Category Archives: From the Stacks

Anulus Nuptialis

We do quite a bit of patron-driven digitization in the Digital Library Center. A lot of it is for researchers who are unable to visit Tallahassee and we like to share these materials in DigiNole as often as possible because, as our manuscript archivist notes, if one researcher needed one, there is probably another one out there too! These sorts of requests have gotten large parts of the Admiral Leigh papers online and are the reason we’re currently working on the Sir Leon Radzinowicz papers as well. However, this one might be one of my recent favorites.

Page from Anulus Nuptialis
Page from Anulus Nuptialis

Anulus nuptialis: De amore sponsi celestis dyalogus incipit, cuiu s titulus est iste is a 1450 bound manuscript. Written in a humanistic hand by a single scribe on parchment with initials in red with gold, blue with gold and green with gold ornament, it is an unrecorded text in the form of a dialogue between Mother Scolastica and Symona and Felix, all brides of Christ, written by nuns in a convent. Ph.D. student, Rachel Duke,  here at FSU is working with this volume for her dissertation and needed high-quality reference images of the object for her work. We’re happy to be able to share out this incredibly unique work with everyone else now. I asked Rachel to share some information about the work to help people understand what it’s about. It somehow got even cooler:

It’s a dialogue, which you can see pretty clearly from the images, between Felix, Symona, and their mother Scolastica. Their lines are marked “Fe,” “Sy,” and “Ma” (for Mater). Symona and Felix are twin sisters and the biological offspring of the mother of the convent. This is during a time where a father would die and the widow and her daughters would all enter the convent.

I’m writing my dissertation about how the text demonstrates the rise of some humanist leanings in northern Italy in the 15th century, even in convent communities. Most convent literature doesn’t just have a dialogue between women, and the dialogue found here is so kind and understanding. Felix and Symona express their doubts about their ability to live up to the hefty role of brides of Christ, and Mater Scolastica repeatedly reminds them that they can find the strength within themselves to succeed in this life. It really is quite encouraging and loving. While I have a pretty good guess as to which convent this is related to (and have presented on those inklings at conferences), we don’t have a definitive answer to who these people were. Scriptoria were fairly common within convents, so there is the possibility that it was composed and even copied within a convent.

The text is in Italianate Latin, and in an extremely legible humanist hand. We can see many different colors of ink in the margins and in the decorations: (Brown, pink, purple, green, etc.). There are some locations where a space for a larger initial should have been left but the scribe likely forgot, and the letter has been squeezed in right next to it.

The book has gold brushed edges, something you can’t see in the images but is beautiful to behold in person. It is perfectly sized to fit in your hands comfortably, a little larger than the length of my hands in person.

We don’t have an exact date or location because someone has excised any information that could help us track down provenance. If you look on the first decorated folio, you can even see where someone attempted to wash out what was probably a library stamp. The colophon has an excision (actual rectangle CUT OUT from the text identifying the target audience). It is very frustrating.

We purchased this book from Laurence Claiborne Witten II, who was a pretty famous bookseller of the middle of the 20th century. He was famously involved in the sale of a likely forgery! Anulus Nuptialis might be a good starting point for a study into somewhat dubious antiquarian book sales.

Be sure to check this volume out! Even if the language isn’t familiar, the object itself is lovely to page through online.

The Evolution of the Florida State Administration Building

Florida State administration building has changed often since the founding of the University in 1851. Originally, the administration building was known as “College Hall” and was built in the same spot where the current administration building is today.

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College Hall at Florida State College – Tallahassee, Florida. 1901. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

However, in 1910, because “College hall” was deemed structurally unsafe, it was knocked down and rebuilt into the administration building we know today and named “Florida State College’s Administration building” until 1936, where it was named after James D. Westcott, Jr. Westcott was a former student and Florida Supreme Court justice who left a large sum of his estate to the university and declared that the profits only be used towards teacher’s salaries.

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Harper, Alvan S., 1847-1911. Portrait of Supreme Court Justice James D. Westcott, III – Tallahassee, Florida. Between 1868 and 1885. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

In 1969, the Westcott administration building suffered severe interior damage, due to a fire. Although much of the interior was destroyed, the university was able to preserve the original collegiate gothic exterior that we know today. Renovations on the building were not completed until 1973 and Westcott is now deemed as an exemplary element of the university.

