campus Unrest and Student Life at a Southern University” (Sentry Press), Dr. Marshall recounted how he was able to maintain order on the Florida State campus, while respecting the rights of free speech and assembly. Dr. Marshall joined our faculty in 1958 as head of the Department of Science Education, and adjunct professor of physics. He established the department of science education and programs to educate secondary school teachers in the sciences, and went on to become the associate dean of Florida State’s College of Education in 1965. In 1967, he was appointed dean of the college. Consulting widely in science education, principally in the Middle East, Dr. Marshall gained an international reputation for his work in reshaping science teacher education programs. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served on that organization’s Commission on Science Education. Dr. Marshall was co-author of a widely used series of science textbooks for the elementary grades published by Scott Foresman. He was the Founding Editor of “The Journal of Research in Science Teaching” and served as an advisor to Encyclopedia Britannica Films, the National Science Foundation, and to the U. S. Department of Education. He served as President of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, Southern Region. By Presidential appointment, Dr. Marshall served for five years on the Secretary of the Navy’s Advisory Board on Naval Education and Training, as well as serving as an advisor to the Secretary of the Army for on-campus Army ROTC programs. He served as a member of the Board of Regents of The National Library of Medicine, and was a Fellow of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where he served on the AAAS Commission on Science Education. Dr. Marshall remained active in higher education following his retirement as Florida State president in 1976. He founded The James Madison Institute in 1987 and served as its President and CEO from 1987 to 2000. For many years thereafter he continued as Senior Scholar, publisher of the Institute’s quarterly Journal, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. Later accomplishments include serving on the Bethune Cookman University Board of Trustees beginning in 1994, and concluding at the end of his four-year term as chairman in 2001. He also served on the Florida State University Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2005, and the Florida Board of Governors from 2005 to 2012. He later founded Sonitrol, a Tallahasee-based company that provides electronic security and fire protection for businesses and homes in the area. As a member of the community, he served on numerous commissions and boards, including the Florida Commission on Cabinet Reform in 1995, and the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in 1997-1998. In addition, he served on the boards of the Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center and the Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce, and received the latter’s Lifetime Leadership Award. Dr. Marshall’s contributions to science teacher education and higher education are countless; and equally immeasurable is his legacy as a genuine “Renaissance Man” – a global reputation that was shaped by his extraordinary intellect and standing as a champion of objectivity and fairness. Our thoughts are with his wife, Shirley, their five children, and 13 grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Monday, June 16 at 11 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Tallahassee.Dr. J Stanley Marshall circa 1967

Seashells, Societies & Scandals: Illustrated Marine Zoological Books of the 19th Century

June 6, 2014

Here in Tallahassee summer is in full swing with high temperatures already hitting the 90s.  In honor of the arrival of beach-going, sea shell-collecting days, the staff at Florida State University’s Special Collections & Archives invites you to explore the weird, wonderful and occasionally scandalous world of 19th century marine zoology.

FSU’s rare books collection contains numerous illustrated zoological and botanical works including a large selection of illustrated conchological texts and a nearly complete collection of publications from the Linnean Society and The Ray Society.  We picked three especially interesting and “beachy” books to feature in this special summer-themed post.  So, break out your sunscreen and prepare to brush up on your knowledge of marine zoology!

We begin with a foray into the sordid world of illustrated conchologies. For readers who may be unfamiliar with the term, conchology is the study of mollusk shells.

The Conchologist’s First Book
By Edgar Allan Poe, 1839

Cover of The Conchologist's First Book

Cover of The Conchologist’s First Book

The Conchologist’s First Book was originally published in 1839 and was the only work attributed to Edgar Allan Poe to be published in a second edition during his lifetime.

Poe, who was down on his luck and in financial straits at the time, was commissioned by the American naturalist Thomas Wyatt to write an introduction and lend his name to a revised edition of his Manual of Conchology.  Despite Poe’s assertion that he edited, revised and arranged the text in close cooperation with the original author, controversy arose over claims that the book violated copyright law and charges of plagiarism were bandied about.  Poe became so concerned with the damage the accusation might do to his reputation that he threatened to pursue legal action. Meanwhile, Wyatt’s own Manual of Conchology was likewise criticized for having borrowed heavily from Captain Thomas Brown’s The Conchologist’s Textbook which was published in Glasgow in 1837.1

This first edition of The Conchologist’s First Book features the original uncolored illustrations which appeared in color in the second edition, published in 1840.

