Author Archives: jessyrandall

First solo Sappho!

Another book acquired in February 2012 through a gift from our anonymous donor: the first solo printing of Sappho’s poems. Up until Abraham Vandenhoeck printed this book in Hamburg in 1733, Sappho’s poetry had appeared only in multi-author collections like this one from 1600. 1733 may seem awfully late for a solo Sappho, but not when you remember — as CC Classics Professor Owen Cramer reminded us — that the majority of her known work wasn’t discovered until the late 19th century.

Our new book has Greek and Latin on opposite pages and an elaborate frontispiece with a bust of Sappho surrounded by ancient coins. We don’t know how the editor, Johann Christian Wolf, was able to compose a 32-page biography of Sappho (born ca. 615 B.C.), but we commend his effort.

With the ownership signature of Michael Wodhull (1740-1816), poet and translator of Euripides. Colorado College students, faculty, and staff have access to much of Wodhull’s work in paper at Tutt Library or via Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

CC Special Collections acquires its fourth incunable!

In February of 2012, through another generous gift from our anonymous donor, we purchased the library’s fourth incunable. (Incunabula are European printed materials from pre-1501. A list of all of our incunabula and early printed books is here.)

Our new acquisition is a 1489 edition of Jacobus de Voragine’s Aurea Legenda, i.e. the Golden Legend. It’s in Latin and tells the life stories of Christian saints. The printer is Georg Husner of Strasbourg. (If you’re wondering why a book published in Strasbourg has “Argentine” in its colophon and on its spine, the answer is that the Romans referred to Strasbourg by its military name, Argentoratum, which became Argentina in medieval Latin.)

This particular copy is in a later binding and has almost all its hand-done initial letters. At least one previous owner made marginal notes on several pages. It will be useful to scholars of medieval history (the text was originally written in the 1200s) and to anyone interested in book history.

We could afford our new incunable because it lacks four leaves and has stains and other flaws — all of great interest to anyone interested in books as objects, so we’re very pleased with the bargain! We know faculty and students will make good use of it in the years to come.

More soon on other purchases made with this same anonymous gift!

Are you “slim,” “medium,” or “stout?” The conductor will decide.

This 1917 train ticket from our Denver & Rio Grande Railway file has a hole-punch area for a physical description of the passenger. The conductor would mark whether the passenger was male or female; tall, medium, or short; and slim, medium, or stout. The purpose of this, presumably, was to cut down on ticket-stealing and ticket-transferring, not to humiliate the passenger. One hopes.

CC faculty ball team, 1896

Did they play baseball or softball? We’re not sure. Marshall Sprague’s Newport in the Rockies identifies almost all the players and the “fair [female] rooting section,” starting at the top, from left to right: Professor Lewis Ahlers (German), right field; Dean Edward S. Parsons (English), pitcher; Reverend Philip Washburn, first base; Professor Florian Cajori (Physics), left field; Professor Arthur Stearns (Elocution), catcher; Professor Francis W. Cragin (Geology), second base; Librarian Manly Ormes, center field; Telegraph Editor Charles Sprague, third base; President Slocum, shortstop. The women in the coach are (left to right) Nina Lunt, Mabel Stearns (behind bar), Faith Gregg, Regina Lunt, Sarah Jackson (Mrs. P.A. Loomis), Mary Noble (CC class of 1896), Foster (Flossie?) Dickerman, Mary Slocum at far right.

A 1536 Dante to go with our 1491 Dante

In August of 2011, we purchased a 1536 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy for use alongside our 1491 edition, a donation from Jane Carruthers Hale in memory of her father John A. Carruthers. A great many versions of the Comedy were published in the early years of printing, perhaps as many as 40 editions between 1472 and 1550. Both of our editions have woodcut illustrations: at right you can see two renderings of Lucifer devouring Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot.

The image on the left is from the verso of leaf 142 of the 1491 edition; the image on the right is from the verso of leaf 189 of the 1536 edition. Yes, the 1536 edition has some discolorations. How do you think we could afford it? We don’t mind.

Addendum, July 18, 2016: the Pokemon craze has come to Colorado College, and we’re happy (and a bit alarmed) to report that a creature known as Rattatta has been enjoying (and possibly nibbling on) our 1491 edition of Dante:


Mary Chenoweth’s Turn Book

Artist Mary Chenoweth taught at Colorado College from 1953 to 1983. She was adept in many art forms, including collage, painting, woodcarving, printmaking, and more. Special Collections purchased her one-of-a-kind The Turn Book in July of 2011. It is long and thin (5 x 46 cm) with slipcover, canvas binding, and 18 paper or canvas leaves, all hand-painted.

The Turn Book, probably made in the 1990s, is playful and inviting: at one point, Chenoweth suggests the reader might want to take part in the “turns,” saying “Your turn.”

Special Collections has one other Chenoweth book, Malaysia (copy 1 of 7) and a collection of Chenoweth papers.

Human monsters in 1665

In late 2010, Special Collections purchased a 1665 edition of Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris, an important work on human and animal abnormalities. Unlike his predecessors, Italian scientist Liceti (1577–1657) believed that physical anomalies occurred naturally, not as divine punishment for sin. This edition, printed in Amsterdam by Andrea Frisii, contains many engravings depicting both the possible (conjoined twins) and the impossible (human-animal hybrids such as the one in the image above). More of Liceti’s images are available at Yeeeeee.

Qur’an bifolium

In August of 2010, Carky and Mary Rubens (CC classes of 1952 and 1953, respectively) donated a bifolium (in other words, two leaves, four pages front and back) from a 1743 manuscript Qur’an. Each leaf is in Arabic (black ink) and Persian (red ink) with gold decorations and notes on the text in the margins. Peter Wright (CC Religion faculty) tells us that the image with this post shows part of Surat-al-Kahf (Chapter 18) or the Story of the People of the Cave.

We look forward to showing the leaves to students in the 2010-2011 school year, along with other manuscript and printed leaves from our collections, listed here and including, of course, a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible donated by the Rubens family in 2005.

CC gets a codex!

For several years, Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscripts has been looking for an affordable codex for CC. In May of 2010 they found a late-15th century Breviary on vellum for us. We couldn’t be more pleased with the purchase.

This Breviary, a collection of abbreviated prayers in Latin, was done in France circa 1490. It is in a 17th century binding of white silk and silver thread. Its first page has an illuminated initial B (not shown). It is quite small, just 11 cm tall. Its text is incomplete: it lacks at least 12 leaves and possibly as many as 20 or more.

We expect the Breviary to be useful to anyone interested in medieval history, the book as object, or CC’s new thematic minor in The Book.

Pinsky poems with Kunc prints

Image from


In early 2010, the library purchased a copy of Robert Pinsky’s Ephemera: Poems with prints by Karen Kunc (Avoca, Nebraska: Blue Heron Press, 2009). Our copy is number 4 of 50 copies signed by the artist.

Kunc’s work was concurrently on display at CC as part of the Sugar, Sugar exhibition in the IDEA Space at the Cornerstone Arts Center, and within days of its acquisition several students visited Special Collections to view the book.

In support of Colorado College’s new minor in The Book (the past, present, and future of the written word in its material form), we are slowly building our collections of artists’ books and examples of different sorts of book structures; for more information on the minor, visit this page.