Library Special Collections

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Special Collections for Enhancing Classroom Experience

A poster made by a student in the History of the Book course.

Written by Jill G. Thomas, Director of Technical Services

This academic year the Mudd Library welcomed five classes that engaged with our special collections: History of the Book, ENGL 527/HIST 385; Early Medieval Art and Architecture, ARTHI 210; Gothic and Northern Renaissance Art and Architecture, ARTHI 213, Intermediate Artist Books, ART 322; and Lincoln: Revolutionary American, HIST 472. Having students come and work within our collections usually yields students that are excited about books, reading, and cultural studies. Working in special collections is especially useful for students who are independent, hands-on, and sight oriented learners. Below are examples of course assignments designed specifically toward enhancing learning through special collections research.

History of the Book, ENGL 527/HIST 385

Professor Garth Bond teaches the History of the Book every two years. This year, he asks students to engage with primary resources in two assignments. The first was five bibliographic reports that offer a description, designed to give the student some experience with older books. The second assignment, their final project, was to design an exhibition using books from either the Milwaukee Downer or Civil War Collections

Assignment One: Bibliographic Reports and Study Groups
Assignment Two: Final Project Presentation

Early Medieval Art and Architecture, ARHI 210 Gothic and Northern Renaissance Art and Architecture, ARHI 213

These two classes, taught by Professor Alice Sullivan, looked at manuscript facsimiles in our Main and Milwaukee Downer Collections.

Assignment: After a short “show and tell” session with the librarian, choose one facsimile piece and write a short paper answering the following questions:

  1. What role does the facsimile play in manuscript studies?
  2. How should we approach the materiality of the physical facsimile? Should facsimiles be considered reconstructive, reproductive, and/or representative of the texts they emulate?
  3. To what extent can a physical facsimile be used in lieu of the original book or text? What are the limits of using a facsimile?

Intermediate Artist Books, ART 332

This is one of three classes that look at artist books taught by Professor Ben Rinehart. This second in the series of classes, has the student research book making techniques along with book construction as it relates to artist books as an expression of art. I met with the class in the Milwaukee Downer Room and went over a short history of the book plus, showed them examples of different kind of book structure and bindings represented in the collection. Their assignment was to present to the class a book discussing their research from a book in the Milwaukee Downer Collection.

Assignment: Rare Book Presentation

Lincoln: Revolutionary American, HIST 472

Our strong Civil War Collection is a standout in the region. The collection is especially strong in Lincolniana. In this class, Professor Jerald Podair looked at Lincoln as the first modern American, challenging his students to see him as a “revolutionary” and one who set the course for America to become a modern nation. The one written research assignment was different depending if the student is a History major or not.

Assignment for majors: Write a 10-15 page research paper on any aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life, historical significance or legacy. Example paper topics: “Lincoln’s Road to the Emancipation Proclamation,” and “Lincoln’s Rhetoric of Inclusion.”
Assignment for non-majors: Write a 4-6 page book review on any aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life, historical significance or legacy. Example books reviewed: Lincoln and his Admirals, Lincoln’s greatest speech, Lincoln at Gettysburg, Lincoln unbound, and Lincoln’s melancholy.

Teach with us! We are happy to support students through assignments which requires engagement with our collections. Bring your class in for an hour or several in-depth visits to investigate our rare book collections. Please contact us if you would like to learn more.

Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum

Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum, published in 1522 in a tooled vellum (calfskin) binding with original latches intact. This is the third edition of this publication, with the first being published in 1516 and the second in 1519.

Erasmus, a Christian Humanist, was a the height of his literary fame when this was published. This edition has the added controversial, Comma Johanneum, read text along with a long footnote about how they were not included in the Greek manuscripts he consulted for the text. To avoid any occasion or personal unorthodoxy to undermine the acceptance of this commentary, he lived in Basil Switzerland from 1522-1527.

This edition is said to have been used by Tyndale for the first English translation of the New Testament (1526). Tyndale was burned at the stake as a heretic by Henry VIII in 1536.

Here are the additional verbiage:
1 John 5:7-8:  ⁷For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in Earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If the Comma Johnanneum was originally part of 1 John 5:7-8, it would be the clearest and most direct reference to the Trinity in the entire Bible.

Italian Renaissance Books Discovered

The Aldine Press mark, or printer’s mark. This symbol is also used for the honor society of Library Science, Beta Phi Mu.
The Aldine Press mark, or printer’s mark. This symbol is also used for the honor society of Library Science, Beta Phi Mu.

