Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian, “Measured in millimeters: Miniature books at Davidson”

The other day I read an article about “micro” apartments being built in Charlotte’s South End. The square footage of these space conscious dwellings start at under 400 square feet. For some perspective, that’s only slightly larger than a double occupancy dorm room on campus. As a fan of shows like “Tiny House Hunters” and “Container Homes” I am very familiar and fascinated by this mini mode of living. However, when imagining my life in downsized digs I always have one concern: where would I put all my books? Right now bookshelves cover at least half of my walls and those shelves are at (and over) capacity. I have books stashed in cabinets, closets, and boxes. Needless to say I have a storage problem already. So what is a bibliophile with a penchant for tiny homes to do? Enter the miniature book!

Miniature books are typically defined as books that are smaller than 4 inches tall. They can have all the same elements as non-mini books such as hardback covers, illustrations, chapters, etc., just on a smaller scale. Davidson’s Library has several examples of miniature books in its collection and many more were recently added thanks to a donation from the estate of Wilbur L. Fugate (class of 1934). Titles from the donation include a mini “Merchant of Venice”, a diminutive dictionary, and a bitty biography of the composer Handel just to name a few.

From left to right: Miniature “The merchant of Venice” with a full sized copy of “The tempest” for size comparison ; “The little Webster” dictionary is less than 2 inches tall ; a biography of Handel from the Petite Library series.

There is some debate as to when the miniature book originated and for what purpose. Some say the first miniature books appeared during the Middle Ages. These were predominately Bibles, hymnals, and devotional literature used for daily religious practice. Some of these books were so small they became known as “thumb Bibles.” The smallest miniature book in the library’s collection is a Bible which barely measures 1.5 inches tall. That Bible is not from the Middle Ages, but the library’s earliest miniature book was printed in 1808. “Wisdom in miniature” describes itself as a “collection of sentences divine and moral” for young gentlemen and ladies on piety, obedience, calm behavior, and other basic tenets of early 19th century society.

Because small books could be produced en masse and easily distributed, many were used for sales and advertising purposes. “The pocket carpet bag,” much like its namesake, was inexpensive and easy to travel with. Although there are some stories, most of the pages are filled with advertisements for goods and services. And since their small size made them more travelable, mini books became popular souvenirs. Want to remember your trip to D.C.? Then grab “Washington in Miniature” and marvel at the petite pictures of the capital’s major sites.

On the left: “Washington in miniature” with drawings by artists from the Rochon Hoover Studio. On the right: “The pocket carpet bag” with full color illustration on the front cover.


So will miniature books solve all our storage problems? Probably not. But they are just so much fun to look at! To view the books mentioned in this post, or any of the other miniature books in the library’s collection, email archives@davidson.edu to make an appointment.  Let’s hope that this COVID-19 quarantine ends soon!

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian, “The Historic Textbook Collection: A New Addition to the Special Collections”

We’re baaack! After a hiatus to change service providers, the Archives blog, Around the D, has returned!

Ever wonder what it was like to be a Davidson College student 100 years ago? Well, unless you have access to Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine you’ll need to make a visit to the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections and view one of our newer additions, the Historic Textbook Collection.

Among the photographs, ephemera, and other materials from the college that are housed in the Archives and Special Collections, we now have several textbooks that were originally used in Davidson classrooms which make up the Historic Textbook Collection. The textbooks were donated by alumni families and cover topics such as English, geography, religion, and ‘modern’ bookkeeping.

Black and white title page for Modern Illustrative Bookkeeping
page 54 and 55 of Modern Illustrative Bookkeeping
Modern Illustrative Bookkeeping

One of the items in the Historic Textbook Collection is a student’s notebook for English I, which belonged to Mitchell Corriher, class of 1920. The binder contains all of the assignments, notes, and even graded papers for the 1916-1917 school year English course. In some of the assignments, the student proudly writes about Davidson’s impressive football record for 1916. In others, he strikes a somber tone writing about the “greatest war known in history,” World War I.

Cover page of English I, 2 ring binder notebook
Mitchell Corriher’s (Class of 1920) English I student notebook

As a group, these textbooks and notebooks not only give a peek into Davidson’s classrooms and college life from years ago but also inform a broader understanding of the social and political events of the time.

