All posts by rachelfsu

Paul Hollywood hates Mrs. Beeton’s Cheese Biscuits

This week, we returned to Mrs. Beeton for appetizer ideas, and were inspired by this “Cheese Biscuits recipe” from her Book of Household Management.

We pretty much followed this exactly, but ended up adding some flour in the process of rolling and cutting. I’d have some flour ready to prepare and de-stickify your workspace. Armed with my biscuit cutter and some aged cheddar cheese, I decided to separate the dough into batches so I could experiment with time and temp. Here is the transcription of the recipe: 

Cheese Biscuits.-- INGREDIENTS for small dish.--3 oz. of grated cheese, 3 oz. of flour, 3 oz. of butter, the yolk of an egg, cayenne. 
Season the cheese well with cayenne, and rub it, with the butter, in the flour, moisten with the yolk of an egg. Roll out the paste very thin, and cut into biscuits with a tin cutter. Bake a light brown in a quick oven. These biscuits may be served either hot or cold, and will keep a long time good if put in a tin. 
TIME.--10 minutes to bake.

Sounds pretty simple, no? There was a touch of disagreement in our house about what it means to “rub in” the cheese with the butter, which resulted in our recreation of one of our favorite scenes in Schitt’s Creek. No, mom and dad aren’t fighting, we’re just trying to get to the bottom of this recipe. 

I mixed in the Cayenne with the cheese, then did my best understanding of “rubbing in” the butter and cheese. 

Added flour and mixed until a somewhat greasy dough developed. 

For the first batch, I attempted to roll out the dough directly onto the silicone baking mat, then cut out the circles. I went with a 1 ½ inch ring. Removing the excess dough was IMPOSSIBLE, and terribly frustrating. Mrs. Beeton calls for a “quick oven,” which I looked up; it’s apparently 375-400 degrees. After getting the mat into a 380 degree oven I set a timer for 10 minutes, then watched and waited, like any good Bake Off competitor would. 

The crackers spread, lost most of their definition, and didn’t have much crispness to them. More like a doughy, cheesy cookie. Not the most appetizing. 

For batch two, we cranked the oven to 400 and used flour to roll out the crackers. These turned out better, didn’t spread as much, but I managed to ignore Alexa when she announced the ten minutes were up, and these got far too brown. Paul Hollywood had some things to say about that: 

It’s a shame, really.

Batch three was the closest we got to what we were aiming for! Even MORE flour to aid in rolling them out, poked a center hole and five others in a sort of star-point pattern, put them in the 400 degree oven for 9 minutes. These turned out pretty perfectly!

The taste: overall, these taste JUST like the cheese straws people give each other around the holidays. That’s not exactly my favorite food, but the well-cooked ones were pretty great topped with fun things like bacon and a buffalo dip from Trader Joe’s. 

Then my partner had a GENIUS idea to make tomato soup for dinner, so we could garnish with the cheese crackers. This was delicious! Honestly tasted like a fancy parmesan tuile, and they stayed super crisp in the soup. We were pretty happy with these in this application. 

Now for the reviews:

I would not eat these alone. It tastes like there’s something missing.

“Paul Hollywood,” my sous chef

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Excellent in tomato soup, and as a base for other appetizers. Most importantly, we had a great time testing this one out!

Rachel Duke

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Looking at these cheese biscuits from Karen Wright’s IG (former Bake Off contestant). I think we might have made ours too small and too thin? What do you think?

Cocktail Week: A Hot Punch to the Face

I love hot drinks: coffee, tea, cider, cocoa. Serving a hot drink in a pretty mug is a sure way to welcome guests to an autumn or winter party. And as the weather turns…well, milder (this is still Florida after all), I find myself turning on my electric kettle regularly. 

Click here to skip down to the recipe

So I was excited to see this recipe for “Hot Punch” included in the recipe suggestions post by Kristin to lead off Cocktail Week! The photos above contain the recipe as it was recorded in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1861 (the volume in our collection is a first edition). Below, you’ll see the book’s title page, along with a picture of Mrs. Beeton from 1854. This was a groundbreaking book, said to allow anyone to manage “all things connected with home life and comfort,” and it set the standard for English housekeeping. 

I will not comment on the epigraph — “Nothing lovelier can be found / In Woman, than to study household good” — other than to say that my partner and I share household duties and I’m still lovely, THANK YOU. 