Written by Jill G. Thomas, Director of Technical Services

While looking through some library records, I recently discovered an interesting set of books. To investigate further, I pulled down two that were the oldest, 1565 and 1575.  They are both very nice octavos, vellum bound, but the best part is that they are printed by one of the most famous printers of the Italian Renaissance, Aldus Manutius (he used his Romanized name, his Italian name was Aldo Manuzio). He, his son, Paulus, and grandson, also named Aldus, all who worked in the Aldine Press in Venice.

Aldus Manitius is credited with producing the first italic type, introducing small and handy pocket editions, the octavo, like ours, and along with his son and grandson introduced a standard system of punctuation.  Paulus Manutius moved a branch of the Aldine Press to Rome and while here monopolized the privileges of release on the important texts approved by the Council of Trent including the Catechism and the Missal. 

Aldus, the elder’s, love of the classics and his drive to produce personal editions is what drove his press.  He and his family even wrote and published some of their own books, grammars, Cicero’s Orations, and some of Paulus’s Latin letters.  For more information on Aldine Press books, see the online exhibit at Brigham Young University.

More information about two of the Aldine Press publications at the Mudd Library:

Paraphrasi sopra I tre libri dell’anima d’ Aristotile, del R.D. Angelico Buonriccio Canonico reolare della congregation del Saluatore. In Venetia : Andrea Arrivabene, 1565.  This book was not published by Aldus Manutius but it has a stamp on the front lining page that says “Libreria Aldo Manuzio, Venezia.”

This is a critical edition of Aristotle’s work on the Soul by Fr. Angelico Buonriccio, Augustinian Order (OSA). The printer, Andrea Arrivabene, produced one of the most popular and influential books on spiritual devotion in the sixteenth-century in Europe, and reflected Italian radical (evangelical) religious thinking hoping to reform the Catholic Church from inspiration of the Reformation: Trattato utillissimo del beneficio di Iesu Cristo crosifisso , at least 3 ed. in the 1540s.

Epitome orthographiae Aldi. Manutii. Paulli R. Aldi. N. Ex libris antiques, grammitictis …Venetiis : Apud Aldum, [Symbol of infinity]DLXXV.  This is one of the books that Aldus Manutius the Younger wrote and published.  The Orthographiae set out to standardize the spelling of words from various text in Latin. This books is one of the greatest contributions to Latin orthography.

As a special collections librarian, discovering the story behind these books was very exciting. I had only seen books that were unauthorized reproductions of Aldine publications produced in Lyon or Amsterdam during the lifetime of Aldus the Elder (copyright was a little lacking in those days), so seeing the one and knowing the other belonged to this famous printing family was really great!

Special terms defined:

Octavos: A book composed of sheets which have been folded to make eight leaves. Generally it measures between 6×9½ inches and 5 × 7½ inches (c. 15 × 24 and 13 × 19 centimetres).

“octavo.” The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003. Credo Reference. Web. 13 November 2013.

Vellum: A fine parchment prepared from the skin of a calf, kid, or lamb.

“vellum.” Collins English Dictionary. London: Collins, 2000. Credo Reference. Web. 13 November 2013.

See Credo Reference for more about the Aldine Press (on campus or proxy logon required).


What’s New in Special Collections? New Lincoln Collection Items

The Mudd Library recently processed some excellent pieces for the Lincoln Collection. Some of these items are currently on display in the case outside the Lincoln Reading Room.

Although received previously, these first three pamphlets were just this year added into the collection. All three are a gifts from one of the collection’s benefactors, Robert S. French ’48.

Gettysburg Oration

Everett, Edward, 1794-1865. An Oration Delivered on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, (November 19, 1863) at the Consecration of the Cemetery … New York : Baker & Godwin, 1863. (pictured at right)
While versions of the Gettysburg Address were immediately published in newspapers, this printing of Lincoln’s address in Everett’s book is virtually its first publication in book form. Scholars have discovered only one extremely rare 16-page pamphlet publication preceding Everett’s book. The Library also holds another published version of Everett’s speech and Lincoln’s address, Address of Hon. Edward Everett at the Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg 19th November 1863, published by Little Brown of Boston, 1864.

Proceedings of the Republican State Convention : Held at Springfield Illinois, June 16, 1858. Springfield : Baihache & Baker, printers, [1858].
On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in Springfield, Illinois for the Republican State Convention.  At 5:00 pm they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.  At 8:00 pm Lincoln delivered his address to his fellow Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representative. In this speech Lincoln speaks the famous words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln warns that a nation cannot survive half-slave, half-free.

