Tag Archives: Rare Books

Bad luck for bees, and other stories.

A selection of hand-colored children’s books from the nineteenth century are available for viewing on DigiNole as part of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection. This project began as a partnership between the Rare Books Librarian and the Digital Archivist as a way to share some of the collection’s unique pieces. Because the illustrations are hand colored using watercolors, no two editions of a book will be exactly alike.

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Two versions of the bird orchestra from The Peacock “at Home.” Left image from PR4613.D37P4 1841; right image from PR4613.D37P4 1834.

Some of the newly digitized books include:

The Wonderful History of the Busy Bees  (QL565.2.W87 1833)

Describing the life of a beehive, this 1833 chapbook is a mixture of science lesson, allegory, and children’s story. The industrious bees serving their queen must defend the colony against the vicious wasp attacks — but there’s a surprise twist at the end.

A Was an Archer Who Shot at a Frog  (GR486.A24 1860 *)

This primer, like many others in this project, would have been used to introduce children to the alphabet using common words and pictures. Unlike our modern examples — A is for apple, B is for bear, and Z is for zebra — A Was an Archer uses such gems as, “K was a king, and governed a mouse,” and “V was a vintner, a very great sot.” A particularly interesting feature of the book is its interactivity; a moveable piece accompanies each illustration, connected to a paper tab on the back of the page. Readers could manipulate the pictures with these tabs to make a character wave or doff his hat. Sadly, most of the moveable pieces have been glued down by a previous owner.

Cinderella, of the little glass slipper  (PN3437.C56 1800z)

A classic fairy tale about the benefits of a virtuous life, this book avoids the grisly endings faced by other heroes (like Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, the Children in the Wood, or — spoiler alert — the bees from the top of this list). Though the coloring is simple, the poetic rhyme and magical elements would have encouraged children to act with kindness, obedience, and modesty. This chapbook is one of eight hand colored Albany edition stories in the Shaw Collection.

The Smiling Book  (PL864.H42S6 1950)

This book was published in 1950 but made its way into this digitization project due to its exquisitely detailed hand coloring. The Smiling Book is printed on crepe paper, giving it a unique texture and flexibility not seen in many other books. While the book does not follow a particular narrative storyline, the illustrations explore nature, weather, and humanity.

 

A total of 68 books have been added to the digital collection.

Illuminations: Highlights from Special Collections & Archives

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While this blog serves as a running feature of highlights from Special Collections & Archives, our newest exhibit makes the materials we talk about online available for the public to see in person. Illuminations the exhibit features items from our manuscript and rare books collections, Heritage & University Archives, and the Claude Pepper Library. Come and see new acquisitions like the Joseph Tobias PapersPride Student Union Records, Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, and more.

Illuminations: Highlights from Special Collections & Archives will be on display through the fall semester in Strozier Library’s first floor exhibit space Monday-Friday 10am to 6pm.

The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women

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The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women, Illustrated by As Many Engravings; Exhibiting Their Principal Eccentricities and Amusements (1820) was recently added to the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. It was published in London by prominent children’s publisher John Harris as part of “Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction.” These little books, “printed in a superior manner upon good paper,” sold for 1 shilling and 6 pence, which made them significantly pricier than other chapbooks on the market. There are three other titles from Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction available in the Shaw Collection:

Books for Troops: C.B.I. Pointie Talkie

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The C.B.I. Pointie Talkie Number 4 is a fascinating phrase book issued by the US Army Air Force for airmen in the China Burma India Theater in World War II. Containing sections in Chinese, Burmese, French, Annamese, Thai (Siamese), Shan, Lolo, and Lao, the book offers phrases for airmen to point at when trying to communicate with locals. The phrases range from basics like “Where is the latrine?” to pointed questions that reveal the fears and suspicions American soldiers were likely to have in a war zone, such as “Are there any spies around here?” The Pointie Talkie has recently been added to our rare book collections alongside a 1944 Japanese Phrase Book issued by the War Department.

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!

Bedford Book of Hours

In addition to our three newest medieval facsimiles, Special Collections & Archives has recently acquired a high-quality facsimile of the Bedford Book of Hours.

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An illustration of the Tower of Babel from the Bedford Book of Hours (image credit: Wikipedia)

The Bedford Book of Hours is a lavishly-illustrated early fifteenth century French prayer book made for John, Duke of Bedford, and his wife, Anne of Burgundy. Anne later gave the book to her nine-year-old nephew, Henry VI, as Christmas present. The original manuscript is now in the British Library (Add. MSS 18850). The illustrations were produced in Paris in the workshop of an unnamed artist known to art historians as the “Bedford Master.” The Bedford Book of Hours exemplifies the type of high-end manuscripts produced in secular bookmaking shops for European nobility in the late Middle Ages.

More information about the Bedford Book of Hours and other medieval facsimiles can be found on the Facsimiles of Medieval Manuscripts and Incunabula Research Guide.

New Acquisitions: Naked Lunch

When “Ten Episodes from Naked Lunch” first appeared in The Chicago Review, public outrage over obscenity caused the University of Chicago to suppress its publication. In response, Chicago Review editor Irving Rosenthal founded a new literary journal called Big Table, whose inaugural issue included a reprint of the ten episodes from William S. Burrough’s novel-in-progress. The completed novel was first published in Paris by Olympia Press in 1959.

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FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce we have recently added Big Table I and the first edition, first printing, second issue of the Olympia Press Naked Lunch to the Gontarski Grove Press Collection. These two new editions strengthen our holdings in William S. Burroughs, which include the first US printing of Naked Lunch by the Grove Press, as well as important Burroughs literary manuscripts and correspondence in the Francois Bucher Papers.


Other new Grove Press titles include: Oh! Calcutta! by Kenneth Tynan and All Men Are Brothers (Shui Hu Chuan) translated by Pearl S. Buck.

New Acquisitions: Artists’ Books

FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce that a number of new artists’ books have been cataloged and are now available through our Research Center Reading Room.

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    A detail of one of the “cells” from Ellen Knudson’s Made Up

    Made Up by Ellen Knudson at Crooked Letter Press (2015) – According to artist Ellen Knudson, “Made Up is a non-scientific science book about the imaginary cellular composition of the human body.” Anger, Curiosity, Failure, Fear, Jealousy, Joy, Knowledge, Location, Love, The Past, Success, Talent, Trust, Work – the cells that “make up” a person – are depicted in vivid multiple block linoleum prints. The deluxe edition contains 14 unfolded prints alongside the book in a sectioned clamshell box.

  • Diagram of Wind : Architectural Book with Poem by Michael Donaghy by Barbara Tetenbaum at Triangular Press (2015) – A letterpress printing of Michael Donaghy’s poem “Glass,” featuring texts and images backed with Japanese silk tissue and set on a wave-shaped wooden platform. The varied shapes and textures create different sounds as the pages are turned.
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    Postcards and ephemera tell the story of How to Transition on Sixty-Three Cents a Day

    Soil Dwellers by Emily Van Kley at May Day Press (2015) – Inspired by insects that live beneath the soil, featuring handmade papers dyed and printed through contact with plants, sewn in a double-sided accordion format.

  • Blocks off the Block by Katya McCullough’s 2009 Block Printing Class at San Quentin State Prison – 23 linoleum cut prints created by 8 members of Katya McCullough’s 2009 Block Printing Class at San Quentin State Prison.
  • How to Transition on Sixty-Three Cents a Day by Lee Krist (2013) – Artist Lee Krist dedicates this book “to all the people, places, and institutions who helped me transition at such little cost.” It is a non-linear narrative of the artist’s transition from male to female, told through a series of letterpress postcards to the artist’s mother and pieces of ephemera stored in a film canister.

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    The familiar childhood Fortune Teller game format reveals gender biases in Indian society
  • The Fortune Teller by Malini Gupta at Ochre (art + design) (2016) – A cootie catcher fortune teller game and a japanese stab-bound book printed on waxed paper infused with incense. According to artist Malini Gupta, “Through this work I seek to investigate the deeply entrenched gender biases that plague the Indian society… The fortune teller is designed in beautiful patterns to entice the viewer to interact with it but also to camouflage the darkness it holds–the darkness of a child being sexually abused and a family choosing to ignore it.”

For a list of these and other artists’ books in FSU Special Collections, visit the Artists’ Books Research Guide.

New Acquisitions: Medieval Facsimiles

By Marco di Bartolomeo Rustici (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image from the Codex Rustici, via Wikimedia Commons
FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce that three new, high-quality facsimiles have been added to our rare books collections and are ready for use in our Research Center Reading Room.

  • Codex Rustici – an Italian manuscript from Florence (circa 1444) depicting a pilgrimage from Florence to the Holy Land. This codex, currently housed at the Library of the Archbishop’s Seminary of Florence, is famous for its ink and watercolor illustrations of the architecture of early 15th century Florence. It was recently restored and made into a complete facsimile through a grant from Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, and a video about the codex can be viewed at their website.
  • Splendor Solis – a sixteenth-century German treatise on alchemy, featuring 19 illuminations of the creation of the philosopher’s stone. It is thought to be the earliest known alchemistic treatise and is an important work for scholars of the history of science.
  • Officiolum di Francesco da Barberino – a richly illuminated early 14th century Italian manuscript, considered one of the oldest Books of Hours produced in Italy. The original manuscript, thought lost for centuries, is now in private hands and can therefore only be studied through facsimile.

Visit our Facsimiles of Medieval Manuscripts and Incunabula LibGuide for more information on these and other facsimiles in our collection.

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.