The Armed Services Editions: Books for Soldiers in World War II

Between 1943 and 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime shipped nearly 123 million books to American soldiers. Not just any books, the specially designed Armed Services Editions were lightweight paperbacks designed to easily fit in a soldier’s pocket. The 1,227 unique titles in the series were selected to appeal to a wide variety of interests, including literary classics, contemporary bestsellers, and various works of nonfiction.

At a time when books were banned or burned in Nazi Germany, sending books to soldiers overseas was seen as patriotic act. The slogan of the Council on Books in Wartime, “Books are weapons in the war of ideas,” reflected their belief that books were important for spreading the ideals of freedom and democracy. The books selected need not have lofty themes to be a part of the program, however, they simply had to be something that soldiers wanted to read. Books, the military discovered, were excellent morale boosters. A book could entertain a soldier anxiously waiting during long periods of inactivity, or it might be a soothing distraction for a soldier who had recently endured the agonies of battle.

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“Books are weapons in the war of ideas,”
Records of the Office of Government Reports, 1932 – 1947, World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945, National Archives at College Park. Reference URL: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/513575#.WgTBlBNfLiw.link

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Turtles, Terrapins, and Tortoises…Oh My!

A new exhibit in the Maryland Room is all about turtles, terrapins, and tortoises! On display are several illustrated natural history books from the rare book collection held in Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library. They include Nomenclator Aquatilium Animantium (1560), by 16th century Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner,  along with a variety of 19th century works highlighting the artistry and science of herpetology.

Also on display is Historia Testvdinvm Iconibvs Illvstrata (1792) by Johann David Schöpf. Schöpf was chief surgeon for the Ansbach regiment of Hessian troops, who fought for the British in the American Revolutionary War. After the war, he returned to Europe and published several natural history works.

Nestled among the rare books are a small selection of turtle figures acquired over the years by University Archivist Anne Turkos. These turtle toys, figures, and accessories help decorate every inch of her office with that “Go Terps” spirit!

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William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins: The Art of Book Design

Our Literature and Rare Book currators recently hosted a talented class of UMD art students studying typography and book design.What better way to illustrate the meticulous work of designing letters and page layouts than giving them opportunity to examine books from our William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins collections!


kelmscottWilliam Morris (1834-1896) founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891. He was already well know as an artist and author in England, as well as an avid socialist. His decorative arts firm Morris & Co. produced textiles, furniture, and stained glass to for decades before he ventured into book design. Towards the end of his life, he set out to create books that reflected his notion of an “ideal book”.  He criticized the ugly, machine-made books of industrialized England, from both a design aesthetic and the impact on traditional craftsmen. His press highlighted the artistry and craftsmanship he admired from the medieval era of early printed books.

Kelmscott Press books have a distinctive look and feel, reflecting Morris’s specific design principles for space, layout, and materials. He designed his own typeface, including decorative borders and intricate initial lettering for use in the press. He also had a hand in selecting the handmade paper and ink used in the printing process.

The masterpiece of the Kelmscott Press is the Kelmscott Chaucer, completed just months before Morris passed away. His lifelong friend and collaborator Edward Burne-Jones wrote of the Chaucer: “Indeed when the book is done, if we live to finish it, it will be like a pocket cathedral – so full of design and I think Morris the greatest master of ornament in the world”

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William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) was an American illustrator, typographer, and book designer. Like Morris, Dwiggins lamented the decline in the quality of books being printed in his lifetime. In 1919, he published Extracts from an Investigation into the Physical Properties of Books as they are at Present Published, which included a humorous graph illustrating the plummeting quality of book design.

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Dwiggins designed books that reached a more commercial audience, often working with Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, a publishing house in New York  later purchased by Random House.

Dwiggins’s designs are minimalist, utilizing stencil illustrations and playing with bold colors, a stark contrast to the heavily ornamented works by the Kelmscott Press.  However, Dwiggins utilized several of Morris’s design principles, including proportional margins and two-page unified design. He designed several typefaces for his books, including Caledonia, Electra, and Metro. Dwiggins used his familiar stencil designed to produce equally beautiful bindings. This is another clear difference from Kelmscott Press books, which featured plain vellum or blue board bindings. The result is a unique and modern take on a well-designed book.

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And that’s what makes these two collections such a great teaching tool for students interested in graphic design. Comparing the works of two very different, yet connected artists can inspire young designers. They question why the artists made the choices they did, explore what makes their work similar, and why they are unique. Of course it begs the ultimate question when comparing William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins- who designed the better book?

Visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to explore books from the William Morris and W.A. Dwiggins collections.

Literary Special Collections

Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library is home to a wide array rare and unique literary collections. From personal papers of authors and poets to early printed works, our collections cross a variety of subjects and time periods in the literary world.