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View showing TFD personnel fighting fire at the Westcott Building from an aerial ladder – Tallahassee, Florida. 1969. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

A Brief History of Athletics at Florida State University

For most individuals, when they think of Florida State University, they think of Florida State Football. Although football is a paramount addition to Florida State University, it used to be just a minor team at Florida State, with only fourteen official members on the football team in 1903

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Football captains from Florida State University and Stetson University meet on the football field – Tallahassee, Florida. 1947. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

For the seasons of 1902, 1903, and 1904, the Florida State football team sported the colors of a yellow-gold and purple and in 1904, the Florida State football team claimed championships against Stetson University and the University of Florida. In 1905, Florida College (now Florida State) was named Florida State College for Women, the student body selected crimson as the University’s official colors. The Administration then combined the color of crimson with purple and achieved the garnet color that Florida State is officially known for and when football was re-established with the co-ed university that is now FSU in 1947, they sported the garnet and gold colors that we still use today.

During the years of the Florida State College for Women (FSCW), football was unfortunately disregarded and substituted with other tradition and intramural teams. A physical education program was developed and supervised by Katherine Montgomery, a former FSCW student graduating in 1918, returned to start her campaign for a physical education program at FSCW. This program included volleyball, gymnastics, and various other athletic clubs that pushed the boundaries for women in sports in an age where it was widely deemed unlikely.

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F.S.U. football squad – Tallahassee, Florida. 1947. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

The Florida NOW Times: Looking Back at 20 years of Women’s History

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Page from a 1976 NOW in Florida newsletter.

In 1966, a group of women, frustrated at the failure of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to recognize sex discrimination in the workplace and the failure of the conference they were attending to demand the EEOC do so, started what became the National Organization for Women (NOW). In 1971, Tallahassee gained its own NOW chapter, chartered through the national organization. Two years later in 1973, the Florida NOW state chapter was chartered to help coordinate the local chapters’ activities as well as to organize new chapters into formation. The state chapter’s records reside at the University of Florida.

As March is Women’s History Month, this week the Pepper Library is highlighting the National Organization for Women, Tallahassee Chapter records. The Tallahassee NOW papers contain official NOW correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, reports, budgets, newsletters, and other records which chronicle the development and activities of Tallahassee NOW from its founding in 1971 until 1997. An excellent resource for studying the history of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state of Florida, the NOW material offers a firsthand glimpse into the organization’s efforts to empower and inform. This is particularly on point right now as last Wednesday, the Nevada State Legislature ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, which guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” NPR stated in an article on the ratification that the ERA “was first passed by Congress in 1972 and last approved by a state (Indiana) in 1977.” Florida has yet to ratify the ERA. The NOW records provide a look at the fight to do so in the 1970s.

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Page from a 1991 NOW Florida Times newsletter.

Last fall,the staff of the FSU Digital Library digitized and made available online for researchers the Florida NOW Times (1974-1997). Within this statewide NOW publication, the history of the ERA and the activities of NOW chapters throughout the state can be followed over a twenty year period. Providing digital access to the newsletters was a challenge. Each newsletter needed to be reviewed to provide useful description for users to be able to browse and search these objects successfully. The DLC enlisted help from our Cataloging & Description colleagues to catalog the 211 newsletters that range from 1974 to 1997. These items cover the state chapter’s ERA fight, its yearly conferences, legislative and lobbying actions, and the many events sponsored to fight for the rights of women in Florida. You can see all the newsletters in the FSU Digital Library.

Meet Gloria Jahoda

Coming from a strictly public library background, at first the world of Special Collections felt just as foreign and mysterious to me as I’m sure it does to many people. Luckily, as a graduate assistant in Special Collections & Archives, I’m in exactly the right position to learn more about it every day. While it might seem obvious why some books are special — they’re often very old, or very scarce, or both — archives are a bit more elusive. As the Manuscript Archivist explained to me, archives provide contextual primary source documents to help researchers understand the environment surrounding a person or event.

img_20170223_105153.jpgMy first project as a graduate assistant involved the Gloria Jahoda Collection – or rather, collections. An author whose husband taught at Florida State University, Gloria Jahoda initially donated a portion of her personal notes and manuscripts to FSU Libraries forty years ago. Some donors might offer more material to the archives after the first gift; this can happen quickly or many years later. These new items are assessed to see if they fit within the scope of the initial donation and, in many cases, added to the same collection. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t happen. When I started working with her manuscripts, Jahoda’s work was spread across seven collections, all donated at different times. I was first tasked with looking over the materials to find a major theme that might unite them into a single collection. I divided the work into new series – like smaller chapters in a single book, series help organize a collection by grouping items together based on their original purpose. I then rearranged the materials, removed duplicate publications, relabeled folders, and copied unstable materials (like old newspaper articles) onto paper that wouldn’t discolor or deteriorate. As this was happening, I learned a lot about who Gloria Jahoda was.

She was born in Chicago and was very proud of the fact that her first poem was published at the age of four. She liked to write on overlooked areas of Florida, including Tallahassee, which she described as being “200 miles from anywhere else.” She photographed her cats. She enjoyed classical music, especially by the English composer Frederick Delius. Her book The Road to Samarkand chronicled Delius’s life, including his time spent managing an orange plantation in Florida. She was an elected registrar of the Creek Nation. She spoke about ecology and conservation. Gloria Jahoda was bold, witty, and passionate.

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What’s left behind after her death in 1980 are her books and, now, the Gloria Jahoda Papers. Visitors to Special Collections can track the development of Jahoda’s works, learn about her personal interests, and laugh at the jokes in her letters. Jahoda’s books document an interesting time in Florida’s development, and I’m proud to say I contributed to preserving her work for future research.

To learn more about the Gloria Jahoda Papers, the finding aid can be found here.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

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Poems of Cabin and Field (1899) by Paul Laurence Dunbar, featuring photographs by the Hampton Institute Camera Club
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Image credit: Wikimedia

Although Paul Laurence Dunbar was only 33 years old when he died of tuberculosis on February 9, 1906, he left behind a lasting legacy of poems, short stories, and novels. The eldest son of former Kentucky slaves, Dunbar published his first poems in his hometown newspaper at the age of sixteen. His first collection of poetry, Oak and Ivy, was published in 1893. While much of his poetry was written in traditional English verse, Dunbar achieved widespread popularity for writing in African American vernacular dialect. Several volumes of Dunbar’s poetry like Poems of Cabin and Field (1899), Candle-Lightin’ Time (1901), When Malindy Sings (1903), and Li’l’ Gal (1904), shown here, featured full-page, black-and-white photographs taken by the Hampton Institute Camera Club, with whom Dunbar frequently collaborated to illustrate his verse. The hundreds of photographs in these books have significant cultural value as representations of rural African American life at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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Art Nouveau bindings designed by Margaret Armstrong and Alice Morse on volumes of Dunbar’s verse from the Shaw Collection

Several volumes of Dunbar’s poetry are included in the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. In his short life, Dunbar spoke with passion, humor, and elegance of the human experience, inspiring later writers such as Maya Angelou, who titled her autobiography after lines from Dunbar’s poem Sympathy

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

 

 

 

“With Compliments To Our Customers’ Children”

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The Louise Richardson Night Before Christmas Collection includes many instances of Clement C. Moore’s famous Christmas poem.  Today’s post highlights a publication that might easily be overlooked by Noelophiles:  a 1910 advertisement for J. Rieger & Company, the self-described “largest Mail Order Whiskey House in America.”

Continue reading “With Compliments To Our Customers’ Children”

Medieval beasts in the stacks

For this year’s Halloween post, I wanted to share some of my favorite books from the rare book collection in Special Collections. I am not a Medieval scholar, but I do enjoy looking through the various books on animals, mythical or real, from the Middle Ages. Books of beasts, or Bestiary, went beyond use as a scientific observation of animals. Rather the descriptions included for each animal where meant as elaborate metaphors littered with colorful language. The most well known were written in Latin and included stories as well as illustrations.
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Book of Beasts: a facsimile of MS Bodley 764. Written in Latin in the 13th Century. PR275.B47 H36 2008
 Though we now know that a considerable amount of animals described in these books are mythical in nature, Bestiaries more importantly served to reinforce teachings on virtue and proper behavior. Each animal’s characteristics were tied to a purpose in the moral of each story. For example, ants, known for creating elaborate underground dwellings and working in unison, reflect on the importance of people working together for a common good. Graceful swans are described as singing a beautiful song before their death, or swan song. Given that these books were vested in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition, it is understandable to see why Bestiaries were second in popularity to the Bible.
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Illustration of a Fairy Dog from A Scottish bestiary: the lore and literature of Scottish beasts (1978) from the Scottish Collection. QL259.T48 1978
Drawing on the tradition of Medieval Bestiaries, contemporary works are meant to capture whimsy and intrigue. A Child’s Bestiary, found in our Shaw Collection of children’s book, was published in the late 1970s. The book’s purpose is to educate children on a variety of animals found in different countries. Each entry contains a humorous description or poem followed by a drawing of the animal.
There are also fictional Bestiaries based on popular media such as the magical creatures in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from the Harry Potter book series. As well as a fantasy bestiary created by graphic designer Swann Smith for the MTV series Teen Wolf. 
For further reading on Medieval Manuscripts in general, take a look at the research guide created by our Rare Book Librarian Kat Hoarn. There is also a fun website dedicated to sorting through metaphorical descriptions of the animals in Medieval Bestiaries.

The Library of Babel and Special Collections

The following is a guest post by student assistant Blaise Denton.

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The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges. (PQ7797 .B635 B5213 2000)

Here in the Florida State University Special Collections we have a very special volume, Jorge Borges “The Library of Babel.” The standalone volume in our possession is illustrated by Erik Desmazieres. The Book details life in the great and infinite Library of Babel. It is never ending, universal, broken up into hexagonal rooms and filled with an uncountable number of books. Filling each book are letters, clumped randomly to spell out nonsense. Every so often people find a book with words, real words that spell out ideas and thoughts. Because the library is infinite, there must be one book somewhere in the collection that details the past and future. There must be a book that catalogues the rest of the books. There must also be an infinite number of false narratives, false leads, and even more books that are unreadable.

Special Collection isn’t infinite. Most of the books in the collection are carefully catalogued and lodged in a place where we can find them. We know what almost all of them say. But the task of the librarian is the same, whether it is in the Library of Babel or here in Special Collections. We live in a big world, rather full of books, and more full of things. In Special Collections we find those books that “matter”, a rather subjective verb, and we keep them here, safe. They deteriorate; they get lost. We bundle them up safe with boxes and paper wrapping; we hunt them down and bring them back to their preordained place. The librarian’s tasks, in fiction and in life, are to bring order to chaos and to decide what matters.

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La Tour de Babel. Plate II etching by Erik Desmazieres

Many of the books in Special Collections are in languages we can’t read. Many of them are so small you need a magnifying glass to examine them, some are so big it takes two people to open them. Some are serious tomes on theology and philosophy and some are tiny children’s books. Some of them are pornographic. But they all have two things in common: they are kept in place by a complex cataloging system, and they are meaningful.

In “The Library of Babel” when someone finds a book with meaning, that book becomes incredibly valuable. People travel from all over the universe, that is to say the library, to look at it. Whether it is fiction, poetry, prophesy or biography the book becomes something invaluable. It has meaning, it proves that there is truth.

Special Collections is rather like that, if a bit less grand. People choose things as

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Haute Galerie Circulaire. Plate VII etching by Erik Desmazieres

meaningful enough to write about or otherwise document. Someone has combed through all the books to buy, all the books that have been donated, and selected these. These are the most valuable, the rarest, the oddest books that FSU libraries has. Come look at a book inscribed by a medieval monk. An Akkadian trader. A 60’s beat poet. Come look at “The Library of Babel” by Borges. There are books from every age and perspective here. There are so many books you could never read them all. Try reading a few, very different books and see if you, like the fictional librarian, find some meaning in order.

Editions for the Millions: Early American Paperbacks

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Original, colored, paper wrappers on nineteenth-century American paperbacks

FSU Special Collections & Archives recently added 33 late-nineteenth century American paperbacks to our rare book collections. These include such famous titles as Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, and The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans by 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.

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Advertisements for other publications by T. B. Peterson & Brothers

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.

  1. Gaskell, P., A New Introduction of Bibliography, New Castle 2012, pp. 248-9.