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.)

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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.

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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.

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The curator opened it up.

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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.

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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.

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History and Future of the Book printing projects

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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).

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What does Special Collections look like?

Coburn Library Colorado Room ca 1920
With plans afoot to renovate Tutt Library in the near future, we thought it might be fun to document the spaces Special Collections has inhabited over the years.

In Coburn Library, we had the Colorado Room, home to Professor Archer Butler Hulbert’s books and often the professor himself. Hulbert taught history at CC from 1920 until his death in 1933. He published many books on the American West and Southwest, including The Forty-Niners and the Overland to the Pacific series.

Coburn was built in 1892, renovated in 1940, and razed in 1964, so that was the end of the Colorado Room.

The architects’ plans for Tutt Library, built in 1962, contained a small Special Collections area adjacent to a Smoking Lounge [!]. The main room was used primarily for display. In 1977, the Woman’s Educational Society funded custom-built wooden shelves for the area, which was renamed the Colorado College Room.

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In 1980, when the collections and services of the library outgrew the original Tutt building, the college built “Tuttlet,” an annex to the south. It contains a new Special Collections with the same W.E.S. shelves.

In recent decades, we’ve had some quiet days…

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and some very busy days (additional shelves built by Dan Crossey).

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We’re looking forward to seeing what happens next for Special Collections at Colorado College.

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May acquisitions

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In May of 2014 we acquired lots of new goodies. We purchased Karen Hanmer’s boxed set of binding models, Biblio Tech: Reverse Engineering Historical and Modern Binding Structures.genderzines

Adison Petti of Colorado College’s Collaborative for Community Engagement donated about thirty zines to the CC Zine Collection, most of them concerning social activism and/or transgender experiences.

And our own Amy Brooks, Cataloging Coordinator at Special Collections, donated a 1951 cookbook published by Westinghouse, Sugar an’ Spice and All Things Nice, which is full of excellent recipes and even more excellent illustrations.

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stenciled music, a sea monster, and a Harry Potter knockoff

Three exciting new acquisitions in Special Collections:

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For our history of the book collection, an example of an unusual printing method for music (or anything): stenciling. Description from Les Enluminures: Antiphonal for the Day Offices, Diurnale Carmelitarum in quo continentur omnia quae cantantur in choro per annum [Carmelite Diurnal Containing Everything Sung in Choir throughout the Year]. In Latin, stenciled manuscript on parchment with musical notation. France, Paris, eighteenth century, c. 1700-40 (?) (after 1689).

Jumping ahead about three hundred years, we have a diorama-style artists’ book, Bryan Kring’s Sea Monster. From the Abecedarian Gallery description: “When the brass ring is pulled, the waves move, the sailboat rocks, and the arm of the monster rises threateningly.” Yes, it does, and it’s wonderful.

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Last and perhaps least, Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon, an unauthorized Harry Potter book in Chinese, with illustrations stolen from Disney and other sources. This will be a useful book for Harry Potter fans and anyone interested in copyright and intellectual property. See this article for more information.

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rats, rumps, and a nightmare

rump songsDuring a recent book move in Special Collections, we discovered, by chance, some wonderful surprises in our rare book vault. For example, it turns out we have a full Rump … a nineteenth century facsimile of a two volume set first published in 1662, officially titled Rump: or An Exact Collection of the Choycest Poems and Songs Relating to the Late Times. The books contain political poems and songs and, well, as you can guess, a lot of butt jokes. Mark McDayter at the University of Ontario has a rather thorough website about Rump, and a digital version of the  facsimile is available at the Internet Archives. (I learned from McDayter that you can tell the difference between the 1662 first edition and the 19th century quasi-facsimile by looking at the S’s. The original edition uses the long ∫ throughout; the quasi-facsimile never uses it.)

ratsWe also learned that we have Rats, or rather, Histoire des Rats by Claude-Guillaume Bourdon de Sigrais, published 1737, containing this gorgeously creepy engraving (detail). A digital facsimile of Rats is available from Google Books A digital facsimile of Rats is available from Google Books.

nightmareAnd if that illustration wasn’t enough to give you a nightmare, here’s a different kind of nightmare for you, from another recent discovery, George Cruikshank’s Comic Alphabet (1837). (We have many other alphabet books, including a popular pop-up.) A full version of the Cruikshank is available digitally here.