Archival Collections

Below are some highlights from our archival literary collections in Hornbake Library:

  • Katherine Anne Porter papers
    • Personal papers of American author Katheriane Anne Porter (1890-1980), best known for her short stories and novel Ship of Fools (1962).
  • Djuna Barnes papers
    • Personal papers of avant-garde American writer and artist Djuna Barnes (1892-1982), best known for her novel Nightwood (1936).
  • Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven papers
    • Personal papers of avant-garde artist and poet Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927). She is associated with Djuna Barnes and the Dada movement.
  • Ernest Hemingway collection
    • A large portion of the collection consists of serials that include stories and nonfiction written by and about Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). It also includes some original correspondence to and from Hemingway. In addition, there are manuscripts and proofs of Hemingway’s work and biographies of Hemingway.
  • Literary First Appearances
    • Periodicals containing the “first appearance,” or first public dissemination, of many noteworthy 20th century literary works.
  • French Pamphlet Collection
    • Approximately 12,000 pieces dating from 1620 to 1966, covering many key episodes in the history of France. The largest part of the collection is made up of 7000 pamphlets from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, 1788-1815.
  • African American Pamphlet Collection
    • 20th century materials on African, African-American, and Caribbean culture and literature. The collection spans the years 1905-1979, although the majority of the pamphlets date from the 1960s and 1970s.

Subject Guides

Rare Book Collections

Our rare book collections contain books printed from the 16th century to modern times. Most are searchable in the online catalog. Below are some highlights from the collection:

  • German Expressionism collection
    • Contains serials and books that reflect German Expressionism, a culural, literary, and artistic movement that began in Germany prior to the First World War.
  • William Morris collection
    • Works by 19th century British author, socialist, designer and founder of the Kelmscott Press, William Morris (1834-1896).
  • Eikon Basilike
    • Guide to the Eikon Basilike and related materials held by Special Collections and University Archives

Want to learn more? Explore our literary special collections online or visit the Maryland Room to speak to a librarian. You can also contact us via email.

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter for updates and images from our collections.

Presidential Campaigns – Through the Candidates’ Eyes

Think the current presidential election campaign has been unusual?  The new exhibit in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library explores some of the strange techniques that presidential candidates have used to appeal to voters across much of American history. Candidates (or their spokespeople) have spread serious ideas and spurious notions; built interest from specific demographics of people; sought the support of parties and coalitions of parties; and deployed advertising to increase public visibility and name recognition.

The documents and artifacts in this exhibit date from the 1830s to the 1980s, and are drawn from a variety of collections available for research in the Maryland Room. These include the Spiro T. Agnew papers, the James Bruce papers, the Joseph Tydings papers, the archives of the National Organization for Women (Maryland Chapter), the Rare Books collection, and the Marylandia collection.

Items of particular interest, perhaps, are the autograph letter signed by Senator John F. Kennedy after his nomination by the Democratic Party in 1960, and two official White House photographs, which separately depict Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and President Ronald Reagan. But, then again, there’s the 1932 poster for Franklin D. Roosevelt which promoted “Beer Instead of Taxes.”

Visit these and more in the Maryland Room through the end of October.

History of the Book in Special Collections

We recently brought out treasures from our rare book and special collections stacks for a visiting History of the Book class from UMD’s iSchool. Many of the books on display represented a wide variety of illustrations, from early incunable woodcuts and the delicate wood engravings of Thomas Bewick to more modern lithography, aquatints, and engraving techniques.

Also on display were landmarks in literature, philosophy, and politics that showcase the changes in book production, marketing, and reception from the 16th century through the present day. Early works on display included French revolutionary pamphlets and philosophical works, such as our first edition Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, printed in 1651The rise of the modern paperback novel were represented by early editions of Harriet Beecher Stowe,  Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce. The two artists books by Werner Pfeiffer, Out of the Sky (2006) and Alphebeticum (2006) are wonderful examples of how modern artists use typography and construction to push the envelope of how we experience books.

Browse our rare book collections online or contact a librarian for more information.

New Acquisition: Spenser’s Faerie Queene by the Ashendene Press

IMG_7607.JPGRecently, Special Collections and University Archives acquired several beautiful examples of early 20th century fine printing. Among them is Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, printed in by The Ashendene Press in 1923.

The Ashendene Press is one of the finest examples of the private press movement in England, which valued well-designed books produced with high quality materials by skilled workmen. Private press craftsmen and artists scoffed at the poorly made, commercially-driven books and the mechanized book production of industrialized England. These beautifully crafted books are a testament to the artistry of individuals like Emery Walker, William Morris, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, Charles Rickets, and others who sought to reclaim traditional book art in a time when profit and mass production trumped integrity and design.

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The Early Printing Collection: An Introduction

Special Collections and University Archives at UMD is home to a new (very old!) collection of early printing. The collection has been processed and digitized, and is available in Digital Collections or by request in person in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library. You can also view our Flickr album featuring images from the collection.

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Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

The Early Printing Collection is a set of thirty-six leaves and pages that were printed in Europe in the late 15th century. It includes printed pages from many well-known works, including the The Nuremberg Chronicle, Historia Scholastica and The Cologne Chronicle.

Incunabula

Typographical printing done before 1501 in Europe is often called Incunabula, a funny pseudo-Latin phrase that refers to the birth of printing in the 15th century. The 15th century saw important advances in the movable type printing press thanks to Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press invented around 1450. The Gutenberg Bible is the first (and probably most famous) book printed using movable type, and while you won’t find any of its pages in the Early Printing Collection, the collection does feature many other pages from Bibles and other religious and historical chronicles printed around the same time period. Within the collection the printing itself is generally clear and easy to read — that is, if you understand Latin or Middle German!

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