Category Archives: new attention on old item

The Ghosts of My Friends

ghosts

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.

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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.

 

 

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.

Aristotlecover

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.

Aristotlekittycat

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

 

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.

 

Is your dance card full?

Dc constant Dc crandall

We have dozens of 19th and 20th century dance cards in the Colorado College archives. (The examples above, both from 1912, belonged to CC alumnae Dorliska Crandall and Katherine Constant.) Students find the cards intriguing, and ask lots of questions about them: how did this dance card thing work, exactly? Did you fill out your dance card in advance of the dance, or at the dance, or afterward as a souvenir? Almost all our dance cards are from women’s scrapbooks. How did men keep track of their dance partners? Did they just keep the list in their heads?

V. Persis Dewey’s 1918 pamphlet “Tips to Dancers: Good Manners for Ballroom and Dance Hall” holds the answers. Dewey tells us, in no uncertain terms, the proper use of dance cards:

The programs are distributed at the door, in the cloak room, or during a grand march. It is the duty of the man to make out the programs for the lady whom he has escorted to the dance and for himself. It is best to make out the programs all at once and as early in the evening as possible.

In filling out a program, the man should write his name on the first line of his lady’s program, and her name on his. To indicate their dances, a double cross xx should be used.

At a program dance where the men and women come separately, each one keeps his or her own program. When the man invites a lady to dance he writes his name on her program after the number they decide to dance together.

These conventions, breakable as they must have been, suggest that our dearth of men’s dance cards comes less from men not using them and more from men not saving them in scrapbooks. And indeed, with a bit of sleuthing, I did find several dance cards belonging to Eugene Gordon Minter, CC class of 1930. Some of these cards have erasures and corrections, suggesting that Minter’s original dancing plans might not always have come to fruition.

Dcfront Dcinterior Dcwitherasures Dcgeorge

Both women’s and men’s dance cards include both women’s and men’s names. Mr. Dewey does not speak of same-sex partners in his pamphlet on dance etiquette, but it seems that same-sex partners were a normal and natural part of formal dances in the dance card era.

I think I would have really dug this whole dance card thing in high school and college, but maybe not so much in middle school, when it seems likely my dance card would have been filled with names like “I.P. Freely,” “Seymour Butts,” and “Mr. Bates.”

Sources: Dorliska Crandall scrapbook, CC Archives box 947; Katherine Constant collection, box 545; Eugene Gordon Minter scrapbook, box 923.

Dream interpretation made easy

madame  fruitdreams

Madame Le Marchand’s Fortune Teller and Dreamer’s Dictionary (1863) will tell you the meaning of everything in your dreams. Each fruit, for example, has a particular meaning: cherries “portend vexation and trouble in marriage”; gooseberries “indicate many children,” and filberts “forebode much trouble and danger.” (Has J.K. Rowling’s Sybill Trelawney been reading this book?)

The numbers after each entry are the lucky numbers your dreams have provided. Visit Special Collections and request the book to begin interpreting your own dreams the official 1863 way.

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.