Happy Thanksgiving from Special Collections

Celebrate Thanksgiving with turkeys from Special Collections! Visit the Maryland Room to explore our collections when we re-open on Monday, November 30 at 10am.


New Additions to Special Collections

New acquisitions to Special Collections and University Archives includes several private press books including The English Bible, printed at the Doves Press, as well as Don Quixote and Spenser’s Faerie Queene printed at the Ashendene Press.   Also included among these beautifully printed books are plates of John Martin’s mezzotint illustrations of Paradise and Lost and Morte D’Arthur,  printed at the Shakespeare Head Press.

Visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to view more items from our literature and rare book collections.

The Early Printing Collection: An Introduction

Folio 28 recto

A page from the Cologne Chronicle, printed by Johannes Koelhoff the Younger in 1499.

A new (very old!) collection of early printing has now been processed and digitized, and is available in the Digital Collections or by request in person in the Maryland Room. 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.


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!

Folio 1

A page of Genesis from Historia Scholastica is covered in paste marks

Early Printing History

Even though the leaves are over 500 years old, the collection is in relatively good condition and provides excellent examples of early printing history, from paper-making to moveable type setting to woodblock printing. Many of the leaves were printer’s proof sheets or scraps, but since paper was still a relatively valuable commodity at the time, these scrap pages were recycled and used in book-binding. They’ve since been removed from bindings, but many still bear marks from the old binding paste. Looking more closely at the leaves in the collection, you can find examples of mould-made papers with visible chain lines and laid lines that indicate how the paper was made by hand using a wire mesh screen. Watermarks, the designs and images found in laid paper, can also be seen on some of the leaves, especially those from the Nuremberg Chronicle. Most of the printing is done in a Gothic typeface, also called Blackletter, though there are a few examples of roman type as well. There are leaves from several important printers from the time period, including Günther Zainer from Augsburg, Konrad Dinckmut from Ulm, and Johann Koelhoff The Younger of Cologne. As for the context, most of the leaves are from religious texts like bibles, psalters, and books of hours, while a few of the leaves come from historical and legal texts.

Folio 21 verso

An unidentified fragment of a Missal is hand-initialed and rubricated in red ink.

Explore the Collection in the Classroom

The Early Printing Collection has many potential applications for undergraduate and graduate courses on campus. Courses in departments like English, History, Art History, Art Studio, Library Science, and others can utilize the collection to study firsthand the history of printing, typography design, and rare books. Plus, with thirty-six separate folios of leave, there are enough examples for students to work individually or in small groups to closely examine the details of the page and learn about early printing firsthand.

Figure 2

Agriculture, Illustrations and Prophecies

Figure 1

Figure 1

Hello everyone, it has been some time since the last post and there are lots of new things to report.  First off, I would like to introduce myself, Marie-Laure Flamer, as a “new” addition to the pamphlets team.  Since my start in October, I have examined over 1,000 pamphlets with diverse subjects such as opinions on King Louis XVI’s trial and judgment, satirical pieces and political poems, and far too many law decrees.

A little more about myself; I am a second semester senior studying environmental science and sustainability.  Though my academic background does not evoke a sense of relevance to the arts and humanities, my fluency in French and my familial ties to French culture and history fuel my interest in this project.  I take the project’s title, Revealing La Rèvolution, to heart given that reading these pamphlets excites the French patriot within me and transports me to the 18th century France.  What more could you ask for of a part-time job?

Figure 2

Figure 2

Last semester, I worked my way through endless pamphlets concerning royal decrees, biographies, and reports on judiciary proceedings; however, in the past few weeks I have stumbled upon a few documents revolving around agriculture that I found to be particularly interesting.

In a recent collection of these agriculture-related pamphlets, I found this one describing the cultivation of potatoes and suggestions for its culinary preparation (Figure 1).  Also included was an illustration of a moulin used to make potato flour, an important ingredient in breads and pastries of the time (Figure 2).

Figure 3

Figure 3

I would also like to share this beautiful stylized initial portraying King Louis XVI (Figure 3).  Now if I could only find a matching version of a stylized letter M, then I could make a cool personalized signature stamp with my initials!

