Tag Archives: Rare Books

Herbaria side by side

Herbaria are collections of different plant specimens which have been dried and preserved. They can be used for many different reasons including personal collecting and as data necessary for scientific studies. FSU even has a museum-quality collection of plants and micro-algae specimens held at the Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium.

Special Collections also has a good sized collections of herbals, including a 1791 portable herbarium of plants in the vicinity of Liege. This item is without a cover and has varying degrees of water and age damage throughout the pages. The specimens which were originally in the item were removed in order to better preserve the book, however the impressions and stains they left on the pages are still easily visible. The original specimens from this item can be viewed from a CD which is included with the book within Special Collection.

Residual evidence of the Polypodium Vulgare that was once held on this page.

I particularly like how indents and water marks from leaves can be seen within the gutter of some of the pages. It gives the item character, and speaks of an unnamed person who sometimes may have slipped leaves in the pages of the book for safe keeping or as bookmarks. This book is designed to have been bought with the text only, and each page which would hold a plant would be inserted as that herb was found. It’s a design not often seen in books but nifty for the use of this particular book.

Cover of the Ruby Diamond herbaria.

In comparison, Ruby Diamond’s collection of pressed flowers from her trip to Jerusalem is in phenomenal condition. This particular item should sit on the table as seen in the image (left) with the spine facing to the right as is customary when reading Hebrew text. This particular herbaria has a cover made of wood from Jerusalem and is something Diamond probably bought while in Israel to fill with the plants. This method of collection, buying a pre-made book and filling it with one’s own items, is a common theme when it comes to herbaria. When opened, the beautifully arranged herbs show the care that was put into this travel sized item.

Each page of herbs is covered with a thin absorbent paper that will keep the pages, for the most part, from suffering water and mold damage. It shows to be very effective when compared to the 1791 portable herbaria. The spine of this item is very stiff and it should not be opened all the way as one would assume. Instead, it is best to open an item like this only slightly to avoid any long term damage. Likewise, the specimens on the pages of this herbaria should only be exposed for a short amount of time to protect them from chemicals or pollutants that may damage them if exposed for too long.

The 1791 portable herbarium of plants in the vicinity of Liege and Ruby Diamond’s own collection of pressed flowers from the Holy Land can can be viewed in Special Collections at Strozier Library.

A personal favorite, flowers and herbs collected from the tomb of the biblical Rachel, wife of Jacob. Care has been put in to organically recreate an image of the tomb.

All photo credits go toward the author.

Principles of Astronomy as detailed in an atlas by James Ferguson

Ferguson’s planetary phases diagram.

While combing through the vast amount of science related items we hold in Special Collections & Archives, I came across quite the peculiar book. I decided to scour the stacks for it as astronomy has always interested me and I was hoping for some interesting images. I knew from my initial search in the catalog that this item held images; a total of 25 plates, in fact, however what exactly those were was a mystery.

James Ferguson’s
Atlas of plates illustrative of Ferguson’s principles of astronomy is a book that holds multiple illustrations of astronomy related technology from the 1800’s. Ferguson was a Scottish astronomer best
known as the individual who improved and invented many astronomical and other scientific instruments, many of which can be found imaged in this atlas. Surprisingly, the totality of Ferguson’s formal education was met at a single grammar school at Keith in his younger years. His works within the field of astronomy and other sciences can thus only be attributed to his own self discipline, and an ambition to study the sciences.


Remaining cover of the atlas.

The cover of the atlas was made of a cloth fabric that was designed to look like leather, a cheaper alternative for the time, and only has a few pieces left attached to the bare surface show in the image to the left. It is a delicate artifact that needs support when opened however the pages themselves are mostly intact.

I couldn’t help think the images I found in this atlas were the epitome of aesthetic pleasantries. The amount of suns with faces was something I enjoyed most along with the inclusion of zodiac related constellations. Although this is a nice book to look at, there aren’t very many descriptions to go along with them, save for those found on the Orrery illustration on the first page and that found on the map of the world found in the very back of the atlas (see slideshow below for map). As someone who isn’t versed in this subject, I found it difficult to understand not only what these devices were but what they were used for. Despite this, the appreciation for the work itself is still present as it is clearly a magnificent collection of one man’s journey of discovery and invention.