The early Davidson textbooks in the Historic Textbook Collection aren’t the only interesting things from the Archives, Special Collections and Community department. From millimeter tall artist books to maps of the world, check out the library’s other rare and special materials in these collections:

Artists’ Books Collection

Bruce Rogers Collection

Cumming Collection

Fugate Collection

Golden Cockerel Press Collection

Have a historic textbook you’d like to donate? Contact the Davidson College Archives – archives@davidson.edu

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian in the E.H. Little Library, “Did you know we had this?!?! A serendipitous encounter with Solzhenitsyn”

An independent press, a censored author, and two donations: No, this is not the beginning of a “… walked into a bar” joke. It is, however, the beginning elements of a chance meeting of materials in the Rare Book Room.

I recently cataloged the first broadside printed by the Iron Mountain Press, which was donated by Dr. Robert Denham, class of 1961. A broadside in the printing industry is a single sheet of paper with printing on only one side of it and this particular broadside contains the poem “Release of Solshenitsyn” (1969) by J.M. Martin. I was excited to work with this item because it was the first issued in a series of broadsides from Iron Mountain Press and, just like with comic books, the first issue is very rare (we are the only library in WorldCat with this item). The Rare Book Room has several other broadsides from this series. To find them, search for Iron Mountain Press broadside in the Rare Book Room catalog https://davidson.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/discovery/search?&tab=RBR&search_scope=RBR&vid=01DCOLL_INST:01DCOLL&lang=en

Examples of three Iron Press broadsides: "Persephone's Dilemma", "Release of Solshenitsyn", and "In the dark all cats fly"
Iron Mountain Press Broadsides

An added bonus to working with this broadside was that the poem was about the Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I had read several of his books and was familiar with his background. I enjoyed reading the poem and picking up on elements that pointed to Solzhenitsyn’s history. As much as I try to, I can’t keep the things I catalog in my office forever, so I finished up my work and put the broadside with a few other items I was planning to take back to the Rare Book Room.

Little did I know that Solzhenitsyn would be making a repeat appearance in a very big way.

A few days later, I grabbed an innocuous-looking archival rare book box out of a stack of things I needed to catalog. I couldn’t tell what was in it so naturally, my curiosity was piqued. Upon opening the box, I found several handwritten notes and a plain paperback written in Russian. The first note I read said that the book was an issue of the literary journal, Novyi Mir, and this precise issue (1962, no. 11) contained the first-ever publication of … wait for it … “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” by none other than Alexander Solzhenitsyn. What a fantastic coincidence and an even more fantastic find!

Copy of bookplate of donor, Dr. Jack Perry and front cover of 1962 publication in Cyrillic.
First page of the volume in Cyrillic.

The story focuses on a prisoner of a Soviet labor camp and the extreme conditions prisoners faced there. Solzhenitsyn had to severely edit his own novel in order to see it published, but when it finally came out in Novyi Mir it was the first time that the labor camp system, or Gulag, was depicted in a Soviet published work. It was an immediate sensation both inside and outside of the Soviet Union, but soon afterward, Solzhenitsyn and his work were labeled as anti-Soviet by literary critics within the USSR. Solzhenitsyn published several more novels, none of which saw an initial publication in the Soviet Union again and all of which were critical of the Soviet government. This led to the author’s deportation in 1974.

Though the issue of Novyi Mir with “One day” had a large publication run (over 95,000 copies sold) they began to disappear in the Soviet Union because of a government initiative to censor the novel. Few physical copies of the November 1962 issue of Novyi Mir exist in libraries today and here was one in my hands! I also still had the “Release of Solshenitsyn” broadside sitting on a cart next to me. Two Solzhenitysns from two completely different sources. I was so excited about this unbelievable coincidence that I took (ran is the more correct verb) “One day” and the broadside up to the Rare Book Room. As soon as I got up there I asked, “Did you know we had this?!?!” They were as astonished as I was. Sharon Byrd, the Special Collections Librarian, also helped me to put the pieces together of how we acquired this item. The Novyi Mir was donated by Dr. Jack Perry, a Davidson professor of political science. In 1962, when “One day” appeared in Novy Mir, Dr. Perry was living in Russia and most likely picked up the issue during his time there. He then taught at Davidson from 1985 to 1995 and over 20 years later, presented this copy of “One day” to the library.

And now you can answer my question from the title of this blog post with, “Yes! I know we have the first broadside from Iron Mountain Press AND the first publication of “One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn!”

Guest Blogger: Andrew Rippeon, Ph.D. Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing, “More Frankenstein”

Broadside with the silhouette of a human with cross hatches of green surrounded by quotes regarding monsters and Frankenstein

Broadside Celebrating the Bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Halloween 2018

It’s been 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s story of a creature created in a laboratory.  In the cinematic adaptations, the creature is stitched together, composed of body parts taken from corpses and medical specimens (and a famously “abnormal” brain).  Given this collage-like nature of Frankenstein’s creation, it seemed fitting to mark both the bicentennial of Shelley’s publication and Halloween 2018 with an “exquisite corpse”-style letterpress print.  In the Surrealist technique of the exquisite corpse, multiple authors or artists contribute short fragments to a single composition, with the result being a collaboratively composed final work that often demonstrates striking, unexpected juxtapositions.    

In our practice of the exquisite corpse, volunteers from Professor Sample’s WRI-101 course (“Monsters”!) visited the new and developing Letterpress Lab in the Wall Center for a brief overview of typesetting and letterpress printing.  After an introduction to the anatomy of moveable type (including the face, foot, belly, shoulder, and beard of the individual pieces of type, known as “sorts”), and the basics of typesetting (upside-down, from left to right), students selected typefaces and then set short quotations they’d brought with them, drawn from their readings in all things monsterish.  Some had chosen extracts from novels, while others had more theoretical excerpts.  When typesetting was complete, the students’ individual quotations were then gathered together onto one of two mid-century Vandercook proof presses, and locked into place in the bed of the press.   

The following day, students returned to print their type on large-format sheets previously printed with an appropriate background: a monsterish, vaguely human silhouette emerging from a visually noisy background.  Perhaps appropriate to the occasion (a celebration of what is sometimes called the first work of science fiction), these background sheets were produced on the letterpress but by means of a decidedly twenty-first century technique known as “pressure printing,” and in this specific case enabled by the technology of the laser-cutter in the college makerspace Studio M.  Pressure printing is a little bit like stenciling, but rather than applying pigment onto a sheet through a stencil, the stencil itself is placed behind the sheet, and the pair are run through the letterpress.  Ink transfers unevenly from the press to the print—a “mistake” in traditional letterpress practices!—according to the presence or absence of the material behind the printed sheet.  In this case, a negative and then a positive stencil were used to create, respectively, the background field (silver) with a silhouette removed, and the foreground figure (variably inked) with the background removed.  Hand inking of the figure produced a stitch-like effect, which continued the monsterish and collage-oriented approach to the print.  In the short edition (limited to 40), no two prints are the same.       

 

Frankenstein: the Anniversary

Frankenstein, cover

Frankenstein

This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and many libraries are participating in “Frankenreads”…a reading of the gothic novel. In case you’ve never read the tale, this would be a good time to do that.  Here’s some background on the novel.

“It’s alive! It’s alive”
You probably associate that line with the movie, “Frankenstein.” And, you’d be right. You’d be wrong, however if you think the monster is Frankenstein. That was actually the name of the doctor who created him, and both were born from the imagination of Mary Shelley, who began her book Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus during the summer of 1816 when she was not yet nineteen. Mary (the lover, and later wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley), Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori were spending time in Geneva, and the gloomy, rainy weather often kept them indoors. Among the often occult topics of conversation was galvanism, the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current. One rainy afternoon, Byron suggested that they have a contest to see who could write the best gothic horror story. Mary’s was the only one which was completed. Her story is of a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who experiments with a technique for giving life to non-living matter which ultimately leads to his creation of The Monster. Full of gothic elements, and considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction, it is more than that. It explores themes of goodness and beauty as well. Shelley’s tale was published in London in 1818, but that first edition was published anonymously. Her name did not appear as the author until the second edition was published in France in 1823.
Although when first published Frankenstein did not receive favorable critical reviews, it did gain almost immediate popular success, and the story has been retold in theatrical productions, movies (and movie spoofs) through the years. Although Mary Shelley continued to write, she will always be remembered for Frankenstein.
We have in the Rare Book Room an early copy of the celebrated novel.

Forthcoming book ad for Vanity Fair

Forthcoming book ad for Vanity Fair

Frankenstein back cover of original paper wrappers

Back cover of original paper wrappers

Publisher's list of some of their other works

Publisher’s list of some of their other works

Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary W. Shelley, title page

Title Page

Frankenstein, original preface

Original preface

1831 Bentley edition preface, "Preface to the Last London Edition."

1831 Bentley edition preface

Frankenstein's opening page, "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus Letter I. to Mrs. Saville, England."

Opening pages of the story

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus / by Mrs. Shelley. Boston: Sever, Francis, & Co., 1869. Third American edition. Includes both the original preface, and the preface the author wrote for the 1831 Bentley’s Standard Novel edition (London). Rebound in brown buckram, but retains the original green paper wrappers. Includes original publisher’s ad for “the elegant Cambridge edition” of Vanity Fair.

Rare Book School and Bruce Rogers

I’m just back from a great week in Charlottesville, VA at Rare Book School.  Founded in 1983 at Columbia University, it moved to UVA in 1992.  Not just for librarians, Rare Book School offers week long classes at UVA during the months of June and July to those interested in all aspects of “rare books”…classes which are taught by experts in their fields.  Initially dealing primarily with books and manuscripts, classes have expanded to include all areas of the history of written, printed, and digital materials.  Students include librarians, dealers in antiquarian books, book collectors, conservators, teachers, and students (professional or avocational).  Classes are small (usually about 12 students) so students really get to know each other and work closely together for the week.  Entry is competitive, so I was excited to be accepted this year to “The History of 19th and 20th Century Typography and Printing.”

The course was taught by Katherine Ruffin, Book Arts Program Director at Wellesley College, and John Kristensen, owner of the Firefly Press in Boston.  I was in class with students from Virginia, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Missouri, and Vancouver, BC, including librarians, students, professors, and a member of the RBS staff.  We talked about the evolution of “books,” and “printing,” from clay tablets through letterpress printing to the electronic book, but concentrated on 19th and 20th century letterpress printing with handset foundry type, to monotype and linotype machine set type.  We looked at examples of typefaces and printing styles of famous printers and presses from the collections of the Rare Book School and the Special Collections at UVA’s Small Library  We were also able to set type ourselves (harder than it looked!) and print a joint class effort broadside to take home.  On Friday, each class member made a presentation on a particular type face…one of personal interest.

First page of The Centaur

First page of The Centaur

I chose Centaur type, designed by Bruce Rogers.  I have a particular interest in his design since we have a large collection of materials of Bruce Rogers (numbering around 200), given to Davidson by a friend of the typographer, Dr. Harold Marvin, Davidson class of 1914.

Rare Book School is a great professional opportunity for learning, meeting colleagues in the field, and having a great deal of fun!

New Acquisition Provides Glimpses of Student Life

During this year’s reunion weekend, a document from 1847 came back to the college – and unlike the visiting alumni – stayed. A member of the class of 1963 gifted the archives with pages from the diary of Albert Allison James, class of 1848.

First page of A. A. James' diary - a little worse for age. Happily the rest of the pages are in fine condition.

First page of A. A. James’ diary – a little worse for age. Happily the rest of the pages are in fine condition.

The pages we have begin with April 5th 1847–which might sound like the end of the spring semester. But in 1846-47, the semester ran from October to February and March to August, making his entries early in the spring semester of his junior year.

His entries describe daily activities. Wonder what a student was doing in July 1847? Here are some entries for July 2- 4:

July 2nd 1847 Friday

After attending prayers, and recitation before breakfast, prepared for going to a picnic part at W. L. Davidson‘s Esq. given by the young ladies to the Senior and Junior classes, we walked out, and after drinking some fine cider we were invited to dinner at which we did our duty. As there was every thing good, that is, cakes, syllabub, raisons, almonds, and a great many other things. Returned at even, almost worn out from fatigue.

July 3rd 1847 Saturday

This day our class had nothing to do. I read during the most of the day finished reading the first vol of Mary Queen of Scots, and commenced the Second. Attended prayer meeting.

July 4th 1847 Sabbath

Read in confession of faith until 11, at which time the president, by request, preached a partriotick sermon from 147th psalm 20th verse which was very eloquent and appropriate for the occasion, a number of people attended. Sermon at night by Professor Wilson.

The picnic party was held at what we now know as Beaver Dam, the home of William Lee Davidson II. It’s now a short drive from campus, but in 1847, the Juniors and Seniors would have walked about 2 miles to get there (and would, no doubt be ready for some cider when they arrived). The young ladies of the town must have been very busy preparing food for 34 hungry young men. (14 seniors and 20 juniors).

Table of contents for Life of Mary, Queen of Scots with notations

Table of contents for Life of Mary, Queen of Scots with notations

The library may well still have the copy of the biography James was reading on July 3rd. We have a 1836 edition of a 2 volume edition of Henry Bell’s Life of Mary Queen of Scots that appears to have been part of the Eumenean Society‘s library (James was a member).

Penciled in the volume in the table of contents are 2 notations- one is Eumenean Society. The other is a variation of the William Trimmytoes counting game:

William a trimmety
He is a good fisherman
He catches hens
He puts them in pens
Some lay eggs
Some lay none
Wire brier limber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew east
One flew west
& one flew over the old gooses nest
Clear out you dirty dishcloth

The handwriting in the diary and in the book don’t match, so we can’t blame James for marking up the book. Perhaps the scribbler found the book less interesting than James did.