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865. Speech of Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois Delivered at the Cooper Institute, Monday Feb. 27, 1860.  [New York]: New York Tribune, [1860].
Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech (February 27, 1860) was one of his longest, at more than 7,000 words. However, it is not one of his speeches with passages that are often quoted. Yet, Lincoln’s forceful argument was stunningly effective. Lincoln was able to show that the founding fathers had intended Congress to regulate slavery. He named the men who had signed the Constitution and who had later voted, while in Congress, to regulate slavery. The New York City newspapers carried the text of his speech the next day, with the New York Times running the speech on the front page. The favorable publicity was astounding, and Lincoln went on to speak in several other cities in the East before returning to Illinois. By summer Lincoln was the Republican candidate for President.

The following were acquired by the library for the collection.


Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895.  My Bondage and my Freedom : Part 1, Life as a Slave, Part 2, Life as a Freeman. New York : Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855. (pictured at right)
This purchased piece is an autobiographical slave narrative by Douglass. It is the second of three autobiographies written by him. This second title is mainly an expansion of his first, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Although Lawrence does not have all three of these autobiographies, we also hold the third autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass written by himself, 1881.

Letter from Camp Randall, February 17, 1864. Manuscript from Rob to Charley Darrah.
This letter is from an unknown Union soldier stationed at Camp Randall during the winter of 1864. Camp Randall became the center of Wisconsin military activities, and more than 70,000 men were quartered and trained there. In July, 1863 Lincoln called for a draft, all men between the ages of 18 and 45 to be enrolled into local militia units and be available to be called into national service. By late 1863 men coming into Camp Randall were conscripts and draftees not volunteers. Draftees after mustering in, were under armed guard with orders to shoot anyone who tried to escape. Problems both within the camp and Madison began from a lack of discipline and too many men for the federal military agents to feed, clothe, and equip. In this letter, signed by Rob to Charley Darrah, he writes about guarding the conscripts and draftees, a fire at the Guard House, and attacks on citizens of Madison. The Invalid Corp, created within the Union Army, allowed partially disabled and formerly disabled soldiers to perform some form of light duty.

Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell, 1788-1879. Northwood; or, Life North and South : Showing the True Character of Both. 2nd ed.  New York : H. Long & Brothers, 1852.
This newly purchased piece is authored by Sarah Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1837-1877.  This was her first novel and this 2nd edition was issued after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin came out in 1852.  Hale opposed slavery but she did not support the abolitionists.  This edition has an added preface, “A Word with the Reader,” in support of the Union. The Library also holds one year of Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1861.

Fore-Edge Book Art

Fore-edge art from The Complaint; or, Night Thoughts

Fore-edge book art is a style of art that was popularized in the late eighteenth-century. A fore-edge painting is defined as, “a painting broken up into many separate parts, each of which appears on the right-hand (fore-edge) margin of each recto page of a book. The whole painting only becomes visible when the pages are fanned out.” After a fore-edge painting was completed, the pages were often gilt– further disguising the hidden works of art.  These paintings were usually added after the purchase of the book as a way to make it more special and personal for the recipient. As such, the content of the painting sometimes had little to do with the content of the book, but was selected with the recipient in mind. These paintings can often be found on books of devotionals and poems, but also on books covering a wide range of other subjects.

The Mudd Library has a lovely and varied collection of books with fore-edge art that were donated by two alumnae, Dorothy Ross Pain Lawrence class of 1918, and Bernice Davis Fligman Milwaukee-Downer class of 1922. To share the beauty and experience of seeing one of these paintings revealed, we’ve taken advantage of the short, looping video format of Vine. A beautiful image of a horse in a barn is revealed in the book,  A General History of Quadrupeds. Stanfield’s Coast Scenery, reveals sailboats on the Channel, and The Etonian, displays Windsor Castle. The Book of Common Prayer, a prayer book from 1826 for the United Church of England and Ireland hides an image of Glamis Castle

The Mudd Library special collections contain many interesting and lovely books with interesting and lovely histories. We plan on continuing to share these stories as often as possible.

Special terms defined:

Gilt: a shiny material, usually gold, used as a thin covering to other material,  with gold leaf decoration, gilt in the rounda foredge which is gilded after the book has been rounded, gilt in the square a foredge which is gilded before the book has been rounded

Recto: The ‘right’ or more important side of a two-sided object, e.g. a sheet of paper. In a book, the right-hand page (the left being the verso).

“fore-edge, foredge, painting.” The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003. Credo Reference. Web. 06 December 2013.

“gilt.” Dictionary of Publishing and Printing. London: A&C Black, 2006. Credo Reference. Web. 12 December 2013.

Matthews, Jack. Collecting Rare Books: For Pleasure and Profit. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1977.

“recto.” The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003. Credo Reference. Web. 06 December 2013.