Cataloging “Prizes”

A few found items within ARC books.

Cataloging Special Collections is like digging through a box of Cracker Jacks. You purchase a snack hoping that an additional prize is contained inside. After picking through your edible treat, you fingers grasp a hidden prize- maybe a decoding ring, a sticker, or some other trinket. Sometimes that prize has value, other times it is simply fun to find the prize, even if it has no value; and then there are times when the Cracker Jack assembly line forgot to put a prize in your box. A similar thing happens in cataloging. The university purchases old items and special collections, and many times, there are unexpected objects to be found in the collections. Sometimes, you find an academic’s notes, an old photograph used as a bookmark, or some newspaper clippings. Other times, you find less rewarding prizes, like spiders, dust, cobwebs, and more spiders.

Found notes and articles.

Recently, through the cataloging of the Asian Religions Collection (ARC), catalogers stumbled upon some of fun finds. While the Asian Religions Collection was purchased by FSU, it previously had many homes. One of these earlier owners was Galen Eugene Sargent. As a professor of philosophy and comparative literature at Indiana University, Sargent kept multiple notes and bookmarks in his ARC books. Many of these items managed to remain inside the books throughout the years. Cataloger Elizabeth Richey was lucky enough the stumble upon many of these hidden treasures.

Found bookmarks and notes.

The most commonly found items within these books were annotations and handwritten notes. In fact, we found enough notes to fill a small box. These notes appear to be written by Sargent, and they provide us with a glimpse into his work and research interests. There was also a small collection of bookmarks. Actual bookmarks from the Indiana University bookstore and Lagniappe Book Shop in New Orleans were found, while other items used as bookmarks were found. A few favorite bookmark finds include cigarette cards, bookstore receipts, a sleeve of Rokusei Ryokan tissues, and a photograph of actress Marianne Hold.

A pressed flower.

While these found items within the collection were used for more academic purposes, like annotating and marking passages of note, other finds were more aesthetically pleasing. Hidden in the pages of some books were pressed flowers. Others included pressed butterflies. While we cannot pin an exact date to these pressed pieces of nature, we can guess that some date back to the 1960s.

When cataloging older, previously owned materials, you never know what you will find. You’re sure to come across a lot of dust and spiders, but that just makes finding notes and photographs all the more rewarding.


Following a Mystery with One of Our Volunteers

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years. She is still discovering things to this day. Here is one of her recent mysteries:

First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

The John MacKay Shaw Collection at Florida State University has the manuscript for a book by Stephen Graham. It is two or three inches thick. Recently a colleague asked me the source of this manuscript, but we remain confused about its subject and whence it came. About the author, we knew little. Looking for something else a few days later, I opened the Third Supplement of Dr. Shaw’s bibliography Childhood in Poetry near the middle. Surprise! The page revealed the illustration of a letter penned by poet Vachel Lindsay to Mrs. Stephen Graham. The book that the illustration was copied from, Lindsay’s Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty, is described on the facing page of the Shaw bibliography. FSU’s library catalog revealed its call number and Special Collections staff retrieved the book from the closed stacks. The letter begins on the flyleaf and continues onto the half title page of the book. It is dated February 13, 1920 and reflects Lindsay’s memories of tramping with Graham and sharing their search for the meaning of life beside their campfires. There is no mention of anything related to the manuscript.

Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

I was familiar with Graham’s name. In 1998, one of FSU’s English professors came into Special Collections and handed me some materials related to Stephen Graham. If the manuscript was part of this offering, it had been handed to somebody else and I never saw it until several years later. Most of these materials I received related to Graham’s leadership of a group who met in the out of doors and shared their poetry not only by reading it, but by performing it as well. These pages too shed no light on the mysterious manuscript.

Further searches of Stephen Graham in FSU’s catalog and in the John MacKay Shaw Collection Finding Aid yielded information but still did not answer my questions. I turned to the Internet. On Wikipedia, an article by Michael Hughes carries a lode of information; Graham’s whole life with titles of many books he had written about his travels all over the world. Hughes wrote this article for the love of it because he felt that Graham has not been given the attention he deserves. He mentions the long “tramps” that Graham and Lindsay shared and their mutual interest in the spiritual aspect of life. After ten years enjoying each other’s company, changes separated them, but they continued their friendship by mail until Lindsay’s death in 1930. Hughes says nothing on Wikipedia about Graham’s interest in poetry however.

Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

Dr. Hughes remarks that late in his life Stephen Graham visited a friend in Tallahassee. Was this friend the professor who gave me the Graham materials?

Hughes has written a biography of Graham, Beyond Holy Russia: The Life and Times of Stephen Graham. I have scanned this book on line fairly thoroughly several times and have yet to find any mention of our manuscript or an expose of The Poetry Society. I remain in contact with Dr. Hughes in hopes of some avenue opening up to the manuscript.  The latest from Dr. Hughes is that the Harry Ransom Institute in Texas has a copy of it. Stay tuned!

Perhaps the manuscript was written too late in Graham’s life for him to pursue publication, so he had given it to our professor in hopes that he could arrange it. I have written to Dr. Hughes; perhaps between us we can solve the mystery of the Graham manuscript.

Sudden discovery occurs often in my work in Special Collections – far often enough to keep the interest level up and set me off on new adventures each year. The library life is an exciting one – new mystery leaping out while research lays another mystery back to rest.

A Place of Pilgrimage

While assisting with Special Collections & Archives instruction classes as part of my graduate assistantship, I have found the following quote from Michael Suarez, director of the Rare Book School, full of plenty of food for thought:

Great Bible
Great Bible, 1541 (Vault BS167 1541**)

How is the way that your collections are mediated telling those who are in contact with them about their treasureful-ness? About the power of materiality that’s ritually taken out and placed in someone’s hands (or not)? … If we don’t understand our institutions as places of pilgrimage, as places of material embodiments that have profound effects on community, identity, and the expression of humanities, then we do not understand the vocation of the librarian … a high and noble vocation in which we are the custodians of a materiality that is absolutely intrinsic to the identity of our civilization (as cited in Overholt, 2013, p. 19-20).

If at first this seems like an overly lofty vision, I am happy to report that, as a graduate assistant, I have been lucky enough to catch glimpses of this lofty vision in action. Whether it’s watching students interact with 4,000 year old cuneiform tablets or discussing how a 21st-century artist’s book pushes the boundaries of what we think a “book” should be, I am in a privileged place  to help mediate what are many students’ first interactions with rare books and manuscripts.

Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives, discussing printing with Introduction to the History of Text Technologies students.

For FSU Special Collections & Archives, instruction classes are an invaluable means of outreach. By taking materials out of the secured stacks and setting them up in a classroom setting, we are bringing them to students who might not know where we are located, what we have, and what we can offer. Most importantly, we want students to know we exist for them!

When we bring rare books and manuscripts to the classroom, we want to communicate the “treasureful-ness” of these items, many of which are one-of-a-kind. The value of the items means they must be handled with respect and care, and yes, this means rules (no pens, markers or highlighters, no food and drinks), but perhaps these rules can be thought of as part of the ritual of scholarship rather than an imposition designed to make people stay away. Along with the commitment to preservation comes the commitment to providing access, and one of the most exciting things about working in Special Collections & Archives is learning to find the balance between these seemingly polarized goals.

The description of Special Collections & Archives as a place of pilgrimage is an apt one. Students and scholars come to us from across campus, across the country, and sometimes from across oceans; they come from across disciplines. Sometimes they come in person, sometimes they call us, and sometimes they come digitally. During instruction classes, we get to come to them. No matter how simple or complicated their information needs are, Special Collections & Archives has the awesome privilege of putting our unique and distinctive materials in their hands and on their screens.

Katherine Hoarn is a graduate assistant in Special Collections & Archives. She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science degree at Florida State University.


Overholt, J. (2013). Five theses on the future of special collections. RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Cultural Heritage, 14(1), 15-20.

With All My Love: The Frances Isaac Letters, 1944-1947

Frances Isaac writing a letter to her fiance Herbert Dotter, ca. 1945.

Much has been written about letters sent during World War II – movies and books chronicle the stories of undelivered correspondence found decades later, letters between young lovers parted by an ocean, advice from mothers and fathers to their sons. Last fall, Heritage Protocol and University Archives were excited to acquire a collection of letters and photographs sent by FSCW student Frances Isaac to her deployed fiance, Herbert Dotter. From 1944 through ’47, Frances “Frannie” Isaac sent hundreds of letters to her fiance who was stationed in Liberia during WWII.

Notes written on the back of a photograph, ca. 1945.

