Tag Archives: history of text technologies

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

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Parts of the Pickwick Club in their original wrappers (Special Coll Vault — PR4569.A1 1836)

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Charles Dicken’s first novel, was published in installments by Chapman and Hall from March 1836 to November 1837. There were 20 parts issued in 19 volumes for a shilling each with 43 engraved plates. The first two parts were illustrated by Robert Seymour, who originally pitched the project to Chapman and Hall as a series of sporting sketches with accompanying commentary. But once Dickens – then known by his pen-nickname “Boz” – came on board the project, Seymour’s role was diminished. Dickens was notoriously hard on his illustrators. On April 20, 1836, Seymour committed suicide. R. W. Buss was brought on board to provide illustrations for the third part, but he was quickly replaced by H. K. “Phiz” Browne, who illustrated the remaining parts and went on to work with Dickens for many more years.

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A tipped in cutlery catalog at the end of No. 19-20

While certainly not the first novel to be published in serialized parts, the Pickwick Club was the first to “go viral,” especially after the introduction of the beloved character Sam Weller. The final double installment of parts 19 and 20 was printed in a run of 40,000, an incredible increase from the 1,000 copies printed for the first part. FSU Special Collections & Archives has recently acquired a complete set of parts of the Pickwick Club in their original wrappers. Parts 9-10 and 12-20 include The Pickwick Advertiser, which are a treasure trove of Victorian era advertisements for everything from toothache remedies to easy chairs. Parts 14 and 19-20 include an additional tipped in catalog for Mech’s cutlery.

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Bookbinder’s ticket in the 1837 single volume edition of the Pickwick Club (Special Coll Rare — PR4569.A1 1837)

These serialized parts nicely complement FSU Special Collections’ copy of the first single-volume edition of the Pickwick Club, printed from stereotypes of the original parts in 1837. FSU’s copy includes a binder’s ticket from “Alexander Miller, Bookseller, Port Street, Stirling” on the lower left-hand corner of the back pastedown. There is evidence of a bookseller named Alexander Miller active in Stirling, Scotland in 1852 and 1865-6. Indeed, ready-bound versions of popular works like the Pickwick Club would have been commonly available for purchase in bookshops like Miller’s in the middle of the nineteenth century. Stop by the Special Collections Research Center soon to look at these and other editions of Dickens’ works!

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.

Who Wore It Best: A Renaissance Costume Party

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.

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Sixteenth-century sheet ghost. Member of the “shamefaced poor” of Venice.
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Inhabitant of Virginia in the New World.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Roman soldier.

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 Mondo features 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.

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A wealthy Venetian.
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A woman in ancient costume.
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A Turkish fighter with some fierce headgear.

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!

A Book About All the Things

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

References

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.

Judging Books by Their Covers

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Fig 1. Back cover. Leather binding, tooled in blind over wood boards, c. 1450 (BT769 .A56)

When it comes to studying the history of the book, the study of bookbinding presents a unique set of challenges to scholars. While today we might be tempted think of a book as an all-in-one package, whether we buy it in a bookstore or download it to an e-reader, historically the process of creating a book from conception, to publishing, to binding has been anything but neat and tidy. Prior to the mechanization of printing in the early nineteenth century, books were often bound years, even decades, after publication. Some books were bound by binders associated with publishing companies, some were “bespoke” by wealthy patrons according to their personal specifications, and others were shipped as unfolded, uncut sheets to be bound in distant countries. Since a book can be bound and rebound any number of times in its life, associating a bookbinding with a particular place, time, and bindery is at best a game of educated guesswork. Even so, bindings have a lot to tell us about the history of the book, and the FSU Special Collections & Archives rare books collections contain many notable examples of bookbinding materials and techniques.

Materials

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Fig 2. 18th century embroidered binding with metal clasp (BR1705 .A2 V526 1547)

The most common coverings for books through the nineteenth century were those made out of animal skins, either leather or vellum.¹ One of the oldest leather bindings in our collection is on a fifteenth century Italian manuscript (fig. 1), believed to be in its original binding. Although much of the leather has worn with time, a pattern of knot-work stamps worked in blind around a filleted central panel is still visible. A manuscript like this would have taken considerable time and labor to produce, and its binding reflects its preciousness.

Leather was the material of choice for monastic and university libraries, but books owned by private (i.e. wealthy) collectors were often covered in embroidered fabrics or velvet. It is difficult to determine just how widespread the use of fabric bindings was because so many of them were not made to withstand the test of the time as well as their leather counterparts.² The embroidered binding in fig. 2 is believed to date from the eighteenth century, and it covers a 1547 Italian printed book on the lives of the Saints (Vite de Santi Padri). It is precisely these types of devotional works that were often given special coverings by their owners.

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Fig 3. Paper covering on an 18th century almanac (PQ1177 .A6 1767)

On the other end of the spectrum, increased book production after the Renaissance led to a shortage of binding materials, and cheaper methods of binding came into use to meet growing demands. By the eighteenth century, simple paper wrappings had become a common cover for inexpensive pamphlets and small-format books, such as the almanac in fig. 3.³ This copy of the 1767 Almanach des Muses, a serial of French poetry published annually from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century, is comprised of seven quires with untrimmed edges sewn together and wrapped in decorated paper, which is glued to the first and last pages of the volume. The use of blue paper was often characteristic of French paper bindings.³  Unlike modern day book jackets, these paper coverings bear no relation to the text within. Since these bindings were not designed for longevity, they often do not survive intact or are removed when the books are rebound and the pages are trimmed.

The FSU Special Collections & Archives rare book collections run the gamut from medieval manuscripts bound in tooled leather with gilt edges to untrimmed almanacs wrapped in publishers’ scraps. Their value, form, and function may vary, but they all contribute to the same history. Prior to the mechanization of book production in the early 1800s, each book was constructed by hand, and, as such, each can be thought of as a miniature work of art, just waiting to be discovered.

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.

Notes

1. D. Pearson, English bookbinding styles 1450-1800, London, 2005, p. 20-21

2. P. Needham, Twelve centuries of bookbindings 400-1600, New York, 1979, p. 107.

3. M. Lock, Bookbinding materials and techniques 1700-1920, Toronto, 2003, p. 48.

Defining (and Challenging) the Book

The Poems of William Shakespeare from the Kelmscott Collection, published 1893
The Poems of William Shakespeare from the Kelmscott Collection, published 1893

How do you define “the book”?

What functions do books serve?

What are the essential qualities of a book?

How have these characteristics changed over time?

Those are a sample of the questions raised during the Special Collections & Archives instruction sessions for the “Introduction to the History of Text Technology” classes (ENG 3803) and the “What is a Text” class (ENG 4815).  For each class, we pull a variety of relevant materials from the Rare Books Collection, encouraging students to interact with the materials during the class session.  The visit to Special Collections is an opportunity for students to explore in-depth the specific class themes by engaging with the rare and unique materials in Special Collections & Archives.

"Venus and Adonis," from The Poems of William Shakespeare, published by the Kelmscott Press, 1893
“Venus and Adonis,” from The Poems of William Shakespeare, published by the Kelmscott Press, 1893

The concept of the codex (as seen above and left with The Poems of William Shakespeare) dominates initial discussion on the form and function of a book.  But for the “Introduction to the History of Text Technology” class, we’ve placed nineteenth century ledgers alongside Babylonian cuneiform tablets that detail temple transactions from 2350 BCE, illustrating a continuity in the function, if not form of the text (see the FSU Digital Libraryrare booksrare for more information on the Cuneiform Tablet collection).  For the “What is a Text?” class, students’ notions of what constitutes the essential characteristics of a book is challenged by materials from the Special Collections & Archives Artists’ Book Collection.

From the Artists' Book Collection, Fam-i-ly:  a Book by Rita MacDonald, for more information, see here
From the Artists’ Book Collection, Fam-i-ly: a Book by Rita MacDonald, for more information, see here

An artist’s book plays with the form and function of a book.  By reinterpreting the text, images, or the very structure of the codex, an artist’s book pushes at the boundaries of what the essential qualities of a book should be.  According to Johanna Drucker, artist and critic, the artist’s book “interrogates the conceptual or material form of the book as part of its intention, thematic interests, or production activities.”1

Many of the artists books from Special Collections & Archives abandon the structure of the codex entirely (as seen in the artist book, Fam-i-ly: a Book by Rita MacDonald, pictured right and Julie Chen’s A Guide to Higher Learning, pictured below).  Other artists books play with the connection between text, image, and structure, such as in Emily Martin’s More Slices of Pie.

Special Collections & Archives has a rich collection of artists’ books, from a portfolio containing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali to books created in the last decade that expand our notions of the essential qualities of a book.  Each artist book contained in the collection is unique.  Through the artist’s interpretation of text, image, and structure, the question of how to define a book is given new meaning.

For more information about artists’ books, check out this Research Guide here.

From the  Artist's Book Collection, Julie Chen's A Guide to Higher Learning.  For more information,  see here.
Julie Chen’s A Guide to Higher Learning. From the Special Collections & Archives Artists’ Books Collection.  For more information on this book, see here.

1 As cited by Megan L. Benton, “The Book as Art,” in A Companion to the History of the Book, eds. Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007: pg. 505.

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.

A Place of Pilgrimage

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

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Great Bible, 1541 (Vault BS167 1541**)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Dickens 1812-2012: Dr. John Fenstermaker Lecture 2/29

Charles Dickens is one of the most important writers in English Literary History. Our celebration of his bicentenary in February 2012, presented in collaboration with the FSU English Department, continues on the evening of February 29th with the second of two public lectures, sponsored by the Friends of FSU Libraries and the History of Text Technologies program. Dr. John Fenstermaker (Professor Emeritus, English) will deliver a lecture entitled, “Charles Dickens: ‘It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.'” Alongside the lecture, there will be an exhibition of nineteenth-century Dickensiana from Strozier Library’s Special Collections. All are welcome.

Dickens 1812-2012: Dr. Paul Fyfe Lecture 2/15

Charles Dickens is one of the most important writers in English Literary History. In celebration of his bicentenary in February 2012, Florida State University’s Department of English, in collaboration with Strozier Library’s Special Collections, is delighted to announce a pair of lectures on Dickens and his work by eminent FSU scholars. The two public lectures, sponsored by the Friends of FSU Libraries and the History of Text Technologies program, will take place on 15th February (Dr. Paul Fyfe) and 29th February (Professor John Fenstermaker) in the Library. Alongside these lectures, there will be an exhibition of nineteenth-century Dickensiana from Strozier Library’s Special Collections. All are welcome.

– text courtesy Dr. Elaine Treharne, English/History of Text Technologies

King of Books, Book of Kings. Early Printed English Bibles from the Carothers Collection

King of Books, Book of Kings ExhibitArticle by William Modrow, Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarian

What Bibles did English people read in the time of Shakespeare, Spenser, or Milton? Why did they view the events of the Reformation or the Civil War as biblical episodes? In occasion of the fourth centenary of the first edition of the King James Bible, in 1611, the Strozier Library’s Special Collections Department presents a selection of 27 treasures from the collection of early printed Bibles bequeathed to the library in 1982 by Milton Stover Carothers, Director of FSU’s Presbyterian Center, in memory of his parents Julia Stover and Milton Washington Carothers

Under a title borrowed from Andrew Marvell, King of Books, Book of Kings revisits the role of Bible publishing in early modern England according to the innovative methods of the History of Text Technologies program (HoTT) created in 2007 at FSU. Stemming from a rigorous analysis of Bibles as material objects, it thus emphasizes the international nature of the first English Bibles whose original synthesis involved Parisian typefaces, Auvergne paper, German or French illustrations of Venetian origin, and commentaries drawing on the Flemish Desiderius Erasmus or the French John Calvin. Beyond the history of Biblical artifacts it also highlights the political figure of English kings as biblical sovereigns, from Henry VIII to James I, constantly to the good kings of the Old Testament, David, Solomon or Josiah, or to Jesus-Christ himself.

King of Books, Book of Kings offers a new example of the multi-faceted collaborative effort between the Strozier Library and the History of Text Technologies (HoTT) program as its direct origin is the graduate seminar “The Bible as a Book (13th-18th c.)” that François Dupuigrenet Desroussilles, professor in the Religion Department and HoTT faculty, has been teaching every year in Special Collections since 2009.