Illustrations of  The Fossil Conchology of Great Britain and Ireland : with the description and localities of all the species
By Captain Thomas Brown, 1849

Plate 64

The second featured book comes from the very same Captain Thomas Brown of the Poe-Wyatt conchological controversy.  Illustrations of The Fossil Conchology of Great Britain and Ireland was published in 1849 and contains 98 superbly illustrated pages drawn by Brown himself.  Among Brown’s claims to Victorian naturalist fame are his membership in the Linnean Society, his presidency of the Physical Society and the honor of having a species of sea snail named after him.

A Monograph of the British Naked-Eyed Medusae: with Figures of all the Species
By Edward Forbes, 1848


Plate 9


With the final featured book we move away from mollusk shells and into deeper waters, so to speak.  A Monograph of the British Naked-Eyed Medusae is number 12 of a series of texts published by the Ray Society.  The Ray Society was established in 1844 with the expressed object of “the promotion of Natural History by the printing of original works in Zoology and Botany…”2  Unlike similar societies of the period, The Ray Society specifically sought to publish works of scientific merit that were unlikely to be commercially profitable and therefore unlikely to appear in print.  A Monograph of the British Naked-Eye Medusae is one of many fascinating and beautifully illustrated volumes in the Ray Society’s long list of publications which also includes Charles Darwin’s A Monograph of the Sub-class Cirripedia: with Figures of all the Species and William Buckler’s Larvae of British Butterflies and Moths.

These beautiful and interesting books are part of a large collection of illustrated Natural History books to be discovered in Florida State University’s special collections.


1. Lienhard, John D., Poe’s Conchology. retrived 4 June 2013 from

2. Curle, Richard. The Ray Society: A Bibliographical History. London: Printed for the Ray Society; sold by Quaritch, 1954.

A Lot of Nonsense

May 19, 2014

A new digital collection is now available in the FSU Digital Library!

A page from A Book of Nonsense, 1846

A page from A Book of Nonsense, 1846

Edward Lear was a British poet and painter. Although he wrote many poetry volumes and travel journals, he is best known for his Book of Nonsense, first published in 1846, which consists of drawings and short poems he wrote for the grandchildren of Lord Derby. While he is not credited as the inventor of the limerick, the poems of the Book of Nonsense would be defined as such today. This online collection includes the multiple editions of the Book of Nonsense published from 1846 to 1880. It also includes the many derivative editions and works which call the Book of Nonsense their inspiration.

Our Edward Lear collection belongs in the John M. Shaw Childhood in Poetry collection. John MacKay Shaw (1897-1984) was an AT&T Executive who began collecting related to childhood in the 1930s. From this hobby the collection grew. Following his retirement in 1959, Shaw gave his collection of almost 6,000 volumes to Florida State University Libraries. For the next 25 years, Shaw went to Strozier Library daily to study, write, and talk about his books. The Shaw Collection has grown immensely over the years and it currently comprises over 35,000 volumes and 69 linear feet of archival material.

Also, this spring, see an exhibit about John MacKay Shaw in our Exhibit Room put together in collaboration with the Spring 2014 Museum Objects class. For more information, see our post about the exhibit!

Dealing with the Oddities of Born Digital

May 13, 2014

From Timothy Kanke who completed a year-long internship with Special Collections this spring:

The Florida State University Science Education Curriculum Development Collection documents the creation and development of science teaching materials produced by the science education program at Florida State University from the 1960s to the 2000s. A portion of the collection is composed of many different types of digital media containing completed games as well as various stages of code development. My internship focused on further exploration of what is in this portion of the collection and to research means of preservation and access to these materials. This collection provides many interesting challenges. It contains many different types of storage media including 3.5” floppy disks, CDs, micro cassettes, DAT, Travan, VHS, DVDs, EX drives, Jaz disks, laser disks, 8mm magnetic tape, and U-matic tape. Another challenge is that a majority of the material are stored on older file formats for Apple II and Commodore Amiga computers that are not directly compatible to most modern operating systems.