We’ll be adding the diary to our transcription project pages. If you’re curious about what else is in his diary, you’ll be able to read it online and even have the fun of sharing what you find with others through transcription.

And if you’re wondering about Jame’s later life, he became a minister in 1851, married Sarah Collins in 1853 and served churches in South Carolina. Before his death in 1910, he married 670 couples.

Rare Book School at UVA

I’m just back from another great week in Charlottesville, VA at Rare Book School.  Founded in 1983 at Columbia University, it has been at UVA since 1992.  Not just for librarians, Rare Book School offers week-long classes, primarily in the summer, to those interested in all aspects of Rare Books…classes which are taught by experts in their fields.  Students include librarians, dealers in antiquarian books, book collectors, conservators, teachers, and students (professional or avocational) of the history of books and printing.  Classes are small (usually about 12 students) and entry is competitive, so I was excited to get my acceptance letter for Printed Books Since 1800, the natural sequential class following my last summer’s class,The Printed Book to 1800. 

The class was taught by Katherine Reagan, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Cornell University, and Tom Congalton, owner of Between the Covers Rare Books in Gloucester City, NJ.  Having two instructors with very different perspectives on Rare Books was both interesting and informative, and made for lively discussions.  I was in class with students from Colorado, California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, New York, and Connecticut, including librarians, rare book dealers, professors, graduate students, and private collectors.  We examined books printed from 1800 to the present, and talked about paper, bindings, book jackets, editions, condition, printers and publishers, the literary line of descent, buying and selling antiquarian and rare books (and other items), and looked at lots of examples of each.

Evening lectures are also a part of the Rare Book School experience, and we had a chance to hear some wonderful lectures regarding some special collections…Edward C. Hirschland on his collection on Chicago history, and Anne-Marie Eze on the rare books in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Rare Book School is one of the best professional opportunities out there, and on top of that is a great deal of fun.

Now back to Davidson’s rare book collection to apply what I’ve learned!

Tied-card proof of Truman Capote's The Grass Harp

Tied-card proof of Truman Capote’s The Grass Harp

Different printings of Hemingway's Men without Women

Different printings of Hemingway’s Men without Women

Jackson Pollock dust jacket, book titled, "out of this century"

Jackson Pollock dust jacket

 

Slave’s Bible and the Williams Association

Lecture poster, "African Muslims in Antebellum America The Life and Times of Omar IBN Said"This Sunday, November 14 at 7p.m., historian Allan Austin will be speaking on “African Muslims in Antebellum America: The Life and Times of Omar ibn Said.”  The lecture will be in the college union and an exhibit accompanying the lecture is on display in the library’s Rare Book Room.

Featured in the display is the Bible in Arabic translation owned by Omar ibn Said while he was a slave.  For more information on Omar ibn Said, check out our Davidson Encyclopedia article.

Also on display is a small card from the donor,  a Mrs. Guion of Charlotte, NC.  Mrs. Guion’s family owned Omar and the Bible came to her after his death in 1864.

donation document from  Mrs. GuionShe donated the Bible to a student  organization at Davidson College in 1871.  Few people today have heard of The Williams Association of Inquiry.  Organized in 1855, it operated until 1884.  As described in the 1861 catalog, the society was founded by

“the Rev. Edwin Williams, a missionary to Africa. The design of the Association is to inquire into the spread of the gospel, and especially to seek information in regard to missionary operations in heathen lands. In carrying out this design, monthly meetings are held, at which an essay is read. Reports are likewise made on foreign missions, the state of religion in North American, operations of Bible and Tract Societies, and the state of religion in Europe. The reading room of the Association, supplied with the leading religious papers and periodicals of this country and several missionary periodicals of Great Britain, is opened every Sabbath to all the students.”

A decade later, the purpose had shifted to assisting ‘in benevolent and religious labours at and around Davidson, and to maintain a special interest in the spread of the Gospel throughout the world.” It was also noted that “among the annual attractions of Commencement week is a sermon before this association.”

By 1884, the YMCA which was founded in 1879 had assumed the work of the Williams Association and the Williams Association ended its tenure on campus but left the college with an important artifact of North Carolina history.

Women in the Rare Book Room

March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate that in RBR fashion, we’re displaying some of our holdings by important women writers, both historical and contemporary.

[Read more…]