Tag Archives: Rare Books

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.

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.

400 Years of Shakespeare

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A page from Shakespeare’s Second Folio (1632)

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Although the exact dates of his birth and death are disputed, they are both known to have occurred in late April. In honor of 400 years of Shakespeare, libraries and museums throughout the world are putting on exhibits to celebrate his life and works. The Folger Shakespeare Library, partnering with the Cincinnati Museum Center and American Library Association, is hosting a First Folio Tour, which will bring the famous first edition of Shakespeare’s plays to universities and museums in every state.

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An illustrated adaptation of Shakespeare (circa 1895)

While FSU Special Collections & Archives is not fortunate enough to have one of the 234 known extant first folios (out of the approximately 750 printed), there are over 350 volumes by and about Shakespeare available through our research center, including facsimiles of the first folio and extracts from the fourth folio, published in 1685. As Shakespeare’s genius and influence have firmly entrenched him in the canon of English literature, his works have been constantly published, republished, edited, re-edited, repackaged, illustrated, and re-illustrated ever since his death in 1616. Many famous authors, printers, and illustrators have tried their hands at Shakespeare over the years, from Laura Valentine’s Shakspearian Tales in Verse (PR2877.V3 1899) to the Kelmscott edition of Shakespeare’s poems (PR2842.E4).

One of the most exciting discoveries we’ve made in the stacks lately is an uncatalogued leaf from Shakespeare’s second folio, printed in 1632, nine years after the first folio and sixteen years after Shakespeare’s death. Our leaf is pages 195-196 from The Taming of the Shrew and includes Pettruchio’s famous lines to Katerina:

For I am he am born to tame you Kate,

And bring you from a wild Kat to a Kate

Conformable as other household Kates …

I must, and will have Katherine to my wife.

This page from the second folio and other editions of Shakespeare’s works will be on display in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room on the first floor of Strozier from Friday, April 22nd until the end of May. Stop by and see it Monday-Friday 10am-6pm!

A Book Collector’s Legacy

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Title page of Dame Wiggins of Lee by John Ruskin with illustrations by Kate Greenaway (1855)

At over 22,000 rare books and over 65 linear feet of manuscript materials, The John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection is easily the largest single collection in FSU Special Collections & Archives. It serves as a living testament to its creator, John MacKay Shaw (May 15, 1897-March 15, 1984), an AT&T business executive, philanthropist, writer, and bibliophile. While the original 5,000+ volumes in Shaw’s book collection focused on 18th and 19th century British and American poetry written about childhood and/or for children, it has expanded to contain volumes on biography, bibliography, collecting, writing, and publishing. The collection contains works by major authors and illustrators — Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, Kate Greenaway, Thomas Bewick, and Lewis Carroll, to name a few — and can serve research interests as diverse as publishers’ bindings, Victorian serials, sacred hymns, and World War I.

The books of the Shaw Collection are wonderfully complimented by the John MacKay Shaw manuscript collection (01/MSS 2008-006). This collection includes Shaw’s personal correspondence (including letters from Dr. Seuss!), lectures, and photographs, as well as administrative information about the development of the Shaw Collection at FSU Libraries. Among the literary materials in the manuscript collection can be found Shaw’s meticulous notes and source materials for his five-volume bibliography on Childhood in Poetry. It is these bibliographic notes that give us window into the world of a twentieth-century book collector.

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Shaw’s bibliographic notes on John Ruskin (01/MSS 2008-006, Box 62, Folder 58)

Shaw’s bibliographic notes are organized by author, with a listing and description of every book by that author in the collection. There are also notes on where each volume was purchased and for how much (invaluable information to anyone studying the provenance of books in the collection), sometimes accompanied by the delightful anecdotes of a true bibliophile. Under the file for John Ruskin, Shaw remarks of the 1885 edition of Dame Wiggins of Lee, and Her Seven Wonderful Cats illustrated by Kate Greenaway:

“This has been for me a most illusive book. Although not an expensive one… it has seemed that I either bid low or my order gets to the bookseller just after someone else has bought it. Now I have a copy, and an almost perfect one it is.”

In a digital world, where online auction sites and search engines have revolutionized the world of book selling and collecting, Shaw’s notes tell of the struggles and triumphs of a collector in this golden age of bibliophilia. Shaw’s manuscripts add rich layers of meaning to the books in his collection, and both will live on for generations to come.

 

Secrets from the Rare Book Vault

FullSizeRender (2)When I applied to the Special Collections & Archives graduate assistantship, I had one thing in mind: rare books. As an undergrad at FSU, I frequently visited Special Collections for class projects and assignments related to medieval manuscripts and early printed books, knowing that someday I wanted to work with rare material like these. So naturally when I received the news that I was selected for the assistantship, my first thought was of all the rare books I would get to “work with.”

The concept of “working with” rare books was always a very abstract one to me. I assumed rare book librarians got to study the materials, give lectures to visiting classes, and create exhibit displays. A very glamorous position in academia. As a young and naive soon-to-be graduate assistant I really had no idea what rare book maintenance would entail because my only previous job experience included retail, banking, and an archives internship. Now that I’m slightly older and much more experienced, I can say I have insight into “working with” rare books. The epitome of rare books. The vault books!

That’s right, I left my career as a community banker to find myself auditing yet another vault. Just like the huge quantities of money safeguarded behind lock and key, the rare books that live in the Special Collections vault are the most valuable items in the collection. And I was tasked with examining just over 1,000 of them to determine their condition and assess whether or not they needed any preservation treatment. Most of them (71%), I’m happy to report, are holding up just fine considering their age. The other couple hundred are in need of various types of enclosures that will preserve all of their fragile, decaying, or detached parts. 

This naturally led to a practicum in box making. Under the high-quality tutelage of the Uppsala University Rare Books YouTube channel, the Rare Books Librarian and I tried our hand at custom box making. This turned out to be much more difficult than the 5-minute duration of our video lesson implied. And if rare book box making was an Olympic sport, our Swedish friends at Uppsala would take home the gold. But in the end, with a lot of time spent practicing, we were able to construct several excellent enclosures to protect some of the most deteriorated books in the vault.

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These days my glamorous vision of rare books librarianship still includes spontaneous bouts of paging through incunables to appreciate the illustrations, hand binding, and old book smell. But the reality of the job entails a lot more dust, red rot, and wormholes. Ultimately, the basis of “working with” rare books is preservation; removing the dust, and stopping the red rot and wormholes so that librarians and patrons alike may continue to marvel at illustrations, hand binding, and old book smell for centuries to come.