Here is a transcription of the original recipe for Hot Punch: 

“1839. INGREDIENTS. -- ½ pint of rum, ½ pint of brandy, ¼ lb. of sugar, 1 large lemon, ½ teaspoonful of nutmeg, 1 pint of boiling water. 
Mode. -- Rub the sugar over the lemon until it has absorbed all the yellow part of the skin, then put the sugar into a punchbowl; add the lemon-juice (free from pips), and mix these two ingredients well together. Pour over them the boiling water, stir well together, add the rum, brandy, and nutmeg; mix thoroughly, and the punch will be ready to serve. It is very important in making good punch that all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated; and, to insure success, the processes of mixing must be diligently attended to."

She then recommends how much to make (a quart for 4 persons) and gives a lovely little history of punch. Punch was a big deal in the 19th century, but had started to fade in popularity at this time, according to Mrs. Beeton: “Punch, which was almost universally drunk among the middle classes about fifty or sixty years ago, has almost disappeared from our domestic tables, being superseded by wine.” She goes on to comment on the wide varieties of punch in existence, and a quick look at auction houses and other sites shows that punch bowls, like that depicted in the illustration of Mrs. Beeton’s book, came in all shapes and sizes.

photo of an ornate silver punch bowl
An American Silver Repousse Punch Bowl, Late 19th/early 20th Century.

Here is my version of the recipe with modifications. I’m adapting the recipe and only making half, as it’s a Thursday night and we don’t need to drink an entire party’s worth of punch: 

Adapted Recipe, written out and then promptly spilled on.

Modified Recipe, HOT PUNCH:
4 oz rum
4 oz brandy
2 oz sugar
1/2 a lemon’s zest
1/2 a lemon’s juice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 oz boiling water

Mrs. Beeton’s sugar would have been sold in lumps, and the recipe calls for you to use a sugar lump to sort of sand the zest off of the lemon. I tried this, unsuccessfully, with granulated sugar, and eventually gave in and got out my zester/microplaner.

Then I rubbed the sugar and zest together to make a very fragrant lemon-sugar that would be delicious sprinkled on blueberries. 

Then I added the lemon juice and whisked until the sugar, zest, and juice were combined. Boiled water came next, which seemed to do a great job of melting down the sugar. Then rum brandy, and nutmeg, and a good stir — and voila! Hot Punch!

Here’s a quick snippet of me tasting it: 

Obviously, I mean a Zoom party at the moment.

It is STRONG. I think a small mug would do. This tastes so much like a hot toddy, just rum & brandy instead of whiskey: lemony, boozy, and hot. And very sweet. The sugar really hides the amount of alcohol you’re consuming, which could be a problem. Brandy is also not an ingredient we had on hand. I had to buy it especially for this recipe, but I do like the flavor that it imparts when mixed with rum. I think I’d probably strain this if I make it again, as the nutmeg settled at the bottom and made for a nasty last swig. 

As for making a mocktail version of the Hot Punch: I thought and thought, and frankly, alcohol-free hot drinks are kind of my thing; believe me when I say you should just make yourself a different fancy hot drink. Have a hot cider with a splash of caramel syrup, or a hot chocolate with foamed milk and a pinch of cinnamon. If you’re ill, a hot tea with that lemon sugar and some cinnamon and nutmeg might have a similar flavor? Who knows, give it a try!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Would be a fun drink for cooler weather, but beware: It’s stronger than you think. Thanks, Mrs. Beeton! – Rachel Duke

Welcome to Archives Month!


October is finally here, and with it, American Archives Month!

While we celebrate archives and archivists all year long, Florida State University Special Collections & Archives will be participating in American Archives Month by sharing some of our personal experiences in the archives in blog posts here and on FSU Libraries social accounts.

@fsulibraries on Twitter
@fsulibraries on Instagram

Follow FSU Libraries on Twitter and Instagram (above), and join us for “Ask an Archivist Day” on Wednesday, October 7th, where we’ll be answering questions and chatting casually about our day-to-day work, our favorite materials from the archives, spookiest discoveries, and more!

How can you participate?

We want to hear from you! If someone in the future made an “Archive of You,” what items or documents might we expect to find? Are there any objects that capture an aspect of your personality, a time in your life, an achievement or an experience?