Playing one of the video games includes in the Science Ed Collection

Playing one of the video games included in the Science Education Curriculum Development Collection

There are a few methods of moving old software to a modern platform. Both of the following methods create disk images that an emulator can read. One method is to directly connect the older machine to a clean workstation. For Apple II computers this is achieved with Apple Disk Transfer ProDos. This process has a specialized program installed on a modern operating system which is connected to an Apple II which has a modified version of its operating system. Another method is by using a specialized controller such as KryoFlux. It is a combination of a hardware controller (i.e. circuit board) and software. The original media storage device such as a floppy disk drive is connected to the controller. This allows access to the contents on a floppy.

This internship has also given me experience on conceptualizing a collection which shapes how the items are preserved and accessed. If the collection is to provide future generations the chance to experience educational software game play from the late 1980s to early 2000s, then the original equipment, or at least an emulator, is a necessity. If the collection is to document historical computer code, then the code itself and the accompanying documentation needs to be viewable. Or if the collection is focusing on the pedagogy, then a description of the gaming experience with the supporting printed materials might be sufficient for future research. The description of the game could be a walk through video. This kind of video interview captures the monitor output and the audio of the game as well as the words spoken by the player.

Of course choosing one conceptualization does not automatically exclude the others but a focus curtails unnecessary expenditures and brings to light what is truly necessary to preserve the collection. This allows the researcher to immerse themselves into the content and not be distracted by inconsistency of processing. It is impossible to predict how exactly a collection is going to be used in the future but a focus brings a cohesion to the individual items.

John MacKay Shaw: The Man Behind the Collection

May 5, 2014

John Shaw exhibit poster

Dr. Teri Abstein’s Spring 2014 Museum Object class, in collaboration with FSU’s Special Collections & Archives, is pleased to present its exhibit, John MacKay Shaw: The Man Behind the Collection. Shaw was born in Scotland and immigrated to the United States as a teen. After marriage and having his own children, Shaw began his collection of childhood poetry and literature in the 1930s. His collection grew to include all the masters of English literature who have written about childhood – and almost every English poet has.  The Shaw Collection was donated to FSU with 6,000 volumes; the collection currently comprises of over 35,000 volumes and 69 linear feet of archival material.

In the exhibit, you will be able to view Shaw’s own poetry written for his children, letters between Shaw and Dr. Seuss, first editions of books which turned into popular children’s movies, part of the largest Scottish collection in America and finally, the legacy Shaw has left to his children, to Florida State University and many others.

A digital exhibit to complement the physical exhibit can be found here.

John MacKay Shaw: The Man Behind the Collection is open from 10am-6pm in the Strozier Exhibit Room and will be available to view until Fall 2014.

New Collection of Confederate Sheet Music in the FSU Digital Library

May 2, 2014

From Sara Nodine, Head of Collection Development and Special Collection at the Allen Music Library here at Florida State University:

The Allen Music Library is thrilled to announce their first collection of sheet music available through the FSU Digital Library.  On April 25, 2014 the Confederate Sheet Music Collection was added to the digital repository with the intention of making valuable and fragile resources available for use not only on the campus of Florida State University, but also to the broader virtual community of scholars.

In 1987, the Warren D. Allen Music Library acquired a large collection of Confederate sheet music imprints.  The collection includes more than 300 items which comprise approximately 40% of all sheet music titles know to have been published in the Confederacy.  In addition to these imprints, there are other scores included in the collection that are related to the Confederacy.  These items are not considered imprints because they meet one or more criteria: published outside of the years of the war, published prior to secession, published in a city once under Union control, or by a Northern publisher.

There are several resources that discuss Confederate imprints in the library collections at FSU. Alumnus John G. Rivest’s “A Descriptive Bibliography of Confederate Sheet-music Imprints Held by The Florida State University” [Music Library - ML125.C6 R58 1990] describes the content of this collection in detail.  In addition, Frank W. Hoogerwerf’s Confederate Sheet Music Imprints [Music Library – ML125.C6 H66 1984] is a thorough catalog of all existing confederate sheet music imprints.

This project was made possible by a Student Technology Fee Grant from FSU, enabling the Music Library to purchase a high-quality scanner for the digitization process.  Additionally, the library was able to host an intern from the FSU School of Information who digitized the scores and provided the records needed to create an accessible collection.  I would like to thank Shanna Speer for her commitment to the project over the course of the semester.  We are excited to continue adding collections to the larger digital library and look forward to the collaboration that these resources will inspire.


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