building a feminist collection

As you may recall, we recently acquired an early edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. We had such an outpouring of interest in the book that we decided we should reach out to the Feminist and Gender Studies program at CC and ask for suggestions for other acquisitions. A lively discussion ensued about the books that had brought us to feminism, and Special Collections ended up purchasing several first and/or interesting editions of:

Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Sylvia Plath, Ariel
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Louisa May Alcott, Her Life, Letters, and Journals
Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Robert Bly’s copy with his annotations)
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

We’re always happy to talk with faculty about acquiring books they’ll use with their classes. I’m looking forward to incorporating these new acquisitions into instruction sessions in FGS classes and others.

CC Authors Reception

The CC Authors Reception is today! We’re celebrating 70 faculty and staff authors with publications since May of 2014. It’s quite gratifying to me, as a librarian and a writer, to see the impressive scholarly output of the faculty and staff at Colorado College, a small liberal arts college with a focus on teaching. You’d think we were a big university from the amount of publications on display!

This year we’re concurrently celebrating a few amazing new acquisitions in Special Collections, since, why not, we’re just upstairs from the authors reception. We’ve mentioned many of these acquisitions in earlier blog posts, but not these two:

themistoclesThemistius. Paraphrasis in Aristotelem. [Treviso, Italy]: Bartholomaeus Confalonerius and Morellus Gerardinus, 1481. Purchase. Now the earliest printed book in the library, beating out a 1484 Jacobus de Voragine for the honor. With bookworm damage (not affecting text) and a previous owner’s marginalia throughout.


beaumont fletcher madBeaumont, Francis, and John Fletcher. Fifty Comedies and Tragedies. Second folio. London: Printed by J. Macock, for John Martyn, Henry Herringman, Richard Marriot, 1679. Gift of the National Endowment for the Humanities Professorship at Colorado College, 2015, courtesy Steven Hayward.

The event is co-sponsored by Tutt Library and the Crown Faculty Center.

The Book of Mormon at CC

Book of Mormon spineNo one had requested our copy of the first edition of The Book of Mormon in at least fifteen years, but that all changed last month. First one request, then another, and then eighty Mormon visitors in one day, broken up into four groups in order not to overcrowd the reading room.

The Book of Mormon, the foundational text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was first published in Palmyra, NY in 1830. 5000 copies were printed, of which at least 144 are currently in libraries. book-of-mormon-deseret-alphabet-1Joseph Smith’s text has been reprinted hundreds of times and translated into many languages and alphabets, including Brigham Young’s Deseret alphabet (one of several alphabets developed to simplify spelling in the 19th century, including one invented by Melvil Dewey, yes, he of the card catalog system).

Book values change with the times, and the monetary value of this book has increased exponentially. According to library records, Colorado College purchased our copy for $250 in 1962. It was one of the first purchases made using the Hulbert Fund, honoring Archer Butler Hulbert, CC professor and scholar of the American West. The book is now worth approximately $100,000. Our copy, however, is not for sale.

Book of Mormon purchase

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 Woman, 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.