Share a photo of that item to your Instagram or Twitter, mention @fsulibraries and add the hashtags #ArchivesMonth and #ArchiveMe and we might share your entry on Ask an Archivist day, October 7th! Here’s my example:

Looking forward to a month of celebration. Happy October, and Happy American Archives Month!

Michael McClure: In Memoriam

A black and white photograph of four men against the backdrop of a wall and a door. The photo style is relaxed and candid.
Robbie Robertson, Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg in the alley behind City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1965.

On May 4th of this year, one of the great geniuses of poetry and the arts passed away, and we wanted to take a moment here to commemorate his passing. Michael McClure helped launch the counterculture Beat generation alongside Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Philip Whalen, and Diane Di Prima, and is also associated with The San Francisco Renaissance school of poetry along with Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer, and Robert Duncan, his mentor at San Francisco State. 

A tan book cover with a black spine, with alternating color text on the cover: Touching the Edge (burgundy, very large), Michael McClure (Black, Very large), Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha (Burgundy, smaller). Text is under an image that appears to be a hand arising out of some kind of script or inky shape.
Cover for Touching the Edge by Michael McClure

McClure’s groundbreaking work transformed our understanding of the relationship of the poet/artist to nature. He helped pioneer our thinking on ecology and illuminated the connection between human expression and the expression of all living things. While often remembered for his poetry, McClure was also a playwright, essayist, and his performance collaborations defined a new way of bringing the audience to poetry. McClure’s Meat Science Essays was a clarion call to liberation. His play, The Beard, rocked the comfortable sensibilities of the theater-going public, leading to censorship battles and boarded-up theaters. That play would go on to win an Obie for “Best Play” and “Best Director.” His performances with musicians Ray Manzarek from The Doors and the minimalist composer Terry Riley explored the bardic tradition and brought poetry to pop culture with relentless mastery. 

FSU Special Collections and Archives is fortunate to hold materials, both in our rare books and manuscript collections, that chronicle the life of Michael McClure through his close relationship with Michael Rothenberg, FSU Libraries Poet-in-Residence.

Two men seated in a bookstore. One, Michael Rothenberg, has his arm around the other, Michael McClure. Rothenberg looks directly at the camera while McClure is examining a book in his lap.
Michael R. and Michael M. in recent years.

Rothenberg’s personal papers and book collection document the network of artists and thinkers that comprised the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance movements. We are fortunate to have McClure’s official publications in our book collections, but also personal items from McClure from Rothenberg’s association with him through the years.


michael bromeliad
A Bromeliad named after Rothenberg from his time working at the nursery in Pacifica.

Michael Rothenberg first encountered a copy of McClure’s Meat Science Essays when he was seventeen in Miami Beach. He recalls, “McClure’s work was a gateway to a greater understanding of the poet in the natural world. He gave me permission to express myself in a language that was indigenous to me. He offered a kind of thinking and concern that became my path. He blew my mind.” Then, something like ten years later, Rothenberg was 

Cover of The Mammals by McClure

introduced to McClure at Rothenberg’s orchid and bromeliad nursery in Pacifica, CaliforniaThey went hiking together, shared many lunches, and almost instantly became very close friends. “I felt that we were kindred spirits,” Rothenberg remembers, “Everything that McClure had set out in his work was what I was looking for as a poet and as a mammal.”





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Meat Science Essays Inscription

Eventually, Rothenberg and McClure would travel to Florida together to read at the Miami Book Fair. During that trip, Rothenberg took McClure out on a tour of the Everglades, “to show him the nature that I grew up with,” Rothenberg says. It was there that McClure signed the old, tattered copy of Meat Science Essays that Rothenberg read when he was seventeen, the book that opened Rothenberg’s eyes to ecology-based writing. 




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McClure had a distinct writing style, and Rothenberg describes it like this: “McClure’s writing is cosmic. Open, romantic, haiku-ish, abstract, specific, concrete, and light-filled. You can hear the roar of lions, and the throbbing of a living cell in each word and breath he speaks.” 

“I will miss him dearly,” Rothenberg said, “but I know that his work will inform and enlighten generations to come.”



More reading on Michael McClure’s legacy: 

McClure Bibliography:

“The Flame Is Ours”, Michael McClure correspondence with Stan Brakhage ,edited by Christopher Luna…/Luna_McClu…/THE_FLAME_IS_OURS.pdf ,

“Engraving of Snakes”, a chapbook by Michael McClure with illustrations by Nancy Victoria Davis,


A special thank you to Michael Rothenberg for participating in writing this blog post, and for sharing his personal memories of Michael McClure. 

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and FSU’s Ostraka Collection

History of Texts and Popular Media

As someone who studies the history of texts, I try to avoid commenting on the portrayal of textual history or librarianship in popular media (don’t get me started on Jocasta Nu in Attack of the Clones) in casual settings. What good does it do to point out that a manuscript’s hand doesn’t match the era, or that a particular text wouldn’t be in the vernacular, or that rare books should NEVER be perused while consuming an apple or burning incense? Probably not much, though you better believe textual historians have these conversations all the time!

On Athena's shoulder
Kassandra on Athena’s Shoulder

This is why I am delighted when they get it right. I’ve spent some time over the past few weeks playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (ACO), an epic adventure game set in the year 431 BCE. In the game, you play as a mercenary (in my case, Kassandra) navigating the political and military landscape of Greece during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. The map is seemingly endless, the vistas beautiful, and my time sailing and attacking pirate ships has almost made me forget about the COVID-19 quarantine and my cancelled travel. 


Sailing is the most I get out these days.

From the beginning of the game you are encouraged to find something referred to as Ainigmata Ostraka – these are stone tablets hidden in various locations that contain riddles that guide you to “engravings” that level up your weapons. (Here is a brief clip of me finding one.) Huzzah, a real text technology from the time, and — I am happy to report — ostraka make another appearance crucial to the main mission of the game that is true to their historical importance (more on this later). 

What are Ostraka?

The word ostraka (plural) or ostrakon (singular) refers to a piece of pottery, usually broken off from a larger vessel (a potsherd), that has been reused as a writing surface. Ostraka were plentiful in the ancient world and were typically inscribed in Greek, Latin, Arabic, or Hieratic script (Ancient Egyptian). While papyrus was also available, it was expensive and usually reserved for documents that needed to last; ostraka recorded more ephemeral notes, letters, and (as you’ll soon see) ballots. 

FSU Ostraka 18: Letter

FSU Special Collections and Archives have a collection of 32 ostraka from circa 150 CE, much later than the time period of the game, but they match physical descriptions of ostraka across these centuries. Here’s how Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’s portrayal of ostraka aligns with the historical record: 




Almost, but Not Quite…

Ostraka Size
Ostrakon in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Most ostraka were small. 

When my character discovers ostraka, they are usually all about the same size. They are very regular in shape, rectangular, and about the length of Kassandra’s forearm. Ostraka of that size have existed in history, but they were exceptional and, it seems, rare. Based on real ostraka that survive, it appears that a majority were very small pieces, about the size of one’s hand or even smaller, and their shapes are extremely irregular. 


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FSU Ostraka 6: Letter of Maximus

Ostraka were not usually flat.

The ostraka stored under “Documents” in your ACO inventory appear to be flat. Usually, real ostraka give an indication of the shape of the pot or clay item that the shard was originally a part of. They will frequently have a curve to them; I’ve often thought that the shape might rather conveniently conform to the writer’s leg during the inscription process. 




record sunshine
Ostrakon that appears to show engraving

Ostraka were usually written in ink or scratched into paint, rather than carved.

We don’t get to see very close, detailed depictions of the ostraka in ACO, but they do appear to be engraved, almost like a cuneiform tablet, rather than written. Writers sometimes used the same tools they used for writing on papyrus — a small brush or reed pen — to compose in ink on their ostrakon. If the pottery was painted, or had a dark glaze on it, the writing could be etched into the painted surface – the effect looked less like a stone tablet and more like words scratched into paint, like bathroom stall graffiti. 

Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, from Wikimedia Commons


Absolutely Correct

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FSU Ostraka 25: List of watchtower guards

Ostraka were plentiful.

Consider them the post-it note of the ancient world! Ostraka were used for many different purposes. Pottery was the primary means of storing, preserving, and transporting goods, so shards of pottery were nearly unlimited in supply. 





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FSU Ostraka 23: List of guards

Ostraka are found in strange places.

