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!

From the Rare Book Room: Watermark Wednesday

A hallmark of good research is looking beyond the surface. Particularly, in the Davidson Archives, it is prudent to search beyond what meets the eye—literally. The Davidson College Archives and Special Collections houses a multitude of rare books and 19th century correspondences by former College Presidents which boast watermarks. Such hidden images on the pages can offer insights as to where and by whom the paper was made, as well as its quality.

A page featuring a poem and a faint watermark and lines.

Nonesuch Press watermark and chain and laid lines visible on handmade page.

The tradition of watermarks in papermaking began in Fabriano, Italy late in the 13th Century and was continued by other manufacturers of handmade paper into the 19th century. Watermarks were formed by twisting thin wires into various geometric shapes and adhered to the paper mold. The mold was simply a wood-framed wire screen which would be dipped into a “soup”-of-sorts of warm water and rag fibres several times. As the water strained through, horizontal (laid) lines and vertical (chain) lines would appear on the forming sheet. The shape of the watermark was imprinted into the sheet whilst the fibres were still wet, thereby thinning the paper in a specific area, forming the mark.

The Davidson Rare Book Room holds a 1923 reprint by The Nonesuch Press of the Poems of Andrew Marvell, the original 1681 edition of which is housed in the British Museum. As noted on the cover, the edition was printed on handmade Italian watermarked paper.

Title page reading: MISCELLANEOUS POEMS BY ANDREW MARVELL, Esq. Late Member of the Honourable House of Commons LONDON The Nonesuch Press, 30 Gerrard Street M. CM. XXIII.

Title page of the Poems of Andrew Marvell

Portrait of a mustachioed man in a long curly wig, typical of the 17th century,

Portrait of Andrew Marvell.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables

Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s second novel was published in April 1851 and followed his very successful first novel, The Scarlet Letter.    Begun in August 1850, The House of the Seven Gables was published to mixed reviews, but was well received by the public.  His Gothic tale of the Pyncheon family and the haunting of their house was inspired by an actual gabled house in Salem, Massachusetts which was owned by one of Hawthorne’s cousins, and by ancestors who had been involved in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

House of the Seven Gables Cover

House of the Seven Gables Cover

It has been adapted for movies, TV, and short stories.  And, in 2000, the Manhattan School of Music premiered an opera based on the novel.

We are fortunate to have in our Rare Book Room collection an 1851 printing of the novel, presented to the library by Mrs. Richard H. Brooks.

As we move nearer to Halloween, consider reading a copy of this classic tale!

House of the Seven Gables title page

House of the Seven Gables

And for more ghostly tales…

Come to the Rare Book Room at 8:00 PM on Tuesday October 24 for our 9th annual “Ghosts in the Library” storytelling event.  Complete with treats, but no tricks!

Affordances of the Codex

The first class session in the Rare Book Room this term was for DIG 220: Electronic Literature with Dr. Mark Sample and his students.  Electronic literature?  In the Rare Book Room?  Yes, because one of the interesting things to do as we look at using/reading/researching texts online, is to compare that to how we’d use the same text in a physical space.  So, we looked at the “Affordances of the Codex,” or to put it another way, the attributes of the physical book.  What do we do differently; how do we interact differently; what do we see in a different way when we use physical books?

The five affordances we attributed to physical books were:

  • Books are simultaneously sequential and random access.

For example, we can look at a dictionary and read from A to Z, or we can find the definition of a particular word.  We can look at a book of short stories and read the first story through to the last, or we can choose a story to read.

The cover of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"

Short Stories

  • Books are volumetric objects.

They have size and shape.  They “contain” the information in a three dimensional way.  Or, the shape may be representative of the contents.  The book “Snake Poems,” by Margaret Atwood literally unfolds like an accordion or “snake.”  “Gulliver’s Travels” text of his visit to the land of the giants is huge; the text of his visit to the Lilliputians is tiny.

  • Books are finite (bounded information spaces).

Single titles may be bound in one or more volumes; multiple titles may be bound together; single titles bound in one volume may be divided into parts.

  • Books offer a comparative visual space.

Books may be printed on the “front” side (the recto) of a leaf, but not on the “back” side (the verso.)  Notes, glosses, or translations may be on pages opposite the text itself.Page in SanscritPage in English stating, "An Indian Love-Lament from the Sanskrit of the Chautapanchasike"

  • Books are writable as well as readable.

We all often take notes, underline, or mark passages in books (our own, of course, not those which we check out from the library!) for our study.  But, some books in the Rare Book Room have recipes on a flyleaf, notes from previous owners regarding their readings of the book, children’s drawings, gift inscriptions and other markings indicating their use.A text titled, "Our Own Second Reader; for the use of Schools and Families"

Some of these affordances may also apply to electronic texts, but some don’t.  How do you see them differently?

Thanks, Dr. Sample and students for a great discussion!

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Frankenstein, cover

Frankenstein

“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.