On a different note, many of the pamphlets showcase the eloquence of the writing style of the period and demonstrate the power of written word.  One pamphlet “motto” that particularly struck me can be seen below, which says “The kings are ripe, it will not be long before they fall.”

Figure 4

Figure 4

Thanks to everyone checking back in and stay tuned for more updates!

Revealing La Revolution: The Environmental Scan & Microsoft Excel, Part 2

As you now know I began my tenure as the interim Curator for Literature and Rare Books by trying to get more familiar with cataloged items in Rare Books and Special Collections by creating a spreadsheet that would give me an overview of the collection as a whole. Technical Services provided me with a MARC file containing the complete MARC records for every item in these collections and pointed me to MARCedit to be able to create a customized report about the collections. Previously I explained how I used MARCedit in Revealing La Revolution: The Environmental Scan & MARCedit, Part 1. Now I’m going to share how I imported and set up my data in Microsoft Excel so that it revealed the contents of Rare Books and Special Collections to me.

I began by opening a new workbook in Microsoft Excel and went to the “Data” Menu Ribbon.

Excel Data Menu Import from Text File

Excel Data Menu Import from Text File

In the furthest left column I choose to import my data “from text” and directed the request box to the correct file.

Excel Import File Selection

Excel Import File Selection

The Import Wizard then allowed me to choose how to import the file. I chose “delimited” because that was the type of file I created and left “Start import at row” to its preset of “1”. In order to keep the diacritics and special characters from foreign languages I had to change the “File origin:” to match my file type “Unicode (UTF-8)”.

Excel Import Selection of Unicode UTF-8 File Type

Excel Import Selection of Unicode UTF-8 File Type

For Step two I chose “tab” to match my previous file.

Excel Import Selecting Tab Delimited

Excel Import Selection of Tab Delimited

And in Step 3 I choose “Text” because I didn’t want Excel thinking it was smarter than me and assuming that what might be a combination of numbers and letters is something other than it is and changing it. You know Excel likes to do this!

Excel Import Selection of Text

Excel Import Selection of Text

Finally I told excel that I wanted it to use the current worksheet to display the data. And after the import was complete I saved my new excel file!

Excel Import Location Selection

Excel Import Location Selection

Finally, because I wanted to sort my data I choose to “Format as Table” from the “Home” Menu Ribbon.

Excel Formatting as a Table

Excel Formatting as a Table

And now I have a very useful excel table with all currently cataloged Rare Book and Special Collections items.

Sample data with special characters and diacritics

Sample data with special characters and diacritics

More sample data with special characters and diacritics

More sample data with special characters and diacritics

This file is so much more useful than browsing the stacks for projects like the environmental scan for Revealing La Revolution. It is also a great help to me as I update the webpages about our collections and reach out to instructors with resources for their classroom. Hopefully the information on how I created this report is useful to you, too.

See Revealing La Revolution: The Environmental Scan & MARCedit, Part 1 to learn more about using MARCedit to read how I used MARCeditor to define the fields for my Excel spreadsheet.

Revealing La Revolution: The Environmental Scan & MARCedit, Part 1

As the interim Curator of Literature and Rare Books I am writing the Environmental Scan for the French Pamphlet Project. Two tools I have found very useful to help with this are MARCedit and Microsoft Excel (I sort of love spreadsheets). I became familiar with MARCedit over the summer as I attempted to gain intellectual control over my expanded collection responsibilities and learned a new (to me) feature of Microsoft Excel which has proved very useful for putting together this report. So I wanted to tell you a little about what I’ve learned.

After I was appointed interim Curator for Literature and Rare Books in May, I requested a report from Technical Services of all cataloged items in Rare Books and Special Collections. I already had a comfortable grasp of the literary manuscript collections but had not had an opportunity to really get to know the Rare Books and Special Collections volumes. In an effort to become better acquainted with these collections, I asked Technical Services to include several descriptive MARC fields (language and subject entries) for each item in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Rare Books and Special Collections Stacks

Rare Books and Special Collections Stacks

Rare Books and Special Collections Oversize Stacks

Rare Books and Special Collections Oversize Stacks

I was hoping that the final report would provide me a broad overview of the collection as well as the ability to examine the collection at a more granular level without having to go and browse the stacks. While I do love browsing the Rare Books stacks this just seemed a very inefficient way to get to know the collections. Additionally, Rare Books are fragile (sorry to state the obvious) and I don’t want to be pulling them of the shelves, flipping through them, and the re-shelving them to gather information about them that should be discernible from their catalog records.