Archaeologists  find groupings of ostraka in places you might not expect: in trash heaps, at the bottom of wells or fountains, under the foundations of houses. This relates to the purposes they usually served. Either they were ephemeral notes that were discarded, or they were inscribed as a means of imbuing some sort of metaphysical power into the description, and tossed into a well or buried under a house to complete the ritual. FSU Special Collections and Archives’ ostraka were discovered in an archaeological dig of a trash heap next to a Roman military outpost in Edfu, Egypt. 

Ostraka can vary in color.

I was happy to see that the ACO designers created ostraka that come in a variety of colors. As ostraka come from broken pottery that would have been crafted in various places, the components of the clay would differ according to geography. Additionally, some pottery was painted or treated, and would have color differentiation accordingly. 


Ostraka can tell a full story.

While most ostraka contain very brief inscriptions, some give us a glimpse into the lives of the people who wrote them. We even have a pretty explicit love poem. Here’s a different example that illustrates this in FSU’s ostraka collection: 

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FSU Ostraka 1: Letter of Sentis to Proclus

“Sentis to Proclus her brother, greeting. You did well, brother, in giving the two kolophoia to Anchoubis; also write to me about the passage-money and I will send it to you at once. I did not send you meat, brother, so that I might not bid farewell to you. Therefore I ask you, sir, show respect (?) to me and come this the Ethiopoan, Let us be happy. Farewell. (At the side) Do not do otherwise, then, but if you love me come. Let us be happy.”


Ostraka were used to vote people out of Athenian society, and the etymological source for the word “ostracism.”

You might not know that the word “ostracism” derives from a practice in fifth-century Athens that relied upon ostraka: ostrakismos. The process is succinctly described here: 

The procedure was as follows: Every winter, the full assembly of Athenian citizens (i.e. free adult males) was asked  whether it wanted to hold an ostrakismos. If a majority – not counting less than 6,000 – agreed, the event was held two months later. For this purpose, a large area within the Agora was corralled off. Every citizen could enter. On doing so, he handed a potsherd (ostrakon) to an official, inscribed with the name of the individual he wished to see ostracised, further identified by his father’s name and the deme (district) he came from. To prevent multiple votes, the citizens had to wait within until the vote was complete. The sherds were then counted and the person most frequently chosen, again subject to a minimum of 6,000 votes, was ostracised.

The ostracised citizen was given ten days to settle his affairs and leave Athens. His citizenship was not affected, nor was his property touched, and he retained access to its proceeds. He was not to return to the city for ten years – on penalty of death – unless a public vote recalled him at an earlier date. Ostracism was not considered per se dishonourable; status and rights were fully reinstated on return. (

In Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Kassandra is introduced to this practice when she is asked to sneak into the location where the ostraka are being counted and rig the votes by switching out the ostraka with fake ones. In this case, the ostraka appear to be small, dark round pieces, which perfectly matches the piece of pottery that was typically used in the process – the disc-shaped bottom of a stemmed drinking vessel. 

Ostraka; Stoa of Attalus. Athens, Attica, Greece by Wikimedia User LBM1948

Many thanks to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, for the excellent portrayal of ostraka as a historical text technology. One caveat: I’m currently only at level 24 in the game, so it’s possible that ostraka make more appearances that would change my perspective. If that’s the case, please let me know! 

And as always, FSU Special Collections and Archives materials are open to the public. While our reading rooms are currently closed due to the pandemic, our ostraka collections (and other awesome pre-print materials) are available in our digital library, DigiNole. I encourage you to browse them at your leisure! 

Black and white illustration taken from The Gashlycrumb Tinies of a two little girls at a table, one skeletal and dead, presumably related to the large bottle atop the table. It is captioned “Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin."

Scary Books for Children?: Edward Gorey in the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection

This is a guest-post by students Josalin Hughes and Julia Kleser, Editing, Writing, and Media majors, whose project for their Advanced Writing and Editing course this semester is to help create content highlighting portions of Special Collections holdings. 

Black and white illustration of a group of children in the shadow of a tall, skeletal man titled The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
Child-rearing, Gorey style .