Although his inventions are used for scientific inquiry, they were an item that caught the eye of a totally different set of individuals. I find it funny when researching Ferguson that many of his creations lean more toward the genre of clock-making than scientific discovery, despite the fact that they go hand-in-hand in this particular case. Many of his books detail designs for astronomical clocks that give time of day as well as day of the month, phases of the moon, and the position of the stars. Sometimes, his clocks would even include the state of the tide. If I had a clock like that, I’d want to show it to everyone and, clearly, this sentiment was not lost on clock-makers as they used his designs to build some of the greatest functioning timepieces of the time.

Fascinatingly enough, I’d never heard of James Ferguson until now. When most people think of the sciences, astronomy in particular, names like Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, or Johannes Kepler come to mind and rightly so. These scientists created many works and made many discoveries that have led up to where we are today. Ferguson is not lacking in these works either. He produced a number of books during his life, including The use of a new orrery… (1746), Astronomy explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s principles… (1756), The young gentleman and lady’s astronomy (1768), and The art of drawing in perspective… (1775). 

Regardless of how well-known Ferguson is today, he was widely influential in his own time and has been mentioned by personalities such as Founding Father Thomas Paine and German experimental physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who is most known for his discovery and study of the Lichtenberg figure which is named after him. Ferguson died in London on November 17, 1776, leaving works like this extraordinarily illustrated atlas as a legacy.


You can explore this item further at the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library.

  • Plate 11 of the 17 still present in the atlas.

Sources:

https://blogs.adelaide.edu.au/special-collections/2016/11/28/astronomy-explained-upon-sir-isaac-newtons-principles-james-ferguson-1757/

All image are taken by and credited to the author of the blog.

Uncovering a Childhood Through Poetry

Hi! I’m Celita and I’m a senior studying Editing, Writing, and Media here at FSU. I’ve spent the past couple of months interning for Special Collections & Archives and beginning to dig into the collection of Scotsman John MacKay Shaw.

Shaw’s twofold collection, in addition to including his own works and memorabilia, also includes the works of other writers. To add to his personal collection of poetry, Shaw took to browsing secondhand bookstores, perusing their shelves for books to include in his “Childhood in Poetry” collection. While selecting a batch of these books for digitization, I gained an insight into Shaw’s collection practices and the implications of some of these artifacts in reflecting and shaping society.

Many of Shaw’s books are extremely rare or first edition books, and some are not recorded in any source. One of these is “The Lioness’s Ball,” believed to be the unrecorded sequel to another work entitled “The Butterfly’s Ball.” The 1807 book features six hand-colored plates produced by William Mulready, an Irish-born artist who worked out of London. “The Lioness’s Ball” is among the children’s books he illustrated, and his other artworks are displayed in prominent places like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery, and Dublin’s National Gallery. One work is even in the possession of the royal family. The plates in “The Lioness’s Ball” feature vivid color images with a great deal of texture and depth. The frontispiece, which depicts the animals gathering, is shown below–

 

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In addition to some astounding images and engravings throughout the collection, Shaw’s collection of secondhand books reveals the familial and religious significance of poetry. Three of the items I found contained family crests inside the front cover. Several others included dedications (some personal and some religious), orphanage stamps, and other inscriptions.

To me, these artifacts highlighted the importance of books as social tools for spreading religious, moral, and educational values. Oftentimes, books were gifted by family members, organizations, or religious figures, with the primary purpose of serving as a teaching tool. Below is the author, Reverend Grant’s, dedication to a Miss Minshull, which faces her family crest on the inside cover.

 

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Inscriptions, advertisements, marks by booksellers, and dedications make the social significance of poetry books clear. Not only were these books read, but they were also circulated, whether it be as a gift, a prize, a donation, or something else. Preserved by some and marked by others, the books I selected to show how texts develop alongside people, creating a childhood through poetry.

Ghostly Tales and Spooky Poems

One fine morning last week Tallahassee finally experienced its first yearly sign of fall (a slightly chilled breeze). You know what that means – it’s time to start chugging pumpkin spice flavored everything and devouring gratuitous amounts of candy corn! Those jack o’lanterns aren’t going to carve themselves folks, and Halloween is just around the corner. Meanwhile, we at Special Collections & Archives would like to celebrate by highlighting some of our more spooky stories and poems.

