July 28, 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Helen Beatrix Potter in Kensington, London. Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is best known as the author and illustrator of children’s classics like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. These delightful stories, set in the English countryside, were originally drawn and written as greeting cards and letters to the children of Potter’s friends. Beginning in 1900, Potter started sending her stories to publishers, but after six rejected submissions, she published the books on her own. As part of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, FSU Special Collections has one of the original Beatrix Potter books: The Tailor of Gloucester printed in London by Strangeways and Sons in 1902.
After the success of her self-published children’s books, Beatrix Potter was picked up by the publishing house Frederick Warne & Co, who had originally turned down her manuscripts. In addition to the first edition of The Tailor of Gloucester, FSU Special Collections has over 100 works by Beatrix Potter in our rare book collections. The Gwen P. and Allan C. Reichert Beatrix Potter Collection contains biographies of Beatrix Potter and several editions of The Peter Rabbit stories, as well as adaptation pop-up books, cookbooks, coloring books, and more. A corresponding archival collection with Beatrix Potter related toys and ephemera will also soon be available to researchers.
FSU Special Collections & Archives recently added 33 late-nineteenth century American paperbacks to our rare book collections. These include such famous titles as Great Expectationsand Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, and The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicansby James Fenimore Cooper. They were published between 1865-1874 by D. Appleton and Company of New York and T. B. Peterson & Brothers of Philadelphia, and, because they still have their original printed paper wrappers and advertisements, they are important artifacts in the history of nineteenth-century printing and the development of the modern paperback.
A Peterson “Cheap Edition for the Million” sold for 35 cents and would include illustrated plates, while the smaller Appleton editions sold for 25 cents. Authors like Dickens are famous for publishing their works as serialized novels, which could be bought in parts to make them more affordable to the growing numbers of working-class readers. Because they were often taken out of their wrappers and bound into single volumes, first editions of Dickens in their original covers (like FSU’s 1865 edition of Our Mutual Friend) are especially prized by collectors and historians.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, London publishers realized the additional fortune they could make on cheap reprints.¹ These were often sold at railway stations and called “yellow-backs” because of their colorful, eye-catching covers. The paperbacks published by Peterson and Appleton attest that the trend of cheap reprints was common on both sides of the Atlantic. Advertisements, like the one pictured above, list other available publications, all of which testify to the growing commodification of print in the nineteenth-century and the new technologies which made it possible.
These nineteenth-century paperbacks can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room Monday-Thursday 10am-6pm and Friday 10am-5:30pm. For more information about titles in the collection, contact the Rare Book Librarian, Katherine Hoarn.
Gaskell, P., A New Introduction of Bibliography, New Castle 2012, pp. 248-9.
April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Although the exact dates of his birth and death are disputed, they are both known to have occurred in late April. In honor of 400 years of Shakespeare, libraries and museums throughout the world are putting on exhibits to celebrate his life and works. The Folger Shakespeare Library, partnering with the Cincinnati Museum Center and American Library Association, is hosting a First Folio Tour, which will bring the famous first edition of Shakespeare’s plays to universities and museums in every state.
While FSU Special Collections & Archives is not fortunate enough to have one of the 234 known extant first folios (out of the approximately 750 printed), there are over 350 volumes by and about Shakespeare available through our research center, including facsimiles of the first folio and extracts from the fourth folio, published in 1685. As Shakespeare’s genius and influence have firmly entrenched him in the canon of English literature, his works have been constantly published, republished, edited, re-edited, repackaged, illustrated, and re-illustrated ever since his death in 1616. Many famous authors, printers, and illustrators have tried their hands at Shakespeare over the years, from Laura Valentine’s Shakspearian Tales in Verse (PR2877.V3 1899) to the Kelmscott edition of Shakespeare’s poems (PR2842.E4).
One of the most exciting discoveries we’ve made in the stacks lately is an uncatalogued leaf from Shakespeare’s second folio, printed in 1632, nine years after the first folio and sixteen years after Shakespeare’s death. Our leaf is pages 195-196 from The Taming of the Shrew and includes Pettruchio’s famous lines to Katerina:
For I am he am born to tame you Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kat to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates …
I must, and will have Katherine to my wife.
This page from the second folio and other editions of Shakespeare’s works will be on display in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room on the first floor of Strozier from Friday, April 22nd until the end of May. Stop by and see it Monday-Friday 10am-6pm!
At over 22,000 rare books and over 65 linear feet of manuscript materials, The John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection is easily the largest single collection in FSU Special Collections & Archives. It serves as a living testament to its creator, John MacKay Shaw (May 15, 1897-March 15, 1984), an AT&T business executive, philanthropist, writer, and bibliophile. While the original 5,000+ volumes in Shaw’s book collection focused on 18th and 19th century British and American poetry written about childhood and/or for children, it has expanded to contain volumes on biography, bibliography, collecting, writing, and publishing. The collection contains works by major authors and illustrators — Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, Kate Greenaway, Thomas Bewick, and Lewis Carroll, to name a few — and can serve research interests as diverse as publishers’ bindings, Victorian serials, sacred hymns, and World War I.
The books of the Shaw Collection are wonderfully complimented by the John MacKay Shaw manuscript collection (01/MSS 2008-006). This collection includes Shaw’s personal correspondence (including letters from Dr. Seuss!), lectures, and photographs, as well as administrative information about the development of the Shaw Collection at FSU Libraries. Among the literary materials in the manuscript collection can be found Shaw’s meticulous notes and source materials for his five-volume bibliography on Childhood in Poetry. It is these bibliographic notes that give us window into the world of a twentieth-century book collector.
Shaw’s bibliographic notes are organized by author, with a listing and description of every book by that author in the collection. There are also notes on where each volume was purchased and for how much (invaluable information to anyone studying the provenance of books in the collection), sometimes accompanied by the delightful anecdotes of a true bibliophile. Under the file for John Ruskin, Shaw remarks of the 1885 edition of Dame Wiggins of Lee, and Her Seven Wonderful Cats illustrated by Kate Greenaway:
“This has been for me a most illusive book. Although not an expensive one… it has seemed that I either bid low or my order gets to the bookseller just after someone else has bought it. Now I have a copy, and an almost perfect one it is.”
In a digital world, where online auction sites and search engines have revolutionized the world of book selling and collecting, Shaw’s notes tell of the struggles and triumphs of a collector in this golden age of bibliophilia. Shaw’s manuscripts add rich layers of meaning to the books in his collection, and both will live on for generations to come.
As previous posts have shown, the work of Special Collections & Archives staff is not confined to the walls of the library. We love being able to get out into the community, so Associate Dean of Special Collections Katie McCormick and I jumped at the chance to attend the Burns’ Supper hosted by the St. Andrew Society of Tallahassee on Saturday, January 23rd at Westminster Oaks. The Burns’ Supper is a celebration of the life and works of Scotland’s National Poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796), which was begun by Robert Burns’s friends in 1801 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his death. It is traditionally held on or around January 25th, Burns’s birthday, and commences with the famous “Address to Haggis,” followed by the eating of haggis with tatties and neeps (mashed potatoes and turnips). It was my first time trying haggis, and, I must say, it was delicious! The evening continued with dinner, toasts and poetry recitations, and a wonderful performance of Scottish music and songs set to Burns’s poetry put on by the FSU School of Music.
FSU Special Collections & Archives has over one-hundred editions of Burns’s poetry in our John MacKay Shaw Childhood Poetry and Scottish Collections, as well as many more volumes on the history, culture, and literature of Scotland. John MacKay Shaw was a founding member of the St. Andrew Society of Tallahassee, and his impressive book collection includes the famous Kilmarnock edition of Burns’s poetry, published in Edinburgh in 1786. Each year, the St. Andrew Society of Tallahassee generously provides us with a donation to support the upkeep and development of our Scottish Collection. At this year’s Burns’ Supper, we received an extra treat when society member Ken Sinclair presented FSU Special Collections & Archives with an 1873 Edinburgh imprint of The Complete Works of Robert Burns which had been passed down in his family for several generations. We look forward to adding this book to our collections, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s Burns Night!
After the successful transport and unloading of the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, I began the process of creating an inventory of all the books in the collection — an excel spreadsheet that is currently at 300 entries and steadily growing. This spreadsheet will serve not only as a record of all the books received in the donation but also as a place to keep track of all the categorizations, ephemera, and notes that came with the collection.
For each book, I am recording the title, author, illustrator, publisher, date of publication, and category/subject, as well as any notes about articles, book reviews, and author/illustrator signatures included in the books. Newspaper clippings and publisher’s press releases laid in need to be removed in order to prevent acidic inks and papers from causing damage to the books, but making notes of where everything came from on the spreadsheet will allow us to go back and link books and archival materials where they are relevant to understanding the collection.
The real, searchable, catalog entries for each book will be created by our Cataloging and Description Department in the next stage of the accessioning journey. The inventory spreadsheet is informal in that it does not use any of the standard languages that our catalogers use to improve information accessibility, but it will be important to us in understanding and thus promoting the collection to potential researchers.
While spreadsheet creation and data entry may not seem like the most thrilling line of work, going through this collection book by book has been a lot of fun. The real challenge is not stopping to read each book along the way. Some of the highlights I have come across so far include works by well-known illustrators like Patricia Polacco, Victoria Chess, Molly Bang, Trina Schart Hyman, and James Marshall. Many of these works are signed, often with delightful little drawings, like the one by James Marshall pictured above. There are also many different versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” in the collection – classic versions, modern retellings, foreign language editions, and even highly abstract interpretations like the French edition (shown above left) illustrated by Warja Lavater. The same story is told each time – but the way the stories are written, illustrated, and published offer telling clues about the cultures and times in which they were produced.
One of the most common questions I get from undergraduate students during instruction sessions is some variation of “How do materials end up in Special Collections?” There are many answers to this question, of course, but one of the most important ways we receive materials is through donations. With our rare book collections, we are particularly fortunate when collectors decide to donate their personal collections. Book collectors often spend a lifetime amassing carefully curated collections that reflect deep personal interests and expertise. This is certainly the case with FSU Special Collections & Archives’ newest rare book collection: The Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection.
Marsha Gontarski (Ph.D, FSU, 1993) has a background in Education with a research focus on visual literacy in children’s literature. Her children’s literature collection contains over 1,000 titles, ranging from classic fairy-tales to contemporary pieces featuring modern art. The wide variety of authors, illustrators, styles, sizes, shapes, and languages in the collection will be of interest to those studying Education, Literature, Illustration, History of Text Technologies, and Book Arts – not to mention those who want to feel nostalgic about their favorite childhood books! Every member of our staff who has seen the collection coming out of bins and being put on shelves has found something that strikes a cord – “I remember that book!” – which is surely a testament to the lasting impression left by our earliest memories of reading.
After a couple of trips to the Gontarski’s residence, Special Collections’ staff transported the books in about twenty bins, which were then unloaded in our stacks. The next step in the process will be to create an inventory of the donation before they are sent to cataloging and given records and call numbers. Since the books were donated with notes from the collector about significant illustrators, authors, and groupings of texts, it will be important for us to transfer these notes to the collection inventory and preserve information that could be useful to future researchers. In the next post in this series, I will share with you the progress being made in the accession process as well as a few highlights from the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection.
While it might be a little late for you all to change your Halloween costume plans, the following woodcut illustrations from Habiti Antichi, et Moderni di Tutto il Mondo(1598) could still provide some last minute inspiration.
Costume books became popular in the sixteenth century, as increases in travel, technology, and literacy fed the innate human curiosity to know about the dress and customs of people in other parts of the world. Habiti Antichi, et Moderni di Tutto il Mondofeatures men and women from a wide variety of regions and social statuses. Everyone from the pope to the peasants are featured in often highly-stereotyped woodcut illustrations. As the book was published in Venice, there is a particular emphasis on the wealthy Venetian merchant class, but other people from as far away as Russia, China, and the Americas are also included.
An interest in costumes of the world did not end with the Renaissance, as the popularity of sites such as The Sartorialist and other street-style blogs attest. “Who wore it best” polls are a common feature of celebrity tabloids, and the internet has made it easier than ever to know what people all over the world look like. On Halloween, most of us decide we want to be someone else for the night. Who knows, maybe you’ll see a dogalina antica wandering the streets this weekend!
So, what are rare books exactly? Your first thought might be something like this:
Handsome, leather bound volumes that look old and valuable. To be sure, we’ve got a lot of books that look like this in Special Collections & Archives. Our rare books collections cover the spectrum, starting with the origins: fragments of papyrus and cuneiform tablets that represent the beginning of written history. There are medieval manuscripts written by hand on vellum, ranging in size from a tiny fragment from a hand-held Book of Hours to massive antiphonals used by monks for chanting prayers. Following the advent of printing in the Western world in the mid-15th century, we have a page from the Gutenberg Bible and several incunabula (books printed in the first half-century after the invention of movable type). Our holdings from sixteenth through early-nineteenth centuries offer researchers countless examples of books from the hand-press era, when every book was essentially an individual work of craftsmanship.