As we progress from the otherworldly and spooky atmosphere of October and deeper into the holiday spirit of November, it can be hard to let go of Halloween. After all, the exciting and haunting energy has been building since the first of the month. We hope everyone had a happy Halloween and want to introduce the work of an author near and dear to our hearts. Edward Gorey was a curious character who created spectacular—or spooktacular, rather, to stay in-season—books for children. Although not gory, as his name may suggest, some readers describe his art as “unnerving” or “creepy.” Marsha Gontarski, the researcher who compiled and donated the entire Marsha GontarskiChildren’s Literature Collection, refers to his style as “subtle and unsettling.”

Girl on Fire

Black and white illustration taken from “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” of a little girl surrounded by a large flame in an otherwise dark room. It is captioned “R is for Rhoda consumed by a fire."
Rhoda on fire!

One of the most well-known works, and perhaps most suitable for this recently passed holiday, is The Gashlycrumb Tinies which you can find in the Marsha Gontarski Collection. As pictured below, the poem takes on the form of a traditional alphabet-style book. Where Gorey’s version differs though, is the somewhat disturbing subject matter of each letter; from Amy to Zillah, each letter names a child who dies in a tragic, absurdor nonsensical way.

The darker tone of the poem bleeds in through the images that accompany the single-line deaths. Each illustration is inked in heavy, purposeful strokes in all black. Without the variation of color, his style relies on different textures and contrast to tell each morbid tale.

Creepy Baby and Bug Book

Illustration taken from An Edward Gorey Bestiary (1984) of a colorful naked baby on a white polar bear skin rug against a black hatched background. It is captioned “The baby, lying meek and quiet upon the customary rug, has dreams about rampage and riot, and will grow up to be a thug."
Baby from Bestiary

Even outside of The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Gorey’s other work carries this same eerie quality, one which inspired well-liked artists such as Tim Burton. Taken from his 1984 engagement calendar, An Edward Gorey Bestiary, are a few illustrations that mirror the unsettling style seen in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, with some splashes of color. Although his style may vary to include a more clean and colorful appearance, the stories he tells remain a little ghastly.


Bug Book


In The Bug Book, Gorey follows the lives of a family of delightfully cute and colorful bugs, and their murderous plot against the black bug who didn’t quite fit in with their lifestyle.



What makes a children’s book?

Black and white illustration taken from The Gashlycrumb Tinies of a two little girls at a table, one skeletal and dead, presumably related to the large bottle atop the table. It is captioned “Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin."
More dead children.

Despite the more mature themes of his illustrated poems and short stories, such as death/murder, violence, and alcoholism, his works are often regarded as being made for children. This poses a question of what makes “a children’s book,” an element explored throughout the works included in the Marsha Gontarski Collection. Do illustration-heavy works fall into the category of being “for kids,” simply due to our societal understanding that picture books are childlike in nature? Do children pay attention to the same themes and motifs that catch the eyes of adults? These questions are prevalent in the discussion around Gorey’s work, and can be asked again and again as we make our way through literature assigned to the genre of children’s books.

Two books Dr. Gontarski recommended for those examining this subject include The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettleheim and Don’t tell the Grown-ups: Subversive Children’s Literature by Alison Laurie..

Balefully Although the season of ghosts, vampires, and bogeymen has ended, the spirit of the dark and disturbed doesn’t have to. Edward Gorey has a lot of works that we were unable to include in this post—be sure to come visit them in the Special Collections Reading Room, open Monday to Thursday, 10am – 6pm, or Friday 10am – 5:30pm. The reading room is on the first floor of Strozier Library. Gorey’s books, as well as so many other works using visual elements designed for children, are available in the Marsha Gontarski Collection.

Working with the Napoleon Collection

A guest post by Brianna McLean, who currently works in Special Collections and the Heritage Museum.  She is a history graduate student working on her M.A. in Early Modern European History.

This semester, I have been working with our Rare Books Librarian, Rachel Duke, and learning about the Napoleon Collection here in Special Collections.  As a history graduate student studying Early Modern France, this collection has been extra rewarding to examine.  There are so many exciting pieces, such as Napoleon’s death mask, Eighteenth-century manuscripts, documents about France’s colonies and women during the time, newspapers, pamphlets, secondary scholarship on France, and more.  The best part is that all of these items are just waiting inside Strozier Library to be examined and studied.

