the building that never was

Cutler New West imaginary


This illustration is from E.P. Tenney’s The New West, published 1878. It shows — or purports to show — the western facade of Colorado College’s Cutler Hall (also known as Palmer or simply “The College,” depending on the date).

Doesn’t it look enticing? A potential CC student could picture herself sitting with classmates and faculty in rocking chairs on that big back porch, talking together about Aristotle as they gazed out at a glorious Pikes Peak sunset.

Except that the porch, indeed the whole western piece of the building, was never built.

Nothing in The New West suggests that this illustration is any less real than the illustration of the building’s eastern facade, and indeed, at the time, they were equally imaginary. In 1878 the college did not yet have a freestanding building and operated out of a storefront in downtown Colorado Springs.

The middle piece of the planned building opened for classes in 1880, looking rather lonely out on the prairie:


Around 1882, wings were added:

Cutler exterior 1883But the western-facing bit was never built.

1814 Magic Flute

MozartmusicMozart title pageMozartPersonen





Look at this gift we got from Paul Petersky, CC class of 1977! It’s a two-volume score of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, in German and Italian, published in Bonn in 1814. It’s in remarkably good condition for its age, and we know it will be fun to show to CC students in the years to come.

1794 Wollstonecraft

wollstonecraftThe first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in London in 1792, currently sells for about $20,000 (if you can even find one on the market). Too rich for our blood! We recently acquired a copy of the third American edition (Philadelphia, 1794) for a fraction of that price. (About a twentieth, if you must know.) Our edition was published toward the end of the author’s life: she died in 1797.

Colorado College students read this text in a number of classes (English, Philosophy, Feminist and Gender Studies). Perhaps an enterprising student will take the opportunity to compare this edition with earlier and later editions we have in electronic and paper form.

The Ghosts of My Friends


ghostsinstructionsThe Ghosts of My Friends is an autograph book with a twist. Published in the early 20th century, it’s a near-blank book meant to be used for sideways signatures to be turned into “ghosts,” that is, humanoid (or ghostoid) shapes representing the signers.




The “ghosts” pictured here were made in 1916 from the signatures of Polly McKeehan and Geo. B. McDonald.

ghostsexample ghostsexample2
There are about 40 copies of The Ghosts of My Friends in U.S. libraries. Each one, of course, would contain different ghosts. We brought our copy out recently during a class discussion about identifying people from their handwriting. This book takes that idea a step further, suggesting that a person’s handwriting is that person in a profound way.



An “indestructible” Mother Goose

Special Collections recently purchased an “indestructible” 19th century edition of Mother Goose, Mother Goose’s Melodies: containing all that have ever come to light of her memorable writings. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1879. What makes it indestructible, you ask? It’s printed on coated linen, so the book is chewable, droolable-on, and unrippable. (If you click the image on the right, you’ll see that the page is made of cloth.)

mothergoose mothergooseinterior

This isn’t the first “indestructible” edition ever published. The London firm Addey & Co. advertised its “Indestructible Books for Children” printed on “cloth expressly prepared” as early as 1856 (see the ads in the back of George Measom’s Light from the East). American firms also published “indestructible” books around this same period.

While some might argue that all books should be indestructible, it seems particularly useful in a book for young children. Most students at Colorado College are familiar with cloth or plastic books from their own childhoods, so we’re guessing it won’t take them long to figure out why a publisher might print Mother Goose this way. If they can’t figure it out, I guess the curator could give them a hint by nibbling on the front cover.

spooooooooky x-rays from 1896

In honor of Halloween, I present spooooooooooky x-ray images made by Colorado College professor Florian Cajori ca. 1896. These are probably the first x-ray images west of the Mississippi.

Cajorihandxray1896 Cajoriratxray1896 Cajoribirdwingxray1896 Cajorishoexray1896 Cajoriscissorxray1896

What you’re seeing are a spooooooooky hand, a spoooooooky rat, a spooooooky bird wing, a spooooky foot in shoe, and a spoooooky pair of scissors. The hand and the foot belonged to CC professor Frank Loud. Colorado Springs photographer Horace S. Poley developed and printed the photographs and labeled them. He did not use any form of the word “spooky.”

For more information, see: J. Juan Reid, “Florian Cajori: First X-ray Photographs in the West,” Colorado College Bulletin, February 1982, pp.12-13.

temporarily part of the Blumberg collection

In the 1980s, Stephen Blumberg stole thousands of books and manuscripts from American libraries, amassing a collection worth millions of dollars. (For the full story, see his Wikipedia entry or the “Bibliokleptomania” chapter of Nicholas Basbanes’s A Gentle Madness.)