  • Fall of the House of Usher – Based on the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, this beautiful graphic novel features the work of P. Craig Russell, an award-winning illustrator and the first openly gay, mainstream comic book artist. Comic-book fans should also check out our Will Eisner collection of comic books and graphic novels. Those who enjoy Poe (or music) may also be interested in the opera version of this story, available via Special Collections and in the Allen Music Library

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  • Witch Poems – No Halloween celebration would be complete without witches. This book highlights eighteen poems about witches, penned by various authors and accompanied by chillingly impressive illustrations from decorated artist Trina Hyman. Poetry lovers might also enjoy another book from our collection, featured as this article’s cover image, called Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. Speaking of witches, don’t forget to check out our works on Scottish History and Witchcraft.

If these ghostly tales and spooky poems don’t scare you enough, then come on down to the Special Collections for a tour and we’ll show you our creepy clown statues. Just a fair warning – they tend to move around when no one’s looking.

 

Artist Books Collection Continues to Grow

This post kicks off a month of posts celebrating American Archives Month. Yesterday, Special Collections & Archives did a Twitter Takeover of the @fsulibraries feed for #AskAnArchivist day so be sure to check out those conversations. 

This post is written by Melissa Quarles, Special Collections & Archives’ new graduate assistant. You’ll be hearing more from her over the next year but today she highlights our artists’ books.

For the past two years, Florida State University (FSU) has been steadily growing its collection of artists’ books, which are currently housed in Special Collections & Archives. These unique works blur the boundaries between art and literature, encouraging readers to question How Books Work and what they mean to each of us. Anne Evenhaugen, the head librarian at the Smithsonian’s American Art and Portrait Gallery Library, describes artists’ books as “a medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of ‘book’ as inspiration. It is the artistic initiative seen in the illustration, choice of materials, creation process, layout and design that makes it an art object.” The difference between a regular book and an artist’s book is determined primarily by the creator’s intentional treatment and presentation of the materials.

A few earlier posts highlighted new and interesting artists’ books in our collection. The books we house encompass a wide range of genres, forms, and topics. We have several books that feature poetry, such as Indra’s Net by Bea Nettles. This beautifully marbled paper scroll features a poem by Grace Nettles (the artist’s mother) printed over a spider web design. Attached to the inside of the lid, a small silver bell rings to evoke the memories described in the text. The original poem, from a book called Corners, can be found in our collection as well.

Artists’ books are often multi-sensory experiences. Music for Teacups, a joint venture by Melissa Haviland and David Colagiovanni, is part of a larger project “investigating the destructive moment of a breaking piece of family tableware to highlight family dynamics, upbringing, inheritance, etiquette, and issues of class. ‘Music for Teacups’… rhythmically dissects the poetic moment of a falling and breaking teacup as it sounds during its last second as a complete object.” (description from Haviland’s website). The work consists of an accordion fold booklet of cut-outs shaped like teacups, as well as a 45rpm record of the accompanying music. However, since we have no playback equipment, patrons who wish to listen to the piece are directed to this sample video (from Colagiovanni’s website).

Many of our artists’ books offer political and social commentary or center on issues such as human rights. One such work is Bitter Chocolate by Julie Chen. The book itself is shaped like a large bar of chocolate, which unfolds like a Jacob’s ladder. Each panel is connected by magnets, so that they can be unfolded to reveal four different sides. The unique tactile and structural aspects of the piece are a staple feature of Chen’s work, but the content is equally compelling. Two of the sides narrate a story about the mythical Mayan chocolate goddess, “Cacao Woman.” The goddess rejoices in the widespread love of chocolate among humans, but also laments the chocolate industry’s reliance on forced child labor, abuse, and trafficking. The other two sides feature the author’s personal memories and experiences with chocolate, as well as facts about its production worldwide.

FSU students, alumni, visitors, and the general public are invited to visit Special Collections & Archives and check out our rich collection of artist books. Patrons may also wish to explore how to make their own art books. Many of our works include explanations of the printing and construction processes, and we even have books designed to elicit inspiration for budding artists. FSU also has its own publisher, the Small Craft Advisory Press. Other resources, articles, books, and artist websites are listed below.

