New Exhibit: Rare Books Big and Small

A new exhibit in the Maryland Room celebrates rare books that share a common physical attribute – their unique format. Specifically their shape and size! Thin and thick. Big and small. Folio. Miniature. Quadragesimo-Octavo. From the tiniest book in our collections that can be held in the palm of a hand to larger works that require two people to move, these books showcase the variety of shapes and sizes utilized by bookmakers over the centuries.

Physical attributes such as book dimensions raise compelling questions for those interested in book history. For example: Why did the printer choose such a small format? Who is the intended audience for a massive book? How does size affect the experience of reading a book? Format and size has an impact on price, accessibility, and construction of a book. Along with other physical attributes, it is an important element to examine when investigating the history and usage of a rare book.

Three exhibit cases in the Maryland Room contain oversize and miniature books dated from the 1400s to the 1900s, all part of the Rare Books collection in Special Collections and University Archives. The oldest item, featuring an impossibly small font meticulously lettered by hand, is a vellum manuscript leaf from Italy, dated 15th century. It measures roughly 4 inches high (including large page margins). On display alongside the illuminated manuscript leaf is a miniature edition of the Reliquiae sacrae Carolinae. Or, the works of that great monarch and glorious martyr King Charles the I , printed in Hague in 1657.

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Navigating the Early Modern Era in Special Collections

What do Shakespeare, Thomas Hobbes, and Galileo have in common? All three were among the most prominent figures of the Early Modern era, a time period lasting roughly from 1500 to 1700. The Early Modern era was a time of political and religious upheaval.  Catholics and Protestants battled with one another for power, and both France and England experienced bloody civil wars.  It was also a time of innovation.  Advancements in science and technology changed how people saw the world and writers such as Shakespeare contributed the period’s developing literary culture.

To learn more works printed in this era, check out our new subject guide – Early Modern Works in Special Collections!

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New Exhibit: Banned, Erased, and Dangerous Texts

From compiling lists of forbidden works to burning books, censorship has manifested in many forms over the years. Books have often been the target of censorship, usually by religious and political institutions threatened by ideas that challenge how we view the world.

Inspired by the recent School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures symposium, a new exhibit in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library highlights artists, authors, and texts that have been banned, erased, and branded dangerous throughout history.

In more recent history, repressive regimes like Franco’s Spain and Nazi Germany in the 1930s were notorious for censorship. Authors and artists who expressed ideas contrary to the government were banned and their books outright destroyed.  In Germany and Spain, this included works by Ernest Hemmingway, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, Bertolt Brecht, and others labeled degenerative or subversive.

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Mathematics in the stacks

Last semester we received a request to develop a tour for students in MATH107. At first glance, this seemed like an unlikely fit for our education program. The instructor explained that her students were mostly arts, humanities, and social science majors and we quickly understood how this collaboration could be a great opportunity to reach out to these students.

I worked with the curators of our collections to identify material. Course topics included:

…data analysis, equations, systems of equations, inequalities, elementary linear programming, Venn diagrams, counting, basic probability, permutations, combinations, tree diagrams, standard normal and normal distributions…includes problem solving and decision making in economics, management, and social sciences.

Curators recommended a great deal of material that I had no idea existed within out stacks! This was truly a hidden collection.

Material fell into four thematic sets, including early books on mathematics, educational resources, workplace tools, and discussions of gender and mathematics. Explore the resources used for the class below and, no matter your topic, reach out to us to explore potential educational opportunities. You might be surprised what we can find related to your topics.

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Oh Deer, A New Exhibit!

A new exhibit highlighting reindeer illustrations from our Rare Books collections is now on display in Hornbake Library!

On display in the welcome desk area are several natural history books illustrating reindeer, including  Conrad Gessner’s 16th century Historiæ Animalium, Thomas Bewick’s A General History of Quadrupeds , John James Audubon’s The Quadrupeds of North America, and Lewis’s Catechisms of Animated Nature.

Visit Hornbake Library to see these wintertime favorite creatures in person. Be sure to check out our holiday Testudo booktree and pick up a free holiday card from the archives!

 

Special Collections Celebrates #FrankenReads

Special Collections and University Archives is joining the campus -wide celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with a FrankenReads exhibit in the Maryland Room!

Looking to get into the Halloween spirit? Visit Hornbake Library to view modern illustrated editions of Frankenstein on display, including a pocket-sized Armed Forces edition distributed to soldiers during World War II and editions featuring the artwork of Barry Moser and Lynd Ward.

Step further into the Mary Shelley’s world and explore works by her and fellow writers of the Romantic Era. Included in the display are two first editions of John Polidori’s The Vampyre, a short novel that had it’s beginnings at the same gathering Shelley began telling the story of Frankenstein.

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Also on exhibit are works by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Don’t forget to visit more libraries at the University of Maryland, including Architecture, Art, STEM, Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, McKeldin Library, and Library Media Services for more Frankenreads fun! Visit the Frankenreads @ UMD website for all the events, exhibits, and Frankenreads news.

To explore more works of Romanticism and other literary treasures in Literature and Rare Books collections at Hornbake Library, check out our Literary Research in Special Collections guide.

Visit Hornbake Library to learn about our holdings or contact us for more information.

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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