Napoleon’s Death Mask

The Napoleon Collection is particularly strong when it comes to Napoleon’s military campaigns and works by and about prominent French Revolutionary and military figures.  The collection includes works by Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, Marat, and more.  For me, the best part of this collection are the memoirs.  Memoirs are one of my favorite parts of history because you can learn so much about a person by what they wanted to portray to the public about themselves.  Some of the memoirs are even digitized in E-book form, available on databases like Hathi Trust if researchers want online access as well. But FSU has our own digital repository, Diginole, and some Napoleonic manuscripts are accessible there, such as this 1772 regiment list of revenues and expenses.

In 2018, Special Collections received an incredible donation to the Napoleon Collection: the Michael La Vean Collection.  This over-4000-book collection is the perfect addition to the Napoleon Collection because it adds new dimensions, such as an increase in women’s narratives.  Researchers may be interested in this collection because of its emphasis on gender studies, history of sex, European naval history, military uniforms, and the history of European royalty.  Currently, Special Collections is preparing to catalog the La Vean Collection to make it accessible to researchers.

Walking through the La Vean Collection. 

When collections are donated, they are usually kept in the same order as the donor, or creator, gave them, until they can be ordered by call number.  As a library and museum assistant, I feel fortunate to be able to view the collection in its original order.  La Vean organized his collection topically into different subjects such as “Medieval,” “Vendee & French Civil War,” “Women General,” “Napoleon Family,” and “Naval,” among others.  This semester, I am learning about this collection and figuring out the most important items and what should be cataloged first.  Researchers are encouraged to visit Special Collections with any inquiries about the collection while it is being processed.

More La Vean spines. 

This is just a small glimpse into our French Revolution Collections. If you are interested in seeing what the Napoleon Collection has to offer, please stop by Special Collections and visit the library catalog, setting “Strozier, Napoleon Collection” as your location.




Andrea Gibson and Pride Month at FSU

Happy Pride Month, Noles! This month, people across the world are commemorating the Stonewall riots of 1969 by rejoicing in the wide spectrum of gender identities and sexual preferences represented in humankind.

To celebrate, I went digging for poetry in our Pride Student Union Records, part of the Heritage and University Archives. I came across evidence of FSU’s past celebrations of Pride month (June) and LGBT History month (October, as National Coming Out Day is October 11th).

Pride Month poster from the past

Additionally, I found this poster signed by Andrea Gibson, poet extraordinaire and LGBTQ+ activist, who visited and performed at Florida State University in April of 2012.

Andrea Gibson poster, signed

Gibson is brilliant enough on paper, but their pieces are best consumed aurally, as the FSU students in 2012 had a chance to do; YouTube videos, fortunately, abound! Here is the love poem “Maybe I Need You”:

Andrea’s voice is one of hope and community, reminding readers and listeners that they are not alone in their feelings or experiences. I leave you with another example of Andrea’s stirring work, which pairs poetry to music and creates a moving, motivating portrait of a young person discovering who they are and who they want to be.

Check out FSU’s Pride Student Union, still in action since its beginning back in 1969 and still hosting on-campus events: 

And to you and yours: HAPPY PRIDE!

Memorizing Math with Marmaduke Multiply

Poetry has, traditionally, served as an excellent way to remember things. The human brain just seems to better retain information that rhymes, and a rhythmic quality can bring the words to mind in an instant.

Lines that are intended to aid in memorization are called mnemonic verses, and we use them on a daily basis. Think of when you try to determine how many days are in a month: “Thirty days hath September…” Or when you consider how “neither” should be spelled: “I before E except after C…” Is that snake in your yard friend or foe? “Red on black, friend of Jack…”

There are even longer mnemonic verses for memorizing heftier material. For example, this witty little song for the history of the monarchy in England (sung to the tune of Good King Wenceslas):

Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
One, two, three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four, five, six... then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harrys twain and Ned the Lad;
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again...
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
George the fifth in 1910;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George the sixth was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that's the end until her death.
–Wikipedia, “Mnemonic verses of monarchs in England”

The little book from Special Collections that I’m sharing today is Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians of 1841. We have a facsimile of the work, which was a favorite among nineteenth-century schoolchildren for memorizing their numbers.

Originally published in 1816 and 1817, the book was largely popular in the UK, but it spread to the US toward the later half of the nineteenth century. The book has funny little woodcuts depicting various scenes and then a rhyming verse that helps the reader remember their times tables. Here are a few examples:

4 times 8 are 32, I once could dance as well as you.


