New Resource: Black Writers and Artists in Special Collections

Literature and Rare Books in Special Collection and University Archives is a rich resource of works black artists and writers. Explore these items in our new subject guide on Black Writers and Artists!  

Non-fiction writing by black authors covers a wide variety of topics, including pamphlets on politics, racism, activism, and culture in our African American and African pamphlet collection. The subject guide also highlights fiction ranging from children’s books by Chinua Achebe to literary masterpieces by writers such as James Baldwin.  Contributions of black artists and printers to other parts of the bookmaking process, such as illustrators like Cledie Taylor and black owned presses like the Broadside Press, are also included.

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Digital Resource: German Periodicals

We may be self-isolating for the time being, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t travel the world!  If you want to learn more about German history and culture, visit the Internet Archive to view digitized items from the University of Maryland’s collection of German books and periodicals.

This digital collection of 29 items spans from 1832 to 1923 and includes a variety of topics.  With works on subjects as diverse as the Napoleonic Wars, the Dada movement, bacteriology, art and architecture, World War I, and German poetry, there is something for everyone! 

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New Acquisition: The Little Prince

While we’re self-quarantining, one thing many of us have been looking for to pass the time is a good book!  If you’re looking for something to keep you company while social distancing, or to read to the family, you may want to find a copy of The Little Prince, the classic novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  First published 77 years ago (April, 1943) in France, it is a beautiful and heartwarming story that continues to be a favorite for the young, old, and everyone in between. If you don’t own a copy of the book, you can also find a film adaptation streaming on Netflix.  Although The Little Prince was originally written as a children’s book, its themes of love, loneliness, and friendship have made it popular with readers of all ages.

Before Special Collections and University Archives closed to the public, our Literature and Rare Books staff received a generous donation of over 50 editions of The Little Prince published all over the world, translated in 38 languages! It’s a wonderful addition to our collections, covering topics ranging from book history to modernist literature.

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New Exhibit: Chester Himes Cover to Cover

If you’re a fan of a good hardboiled detective novel, make sure you stop by the Maryland Room to check out our new exhibit on Chester Himes!  Inspired by the 2019 AHPA annual conference hosted by UMD, “One Press: Many Hands: Diversity in the History of American Printing”, the exhibit displays the work of one of America’s most intriguing crime novelists.

Born in Jefferson City, Missouri, Chester Himes (1909-1984) began writing and publishing short stories while serving a 25 year sentence for armed robbery in Ohio Penitentiary in the 1930s.  His first novel If He Hollers Let Him Go was published in 1945.

Himes moved to Paris in the 1950s, where he was celebrated in literary circles alongside fellow expatriate writers Richard Wright and James Baldwin. While in Paris he began writing pulp detective novels, including the popular Harlem Detective series, and achieved critical acclaim. In 1958, he was awarded France’s most prestigious prize for crime fiction, the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, for The Five-Cornered Square (alternate title for For Love of Imabelle).

Himes wrote pulp fiction and protest novels that confronted issues of systemic racism in America. His unique style of noir fiction combined violence, anger, humor, absurdity, social realism, and gritty drama into an entertaining and unflinching portrayal of prejudice and corruption.

Lauded in Europe, Himes found less critical success in America, where his works were frequently published in paperback editions featuring lurid, provocative, and visually striking imagery.  The cover art of these inexpensive paperbacks reveal the unique marketing of pulp fiction titles.  

In response to the cover of the Dell paperback edition of Run Man Run, Himes wrote: “If it is necessary to put this type of cover… on this book in order to sell it to the American people, the American people are really and truly sick.”

Himes passed way on November 12, 1984 in Moira, Spain. Decades later, his works still provides enjoyment and debate. To see the unique and classic pulp fiction cover art featured in many American editions of Himes’ work, stop by the Maryland Room room the next time you are in Hornbake Library.

Explore more literary collections held at Special Collections and University Archive here!

Also, make sure you check out the exhibit by the entrance to the Maryland Room, Women in Print, highlighting the work of women binders, illustrators, and book artists!