Rare Books Shelf

Rare Books Shelf

Technical Services ran a standard report version of my request and offered me a MARC file with all Rare Book and Special Collections items complete MARC records if I wanted to create my own report using MARCedit. I accepted the challenge and a short guide to MARCedit.



After downloading and installing MARCedit, the first step to using MARCedit requires running the entire MARCfile through MARCbreaker to create a UTF-8 MARC file. By converting the file to a UTF-8 file the succeeding programs that this information is run through will recognize the special characters and diacritics. MARCbreaker will clean up and search for errors in MARC records while providing preliminary data about the entire file. This data let me know how many times each MARC field was used which helped me in figuring out what MARC fields I wanted MARCedit to provide in my report.



I then ran my new MARC UTF-8 file through MARCedit and checked the result of my report in Microsoft Excel. My report was a mess! Many of the records were missing information in the MARCfields I had requested and most of the records in foreign languages using special characters and diacritics came through garbled. The problems were not MARCedit or Excel’s they were mine. I realized that I was going to need to dig a little deeper into MARC fields and get crafty about how I imported my data into Excel.

I had a basic understanding of the MARC fields from one of my introductory iSchool courses but found it necessary to rely heavily on the Library of Congress’s MARC21 Bibliographic Data website to make sure that I was getting the MARC fields I truly wanted.* I had to run the report several times before I was able to figure out all of the MARC fields I wanted and how to request them from MARCedit.

Entering the fields I wanted into MARCedit was the hardest part. I could only select a single MARC field or field and subfield at a time when I knew I wanted about 20 fields in my report. So it was time consuming to select each one individually and see whether or not UMD Libraries was using that field the way I expected them to or not. The fields I finally ended up with in my report are:

008$35 – Language Code (letter 1)

008$36 – Language Code (letter 2)

008$37 – Language Code (letter 3)

* Did you know that for MARC’s three-letter-language-code each letter is entered individually into three separate subfields? Also, I had to enter each subfield individually so that each letter gets its own column in the spreadsheet!!!  Why catalogers? Why?

035 – OCLC #

050 – LOC Call Number

090 – Local Call Number

100 – Main Entry (Personal Name)

110 – Main Entry (Corporate Name)

240 – Uniform Title

245 – Title Statement

246 – Title Variation

260 – Publication

300 – Physical Description

362 – Dates of Publication

500 – General Note

510 – Citation & References

600 – Subject Entry – Personal Name

610 – Subject Entry – Corporate Name

611 – Subject Entry – Meeting Name

630 – Subject Entry – Uniform Title

648 – Subject Entry – Chronological Term

650 – Subject Entry – Topical Term

651 – Subject Entry – Geographic Name

653 – Index Term – Uncontrolled

655 – Index Term – Genre/Form

700 – Added Entry – Personal Name

740 – Added Entry – Uncontrolled Related Title

752 – Added Entry – Hierarchal Place Name

800 – Series Added Entry – Personal Name

830 – Series Added Entry – Uniform Title

852 – Location (Local)

856 – Electronic Location & Access

Having finally established all the MARC fields I needed. I returned to MARCedit to begin the process of exporting my final file. Under the “Tools” Menu I choose “Export Tab Delimited File” and set up a path to my new file, including the file name and .txt file type.

Exporting from MARCedit Step 1

Exporting from MARCedit Step 1

Next I entered each of the individual MARC fields I wanted for my report.

Exporting in MARCedit Step 2

Exporting from MARCedit Step 2

Once they were all entered I choose to export the file. I opened the text file just to check and make sure that it looked correct.

Exporting from MARCedit Step 3

Exporting from MARCedit Step 3

However I did not really want to keep my data as a .txt file. I wanted to be able to analyze the data and manipulate it in a table format. So I needed to import my .txt file into Microsoft Excel.

To be continued in Part 2… Revealing La Revolution: The Environmental Scan & Microsoft Excel, Part 2

*While I was working on this the government (including all Library of Congress webpages) was shut down. I had to use the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine to retrieve the information I needed.