Frances started school at FSCW in 1943, and worked as an attache for the press in the Florida Legislator. She was an introvert, and often expressed in her letters that she preferred the solitude of studying in the library to gossiping with her classmates. In a letter from 1944, Frances wrote that she felt “pretty disgusted with the girls,” describing how her peers would gather at the gates of campus to talk to young military personnel. Many of the letters document the mundane, recounting what she ate for dinner that night, the new dresses she’d bought, difficult homework assignments. In some letters, she would talk about the multiple health ailments she faced, like a pulled tooth she had in 1946.

The binding theme throughout all of the letters, however, was the future of their relationship. In earlier letters, Frances would gush with love for Herbert, soliloquies filled with plans for their marriage and how she felt when she thought about him. But by 1947, her letters had become increasingly antagonistic until she eventually called things off. In a letter from March 1947, Frances compared their relationship to that with her father, explaining that the unconditional love Herbert showed her reminded her of the way her father treated her: “I can’t marry you – it would be like marrying my own father.” A few letters later, with a returned engagement ring, Frances tells Herbert about how she met someone new: “we’re like two lost souls adrift in an ocean who understand the fears hopes, frustration and desires of the other.”

Inside of Valentine's Day Card, 1947
Inside of Valentine’s Day Card, 1947

Unfortunately, we only have half of the narrative from this epic love story. Not much is known about Frances Isaac after she graduated from FSCW. Herbert Dotter eventually married someone else, and passed away at the age of 92 in 2009.

To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

Out of the Stacks and Into the Classroom

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) Prof. Stephanie Leitch and her graduate Renaissance Observation class examining a copy of Sebastian Munster's "Cosmographia," published in 1550
Prof. Stephanie Leitch and her graduate Renaissance Observation class examining a copy of Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia, published in 1550. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

This semester, the Special Collections & Archives Graduate Assistants are delving into the world of rare books!

The Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University has an impressive collection of rare books–from Sumerian cuneiform tablets (created in approximately 2000 BCE) to the Grove Press Collection (published in the 20th century) and almost everything in between.  Some areas of particular collecting strength include the French Revolution and Napoleonic era, early English Bibles, poetry about childhood, and the history of Florida.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) Theodor de Bry's "America: Part VII" (in Latin); published in 1599
Theodor de Bry’s “America: Part VII” (in Latin), published in 1599. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

Students and researchers can always access the materials held by Special Collections & Archives in the Special Collections Research Center Reading Room.  But students can also engage with rare books and archival materials from Special Collections & Archives as part of a classroom visit.  An instruction session is a unique opportunity for students to analyze rare books and manuscripts in the classroom setting.  With the background knowledge they’ve gained in class, students are able to learn from and interact with primary source materials.

Part of the Graduate Assistants’ job this semester has been to assist Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives, with preparing for the different class instruction sessions in Special Collections & Archives.  Before a classroom visit takes place, there are meetings with the class instructor to discuss the goals for the

session.  This helps us determine what materials from the collection might best serve the instructor’s focus.  While sometimes the professor knows exactly what materials he or she wants to see, because of our knowledge of the collection, the Special Collections staff are often able to suggest additional items in the collection that might complement the themes the instructor wishes to stress.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) Prof. Leitch's Renaissance Observation class examining Peter Apian's Cosmographia, published in 1584
Prof. Leitch’s Renaissance Observation class examining Peter Apian’s Cosmographia, published in 1584. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

One of the great things about assisting with classroom instruction has been this opportunity to discover different aspects of the collection.  With each class I assist, I learn new things about the rare volumes held in Special Collections & Archives.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) A moving diagram from Peter Apian's Cosmographia, published in 1584
A moving diagram from Peter Apian’s Cosmographia, published in 1584. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

In preparing for a graduate class on “Renaissance Observation,” I discovered the 1584 volume of the Cosmographia by Peter Apian.  Peter Apian (1495-1552) was a German mathematics professor and printer.  His Cosmographia is one example of the popular Renaissance genre of cosmography.  In the sixteenth century, cosmography combined areas as diverse as astronomy, natural history, and geography.  Written in Latin, Peter Apian’s Cosmographia is an exploration of sixteenth century astronomy.  One unique aspect of Apian’s Cosmographia is its mathematical focus.  The 1584 edition held by Special Collections contains moving diagrams that help to illustrate his astronomical concepts.  In the illustration pictured below, the images of the zodiac are used to map the night sky.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) From the 1584 edition of Peter Apian's Cosmographia
From the 1584 edition of Peter Apian’s Cosmographia. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

Other examples of the Renaissance cosmography genre held by Special Collections include Sebastian Munster’s 1550 edition of Cosmographia.  First published in 1544, Munster’s Cosmographia is counted as the first German description and categorizations of the world.  Munster’s Cosmographia focuses on geography, the customs of different cultures, and the history of animals and plants.  Its detailed illustrations are considered particularly important.

You can find these volumes (and many others) in the Special Collections Research Center weekdays, from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Rebecca L. Bramlett is a graduate assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division.  She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science at Florida State University.

Extra! Extra! Flambeau Online!

We’re pleased to announce the availability of our first group of the Florida Flambeau, the student newspaper at FSU. The issues from 1915-1930 are now available in the FSU Digital Library (FSUDL).

Detail from the January 17, 1930 Flambeau.
Detail from the January 17, 1930 Flambeau.

Each issue is fully text searchable using Advanced Search in the FSUDL as well as browsable by year and month. We hope to continue to grow this collection over the following years. A larger collection of the Florida Flambeau is currently available in the Internet Archive as well.

Alone and without Nonsense

On January 29, 1888, Edward Lear quietly passed away with only a servant by his side. A lifelong nomad, Lear was often alone as he hunted for new painting grounds. He was first and foremost a landscape artist and spend a good deal of his life wandering the Italian countryside in search of a new view to paint.

Detail from a letter from Edward Lear to Henry Bruce, 1884
Detail from a letter from Edward Lear to Henry Bruce, 1884

His Book of Nonsense, a result of trying to entertain the children of one of his patrons, would be his greatest achievement however. First published in 1846, it led to dozens of editions and re-imagings by other authors and artists over the years as well as Lear himself who revisited the “nonsenses” as he called them in the 1860s and 1870s. It also was one of the first publication instances of the limerick. The Learian Limerick was named in Lear’s honor to specify the style Lear used in composing the short poems to accompany his character sketches.

In 1884, Lear contracted bronchitis and never fully recovered from it for the rest of his life. His health continued to deteriorate until his death in 1888 in San Remo, Italy, the closest place to a home the wandering poet and painter ever knew.

We have many of Lear’s Nonsense books in our digital library as well as a set of letters from Lear to one of his many patrons, all part of our John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry collection.

A Political Odyssey Begins: Claude Pepper’s first month in office

From an early age, Claude Pepper possessed the desire to serve in public office and as a nine year old boy, once carved his name into a tree along with the title ‘U.S. Senator’ underneath. Close to thirty years later, Pepper would realize his lifelong dream after successfully gaining a senate seat during the mid term elections of 1936, where he became and would remain a strong supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies.

From the Claude Pepper Papers; source unknown.

On January 3, 1937, Pepper and his new bride, Mildred arrived in the nation’s capital after spending their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. That night, the young senator wrote in his diary:

“Mildred and I arrived from our honeymoon 1 A.M. or thereabout and to Wardman Park [hotel] to the bedroom suite we had obtained until our apartment was ready. So here we are, a young bride and groom and young Senator and Senatress in the Capital. We have lots of hard work. No doubt many heartaches ahead of us; but I hope our stay shall be as long as we like it and we shall be able to do a good job and at the same time find our lives here stimulating and challenging. No more thrilling time to be here.”

A newly wed Claude and Mildred Pepper depart Miami for their honeymoon to Havana, Cuba on December 31, 1936.
The Peppers, honeymoon bound on December 31, 1936.


Claude would not have to wait long for his predictions to come true. On January 5, 1937, Claude Pepper was officially sworn in for his first term in office alongside fellow Florida Senator Charles O. Andrews.

From left to right, Claude Pepper and Charles O. Andrews are sworn in to office by Vice President John Nance Garner, January 5, 1937.
From left to right, Claude Pepper and Charles O. Andrews are sworn in to office by Vice President John Nance.

The bulk of his first month in office was spent becoming acquainted with his new surroundings on Capital Hill, meeting fellow Senate and House colleagues and moving into more permanent living quarters near DuPont Circle. From his arrival in Washington, Pepper was determined to make a name for himself among his peers and on February 4, 1937 successfully proposed his first of many bills, this one allowing for a harbor dredging project to commence in Port St. Joe, Florida. Just a few weeks later, Claude would break precedent for freshman senators and speak on the senate floor, an act which brought his formidable oratory skills to the attention of President Roosevelt, who would come to lean on Claude to be his mouthpiece for New Deal Legislation in the south. Senator Pepper would also go on to become a strong supporter of the newly created Social Security Act and the chief architect of the Lend Lease Bill, all the while continuing to become one of the more dynamic figures in national politics during the late 1930’s.

Many Happy Returns to the Prince of Tallahassee

On January 21, 1801, Charles Louis Napoleon Achille Murat was born to Joachim and Caroline Bonaparte Murat, Napoleon Bonaparte’s youngest sister. Through the family’s connections with the Emperor, Joachim was eventually made King of Naples, hence the Prince Murat title. Upon the Emperor’s second defeat in 1815, Achille’s father was executed and his mother fled with her children to Vienna.

Achille would emigrate to America upon his 21st birthday in 1821 and became a naturalized citizen fairly soon after, renouncing all his titles. After roaming the country, he settled in Washington DC where he happened to become friends with Richard Keith Call, Florida’s territorial delegate to Congress who told the young man of the many opportunities in the newly acquired territory.

Murat settled first in St. Augustine but later purchased his Lipona Plantation outside Tallahassee after much prodding from the Marquis de Lafayette.  Murat became involved in local politics quickly, serving as alderman and mayor until appointed postmaster in 1826, a post he held until 1838. It was also in Tallahassee that Murat met his future wife, Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray, great grandniece of George Washington. Murat was also a part of Florida’s militia and would hold the rank of colonel for the rest of his life following the Seminole Wars.

Illustration of Murat and Emerson from A Prince In Their Midst
Illustration of Murat and Emerson from A Prince In Their Midst; The Adventurous Life of Achille Murat on the American Frontier 

A man of many interests, Murat was a writer. He, along with his fellow countryman Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote much on American culture and lifestyle during his lifetime though Murat’s writing never became as popular as Tocqueville. He also had a close friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson whom he met in St. Augustine in 1826.

After an attempt to regain some of his family’s fortune in the July Revolution of 1830 and several unsuccessful years in New Orleans, Murat and his wife moved back in Tallahassee in the mid 1830s and Murat would remain here the rest of his life. Murat died in 1847 and is buried  in the St. John’s Episcopal Church cemetery in Tallahassee.

Recently, through the efforts of a local group, the historic marker outside the cemetery where Murat and his wife are buried was restored after mysteriously vanishing a year ago. You can read about the new marker and those who helped get it back in place on the Tallahassee Democrat’s website.


Dr. Fred L Standley 1932-2014

Photo courtesy of the Tallahassee Democrat files.
Photo courtesy of the Tallahassee Democrat files.

It is with a heavy heart that we learn about the passing of FSU Professor Emeritus Dr. Fred Standley. Dr.  Standley, the Daisy Flory Parker Professor Emeritus in English, taught at FSU for 50 years until his retirement in 2013. His academic pursuits specialized in both British literature and works of African-American writers, and taught a popular course on banned books that was originally developed for FSU’s London program. His banned books course led to the tradition of the annual banned books read-out, where students and faculty members read aloud passages from previously banned books at Strozier Library.

Fred Standley’s involvement at FSU extended beyond the classroom. Dr. Standley served as chair of the English department from 1973 to 1982, and again from 1997 to 1999. He is credited with ushering the program into the modern era, and connected faculty members with opportunities for book contracts and conference presentations. He also served as the president of FSU’s Faculty Senate for two terms, chaired the search committee in 1976 (which led to the hire of Bernie Sliger), president of the friends of the Library (1989-1995; 2006-2008), and director of land acquisition from 1989-1994.

Dr. Standley’s accomplishments and contributions didn’t go unacknowledged. The Distinguished Service Professor Award (2003), the Friends of Strozier Library Distinguished Service Award (2006), and the FSU Torch Award (2013) are few among the many honors he received while at FSU. Awards have also been created in his honor, including the Fred L. Standley Award for Outstanding Teacher and the Friends of Strozier Library Fred L. Standley Award for the Academic Librarian of the Year. The Fred L. Standley Award “honors an outstanding faculty member within the University Libraries at the Florida State University for significant contributions to campus, state, national and/or international research librarianship and library development.”

A celebration of Fred L. Standley’s life will be held at FSU at a later date.