Resources:

Articles/Books:

Artists:

Welcome to the Year of Poetry: T. S. Eliot and The Waste Land

Happy Poetry Month!

This month begins FSU Libraries’ Year of Poetry, April 2018 – April 2019, an entire year of celebration dedicated to poetry in all of its forms and facets. Look out for events on campus that invite you to participate in exploring poetry creation and poetry enjoyment!

National Poetry Month is always in April, a reference to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land*:

“April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.”

Listen to The Waste Land at Librivox.com

Eliot 1

The beautiful book pictured is from Florida State’s Special Collections. It is Eliot’s Poems, 1909-1925, a first edition of the first collection of Eliot’s poetry to include The Waste Land, a disjointed and highly allusive work that is central to modernist poetry.

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The Waste Land

Eliot 3
Spine with Label

You can find information about National Poetry Month here, including suggestions for ways to participate. Sign up for Poem-a-Day and participate in National Poem in your Pocket Day (April 26th)! 

And come to Special Collections in Strozier Library to experience some historic poetry materials in person, like Eliot’s The Waste Land!

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*Thank you, Jeff Hipsher, Service Desk Supervisor in the Scholars Commons, for this info.

A Special Collections Travel Diary

In January, Associate Dean Katie McCormick and I kicked off the new semester by traveling to Berkeley Springs, WV, to acquire a new collection of books related to the French Revolution and Empire. Nestled in the panhandle of West Virginia, Berkeley Springs is within shouting distance of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. It’s also known as America’s first spa town, with its warm and clear mineral waters attracting tourists for centuries, including George Washington! For us, though, it was where we’d meet Michael LaVean, FSU alumni and French history enthusiast. Over the years, Mr. LaVean has collected books related to Napoleon and the French Revolution and Empire, taking extra care to acquire material that highlights the roles women played during the time period.

The collection is massive. At the end of packing it, we had about 3000 books to bring back to Florida. So, how the heck did we do it?

Boxes – lots and lots of boxes

When we left for West Virginia, we drove a small sedan that was packed full of boxes. We fit about 100 boxes in the back of the car but still had to buy more when we got to West Virginia. When packing special collections materials, we take extra care not to pack them too tightly, and some books need to be delicately wrapped in tissue paper. By the end of packing, there were 188 boxes to be transported back to Florida.

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A 15-foot box truck

One of the most nerve-wracking parts of the journey was learning how to drive a 15-foot truck. Neither of us had any prior experience driving anything that big, and you never quite realize how precious visibility is until you don’t have it anymore. 15 foot trucks are also extremely heavy, so braking takes a lot longer than you realize.

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Delicious baked goods from Maryland

Because we were in apple country, I developed an insatiable craving for apple pie. After we finished packing, Mr. LaVean took us to a bakery in Maryland where we got – truly – the best apple pie I’ve ever had. We also stocked up on all kinds of goodies, like gingerbread men, wasabi peas, and spicy beef jerky.

 

26239398_10159890567335451_1070987110204665709_nA Bluetooth speaker, pain relief patches, and energy drinks

Moving trucks don’t have auxiliary plugs, which we only figured out after picking it up. The drive from West Virginia to Tallahassee is already long when you can drive at the speed limit, but in the truck, it took about 20 hours and would have felt like forever if we couldn’t listen to music and podcasts. We were also sore and tired from packing all day, so at one point, somewhere outside of Richmond, VA, we stopped at a Walmart to buy the essentials: a Bluetooth speaker, pain relief patches, and energy drinks. It was (mostly) smooth sailing after that.

A good attitude about bad weather

As we were leaving West Virginia, we drove through an intense storm front for several hours. There was zero visibility, semi-trucks were flying, and we were driving at a crawl. We kept our spirits up with fun music, lots of jokes, and the promise of apple pie for dinner. Our next day of driving was delayed by ice, but when we finally got on the road, the weather was beautiful. Look at this view!

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When we got back to town, we immediately started unpacking the collection into our stacks. Here are before and after pictures of the collection in Michael LaVean’s home and in our closed stacks.

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To view more material related to Napoleon and the French Revolution, as well as other collections, visit the FSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center in Strozier Library on Mondays-Fridays 10am-6pm.

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

IlluminationsPoster

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: