Tag Archives: book spotlight

Rare Books and Haggis: Burns Night in Tallahassee

Katie McCormick receiving the newest edition to the Scottish Collection from St. Andrew Society of Tallahassee member Ken Sinclair.

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!

A Book About All the Things

1485 imprint of De proprietatibus rerum (Vault oversize AE2.B27 1485)

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.

Little pointing hands, called manicules, in the margins indicate lines that were of interest to a former reader.

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.

Manuscript waste used as endpapers inside the front covers to protect the text block.

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.

FullSizeRender (4)
A tab made of manuscript waste and an unfinished decorative capital.

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.

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.

Gloria Jahoda

Gloria Jahoda, an author and Florida historian, was born on October 6, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a B.A. in English in 1948 and an M.A. in Anthropology in 1950, both from Northwestern University. She retired in 1957 to write full time after teaching anthropology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.  In 1963, she and her husband Gerald moved to Tallahassee when he accepted a teaching position at Florida State University’s School of Library Training and Service. Her non-fiction works include the The Other Florida (1967), a social and natural history of the West Florida Panhandle; Trail of Tears (1976), an account of the uprooting of Indians in the Southeast; The Road to Samarkand: Frederick Delius and His Music (1969); and The River of the Golden Ibis (1973), about the Hillsborough River. This book was named by the Society of Midland Authors as the “Best History Book” of 1973.

From Florida Collection, F316.2 J3
From Florida Collection, F316.2 J3

In honor of  Women’s History Month, I wanted to feature this author since The Other Florida, is a favorite book of mine. I read it before I lived in North Florida but read it again after I moved here, which made it all the more interesting. We have books written by her in our Florida Collection, and we also have  manuscript collections that have been either donated by her or by her husband. Included in the manuscript collections are biographical information, family and personal papers, correspondence, writings, photographs, galley proofs, and original book jacket designs.

Earlier book jacket design, Gloria Jahoda Papers, Box 317
Earlier book jacket design, Gloria Jahoda Papers, Box 317

Ms. Jahoda was president of the Tallahassee Historical Society and was elected as a registrar of the Creek Indian nation. In 1973, the Florida Senate passed a resolution honoring her for her works depicting the history and culture of Florida. In 1975, she was presented with the D.B. McKay Award by the Tampa Historical Society for her contributions to Florida history.

The last paragraph of The Other Florida ends with this: “The Other Florida’s pines will survive too, I think. Often among them I remember the person I was before I came to them and what I thought was important then, and the landscapes I have since known, and the history I have since learned, and the friends I have since made. Whatever the fates may take me in the years to come, I shall not be the same again”.

Zora and Marjorie: Literary Legends and Friends

From Zora in Florida, edited by Steve Glassman and Kathryn Lee Seidel.
From Zora in Florida, edited by Steve Glassman and Kathryn Lee Seidel. Florida Collection, PS3515 .U789 Z955 1991.

Zora Neale Hurston moved to St. Augustine at the beginning of World War II for a quiet place to write. While in St. Augustine, she taught part-time at the local black college, Florida Normal. She did not get along well with the administrators of the college after she became involved in a dispute between serviceman being trained at the signal corps school at the college and the college president. Zora sent a letter to Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP in November 1942, telling him she thought the soldiers were living in inadequate living quarters and blamed him for putting pressure on Florida Normal to allow the government  the use of the school when Fisk, Hampton, and Tuskegee had wanted the training at their schools. Zora did not see the argument settled because she left St. Augustine in early 1943 to move to Daytona Beach where she lived on a houseboat she had purchased.

I have had to go through a long, long, dark tunnel to come out to the light again. But I had the feeling all the time that you believed in me ~Zora Neale Hurston

From Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
From Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

In 1942, while in St. Augustine, Zora became friends with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who lived part-time in St. Augustine, as her husband, Norton Baskin, owned the Castle Warden Hotel located there. Zora’s autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road and Marjorie’s Cross Creek were both published in 1942. Zora invited Marjorie to speak to her class, and in turn, Marjorie invited her to tea at the Castle Warden, a segregated hotel. When writing about Marjorie’s invitation to the hotel in Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, Robert E. Hemenway says, “Later, realizing what she had done, she gave special orders to the elevator man to take Zora immediately up to the Rawlings residence on the fourth floor. But Zora had lived in the South for a long time; she went in through the kitchen and walked up the stairs. Safe in the apartment she was her usual vibrant self, causing Rawlings to admit to her husband that she had never in her life had such a stimulating visit”.

The 1940’s were a time of personal hardships for both women; they struggled with their writing and experienced health issues and had various other issues. They remained friends through the years, and Zora visited Marjorie’s home Cross Creek.

Our Florida Collection includes books written by them and about them, and we also have theses and dissertations written by Florida State University students on their lives and works.

And without my writing, I am nothing ~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The Florida Highwaymen

Willie Daniels painting from The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters by Gary Monroe. Florida Collection, ND1351.6 .M66 2001.
Harold Newton painting from Harold Newton: the Original Highwayman by Gary Monroe. Florida Collection, ND237 .N4875 M66 2007

I love the paintings of The Highwaymen artists.   They are colorful, show movement, and depict images of “Old Florida” with palms, water, birds, boats, and sunsets.  The paintings are mostly landscapes although I have seen a few with people in them.

According to Gary Monroe in The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters, “The Highwaymen didn’t exist, so to speak, until 1994, when art aficionado Jim Fitch assigned the name to an unknown group of African-American artists.  Suddenly, thousands of the Florida landscape paintings they had produced since the end of the 1950s, which had been stored for years in Florida attics, were brought down, dusted off, and viewed with renewed interest”.  Monroe states that “They made upwards of 50,000 paintings; some estimates exceed four times this amount”.

The artists painted on construction material called Upson board, named after the company that produced the material, and sold their paintings around Florida from the backs of their cars.   The paintings were sold inexpensively, but now original Highwaymen art can sell for very high prices.

Recently, The John G. Riley House and Museum in Tallahassee was the recipient of 13 original Florida Highwaymen paintings donated by Tallahassee resident Grace Dansby.  The Riley House is a member of the Florida African Heritage Preservation Network — a statewide web of 40 museums and groups. The downtown museum is now the largest holder of Highwaymen art in the network.

In his book, Monroe has identified one woman and twenty-five men as members of The Highwaymen: Mary Ann Carroll, Curtis Arnett, Hezekiah Baker, Al “Blood” Black, Ellis Buckner, George Buckner, Robert Butler,  Johnny “Hook” Daniels, Willie Daniels, Rodney Demps, James Gibson, Alfred Hair, Isaac Knight, Robert Lewis, John Maynor, Roy McLendon, Alfonso “Pancho” Moran, Harold Newton, Lemuel Newton, Sam Newton, Willie Reagan, Livingston “Castro” Roberts, Cornell “Pete” Smith, Charles Walker, Sylvester Wells, and Charles “Chico” Wheeler.   In our Florida Collection, in addition to Monroe’s  The Highwaymen, we also have his Harold Newton: the Original Highwayman.

Harold Newton painting from Harold Newton: the Original Highwayman.
Harold Newton painting “Eddie’s Place” from The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters.

Love is a wild wonder

“Love is a wild wonder

And stars that sing,

Rocks that burst asunder

And mountains that take wing.”

Shakespeare in Harlem by Langston Hughes, with drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer, first edition, author signed presentation copy

– – H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y   L A N G S T O N   H U G H E S – –

Milne’s sixth hour

A. A. Milne
18 Jan 1882 – 31 Jan 1956

 Allen Alexander Milne’s When We Were Very Young, a book of poetry published in 1924 and dedicated to Mr. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, who, according to Mr. Milne, preferred to call himself Billy Moon, contains at its end two pages of evensong called “Vespers.” Whether to the hour of sunset, to the moon, or to the evening star, “Christopher Robin is saying his prayers,” placing his attention on the ordinary things around him for which he is thankful.

Mr. Milne sings his own song of thanks to his Billy Moon on the dedication page of When We Were Very Young: “This book which owes so much to him is now humbly offered.”


Mary Oliver’s No Voyage and Other Poems

Mary Oliver’s first collection of poems, No Voyage and Other Poems, was published in 1963, when Ms. Oliver was 28. In a month from tomorrow, a new collection of poems will be released by her publisher under the title, A Thousand Mornings. In an almost fifty-year span of publishing Ms. Oliver’s work has remained true to what J. M. Dent & Sons (London) said in 1963 about her first forty-two poems:

“[Ms. Oliver] has attempted to marry technique and emotion in order to express simple human truth in such a way that it should be conveyed with purpose and clarity to the listener and the reader.”

Today is Mary Oliver’s birthday.

Happy Birthday, Emily Bronte

PictureOn July 30, 1818 Emily Bronte was born in Thornton, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England.  Although best known for her novel, Wuthering Heights, Miss Bronte was also an artist.   Included in The Life and Eager Death of Emily Bronte: a Biography (1936), by Virginia Moore, which we have in our Shaw Collection, are three of her illustrations.  The one I like best is this watercolor of  Hero, her pet merlin-hawk.

Included in our copy of The Life and Eager Death of Emily Bronte: a Biography are two items of interest.  One is a review written by David Garnett in the Current Literature column of The New Statesman and Nation, September 5, 1936, where he states he was going to write about this book but decided not to because it “irritated” him, so instead he read Villette by Charlotte Bronte, Emily’s sister.  The other is a letter to the editor from Virginia Moore in response to his column (10/10/1936 is handwritten on this letter).  She is essentially telling him that it is common courtesy between authors that before expressing an opinion about a book that one should read it.  She also says that if she made errors in her book as another Bronte scholar made in his (and was corrected for), that she could bear it if she were corrected for any errors in her book.  Her letter ends with this sentence “For my real task, was to collate the many uncollected facts of Emily Bronte’s life.”