6 times 8 are 48. Dear Aunt, your dress is out of date.


6 times 9 are 54. My little boat has come ashore.

Some of the most beautiful woodcut work appears on the borders. Here is close up of the corner piece on that last one:

Detail image of a corner woodcut.

Finally, my favorite page shows a child holding a book just like the one the image appears in! It also mentions the bookshop that sold Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians, which happened to be financially linked to the publishing house that produced the book (talk about savvy marketing!):

A little metatextual advertising!

What rhymes do you remember from childhood?


Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians. New York: Dover Publications, 1972. Print.

Responding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Children’s Book Calls for Peace

War & Peace for Children

The Special Collections book we’re highlighting today has a very specific mission: to teach children (and perhaps, the adults reading to or with them) about the post-nuclear world, and about the need for peace. On the Wings of Peace: In Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a 1995 collection of prose, poetry, and accompanying illustrations that promotes a message of world peace by incorporating voices from communities that have been affected by the atrocities of war.

On the Wings of Peace: Writers and Illustrators Speak Out for Peace, in Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The introduction by compiler and editor Sheila Hamanaka lays out the historical events of August 6, 1945, aligning the victims to the reader: “In this city of 350,000 were people like you and me, and they were already suffering from the effects of war — the death of loved ones, starvation, separation” (11). Her words appear across from this harrowing illustration:

Illustration by George Littlechild

Little Boy and Fat Man

Throughout the large hardback volume, essays, personal accounts, and poetry are accompanied by both illustrations that evoke difficult emotions and photographs that portray the reality of the circumstances. Across from “Thoughts from a Nuclear Physicist,” a short essay by Michio Kaku, is Little Boy and Fat Man, a photograph by Robert Del Tredici. A young man leans casually against what must be a mock-up of the bomb, appropriately reflecting Dr. Kaku’s wise observation:

Little Boy and Fat Man photograph by Robert Del Tredici


“Regrettably, our scientific skills have far outstripped the wisdom and compassion necessary to control this deadly, cosmic power. We are like spoiled infants playing with matches while floating on a swimming pool of gasoline” (25).

Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection & Visual Literacy

The volume is a compelling addition to the growing Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, a broad collection of works mostly written and designed with children in mind. What is most fascinating about the collection is the way that Dr. Gontarski conceives of it; in her years of studying visual literacy, Dr. Gontarski has made connections between the books within her collection via the myriad ways meanings are visually communicated to children in these works. This book, which handles heavy subject matter, incorporates a mix of illustrations by different artists.


One of the stand-out poems includes illustrations by the poet.

A page from Junko Morimoto’s “Sky”

“Sky,” by Junko Morimoto, tells the story of the atomic bombs from the perspective of a child in a village very near the drop-site. The illustrations are small and appear alongside the stanzas, as though they are part of the poetry.


This month’s Year of Poetry theme is community, and the book On the Wings of Peace considers the mission of achieving world peace through the eyes of people from different communities with different relationships to war and peace. In the case of “Sky” it is of a person who has experienced atomic fallout.

The Peacemaker, snake, and frog

In the case of “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker,” the poem is from the perspective of the Iroquois people. It recounts one of the legends that accompanies the foundation of the Great League of Peace, which joined five nations at war into a larger league comprised of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca people (eventually, in 1722, the Tuscarora people joined as well). In the story, the Peacemaker warns of the dangers of war, illustrating his point with a story of a frog and a snake who eventually consume one another:

The snake swallowed more of the frog
the frog swallowed more of the snake
and the circle got smaller and smaller
until both of them swallowed one last time
and just like that, they both were gone.

They had eaten each other,
the Peacemaker said.
And in much the same way,
unless you give up war
and learn to live together in peace,
that also will happen to you.
— “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker” by Joseph Bruchac

If you’re interested in seeing how more artists respond to questions of war and peace, visit FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts to see the new exhibit, Waging Peace! There are beautiful pieces by a number of different artists, and local schools were involved in the design and installation of the exhibit.

The exhibit Waging Peace! will be up until July 6th, 2018. Don’t miss it!


Hamanaka, Sheila. On the Wings of Peace. Clarion Books, 1995.