VillerscoverColorado College was one of the many stops on Blumberg’s cross-country book-stealing tour. He stole at least two books from us. One of these was no big deal, a 1930s pamphlet on Bent’s Fort, easily replaceable. The other, however, was quite rare: Henry Villard’s The Past and Present of the Pikes Peak Gold Region, published in 1860. Currently, it’s held in only a handful of U.S. libraries and isn’t available from any dealer. The FBI valued the CC copy, in its crummy modern binding, at $10,000.

Blumberg may have stolen as many as a dozen books from our library, but only these two were recovered. Library staff worked with the FBI to get the books back. It was particularly complicated because Blumberg not only removed or covered over library ownership marks from books, he also added false library marks. So, for example, a book stolen from Harvard might get a University of Michigan bookplate slapped onto it, and then a “withdrawn” stamp on top of that.

VillersmissingbookplateAs was his wont, Blumberg used his own saliva to remove the CC bookplate from our copy of this book. (He frequently chose to lick bookplates off, whether he was in library reading rooms or at home.) Nevertheless, the FBI tracked the book down, and it was returned to CC after Blumberg’s 1991 trial. He spent almost five years in jail. Since 1996, he has been convicted twice more for similar thefts.

Because researchers often want to see the book that Blumberg stole, but can’t always remember the name of it, we now state in our catalog record that our copy of the Villard book was “temporarily part of the Blumberg Collection.” It’s a good book to bring out with classes when we want to talk about the ethics of book collecting, and always sparks an interesting discussion.

1598 Aristotle discovery

For many years, Special Collections had about thirty books and boxes on a shelf labeled “cataloging snags.”  We ignored these as long as we could, but finally one day we gave the shelf some attention.

As you might expect, we found mostly 20th century books in non-Roman writing systems — books in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, etcetera. There was also a box of old coins, including, gasp, a penny from the 1950s, worth perhaps as much as 15 cents to an expert collector. The shelf was full of junk, in other words. Nothing “special” for Special Collections at all.

And then there was this.


The curator opened it up.


Let us try to approximate the sound she made at this point. It was something like this:

aahhAAHHAAHHHHHH?! urghhghhrraahhhhrghhfhfhhhhghhh.

The book is the first published English translation of Aristotle’s Politics, printed by Adam Islip in London in 1598. It has the bookplate of scholar Sir Sidney Lee (b. 1859), editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. He wrote a little bit about Aristotle and a lot about Shakespeare.

We cataloged it right away. How it ended up on the cataloging snags shelf, we don’t know. It wasn’t terribly difficult to catalog — it has its title page, and the Library of Congress owns a copy. It’s in beautiful condition and is one of the more valuable books we have in the library. It’s now in our temperature- and humidity-controlled high-security vault. We bring it out regularly to show to classes in Classics, Philosophy, Political Science, and Book Studies. And we’re thinking about making the kitty cat on the title page the mascot for Special Collections.


CC student-made books at The Floating Library

9561183486_67c11c4b14_m The Floating Library in Minnesota has accepted a number of books made by CC students at The Press at Colorado College.  We are thrilled! Books include Post Book, Animal, The 2014 Senior Fiction Chapbook Series, Circular Logic, and Back Pages. Authors/printers/designers include, in no particular order, Andrea More, Sean Rapp, Atticus Moorman, Amos Adams, Kristy Murray, Eliza Ashley, Eliza Brilliant, Hannah W., Hershall Cook, Justine Comacho, Grace Hunter, Karl Oman, Steven Hayward, Andrew Pyper, Sam Tarlow, Gracie Ramsdell, Tucker Hamspon, Jay Combs, Ben Grund, Sami Kelso, Alec Grushkin, McKenzie Ross, Naomi Blech, Savannah Worth, Eddie Figueroa, Zack Smith, Elise Burchard, Anneka Shannon, Maria Torres, Ming Lee Newcomb, Isabel Leonard, Katie Barasch, Natasha Appleweis, Daniel Rood-Ojalvo, Mike Mayer, Patrick Lofgren, Nanette Phillips, Adara Lawson, Tara Coyle, Heather Ezell, Drew Zieff, Jesse Paul, Melissa Rush, Evan Ryan, Emily Kohut, Madelyn Santa, Mikala Sterling, Kyra Wolf, Josie Wong, and Aaron Cohick.


History and Future of the Book printing projects

postbook cover postbook page postbook doublespread

In support of Colorado College’s minor in book studies, Humanities Liaison Librarian Steve Lawson and Curator of Special Collections Jessy Randall co-teach a half-block class, “The History and Future of the Book,” offered every other year since 2010. Each time, students (classes of five, eighteen, and twenty-five) worked with the printer at The Press at Colorado College to make some sort of book-like object of their own devising. At least one copy of each of these is now preserved in Special Collections (along with other student-made printing projects for other classes). The projects are PostBook (2014), Title (2012, also available digitally), and Book Quotes Book (2010).

titlecover book quotes book 2010