But sometimes, rare books look like this:
Some books are mass-produced works of popular culture. And these books are important too! For the savvy researcher, any of the rare books in our collections can tell a story about the time period and culture in which they were created. These books are important for the works of literature, history, art, philosophy, and science that they contain and also for their value as cultural objects. Our mission here at Special Collections & Archives is to preserve these books and to provide access to them, whether through our digital library or in-person at our research center on the first floor of Strozier Library. Some collection highlights include:
Works on Napoleon & the French Revolution
The John M. Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry
The Carothers Memorial Rare Bibles Collection
A complete run of the Kelmscott Press
The Gontarski Grove Press Collection
The McGregor Collection on the Discovery and Exploration of the Americas
The Louise Richardson Herbals Collection
The materials in our rare books collections can be found by searching the online catalog and limiting the location to “Strozier, Special Collections”. If you are interested in using our rare books collections for your next research project but aren’t sure where to start, or if you are a faculty member interested in having an instruction session with rare books, please contact me, Katherine Hoarn, Visiting Rare Book and Instruction Librarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Liber de proprietatibus rerum Bartholomei angelici (On the Properties of Things) is a medieval encyclopedia that was written by the 13th century Franciscan scholar Bartholomeus Anglicus, who sought to gather the rapidly expanding corpus of knowledge of the Late Middle Ages into a single volume. As Bartholomeus himself says in the epilogue to De proprietatibus rerum, he wrote his book so that “the simple and the young, who on account of the infinite number of books cannot look into the properties of each single thing about which Scripture deals, can readily find their meaning herein – at least superficially.”¹ A single source for surface-level knowledge about everything? In other words, medieval Wikipedia. De proprietatibus rerum is arranged into nineteen books, moving in order of importance from spiritual beings, to human beings, to the natural world.
Over one hundred manuscript copies of De proprietatibus rerum survive, indicating its popularity and widespread use, and it continued to be printed into the seventeenth century, purportedly being used over the years by the likes of Shakespeare and Dante.² FSU Special Collections & Archives has two printed copies of De proprietatibus rerum – the first edition in English printed in London in 1582 (Vault oversize AE3.B313 1582) and a 1485 imprint from Strassburg (Vault oversize AE2.B27 1485), which is featured here.
The 1485 imprint is a stellar example of an incunabule, a book printed before 1501 in the first half-century after Gutenberg’s invention of movable type. FSU’s copy is in its original binding of alum-tawed pigskin decorated with blind fillets and stamps of popular Gothic imagery such as the griffin and the Agnus Dei (the sacrificial Lamb of God). The cover is also stamped with a small banner tool of Gothic lettering (unfortunately illegible) that could be the name of the bookbinder. The endpapers inside the front and back covers are made from re-purposed medieval manuscripts on vellum. In early printers’ shops, paper was always at a premium, and it is not uncommon to find fragments of older manuscripts used as endpapers, bindings, and sewing supports in newer books. Discoveries like these are one of the great joys of working with rare books in-person. In fact, fragments of yet another medieval manuscript have also been re-purposed on FSU’s copy of De proprietatibus rerum to make tabs, which aid the reader in turning directly to specific sections of the encyclopedia.
The study of incunabula provides a fascinating glimpse into a period of history when the book was adapting to the challenges and demands of new technologies. On the opening page of the 1485 De proprietatibus rerum, the capital letter “C” is sketched in, perhaps in preparation for illumination that was never completed; on early printed books, decoration and rubrication (red lettering) was still done by hand. Throughout the rest of the book, however, the space where a decorative capital would have been drawn is left blank and marked by a small, printed letter. As printing increased the output of new books, forms of decoration that were routine for scribes and illuminators fell to the wayside. This is not to suggest that a total break with the past occurred, however. To the contrary, the very act of printing De proprietatibus rerum is an example of new technology being used to spread old ways of thinking. The presence of manuscript waste and marginalia on FSU’s copy are physical manifestations of the links between the old and the new that can be discovered in early printed books.
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.
1. Quoted in R. J. Long, Bartholomaeus Anglicus On the Properties of Soul and Body, Toronto, 1979, p. 1.
2. R. J. Long, Bartholomaeus Anglicus On the Properties of Soul and Body, Toronto, 1979, p. 2.