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.

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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.

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.

Women in the Book Trade

While we normally think that women were not allowed to participate in skilled crafts in early America, the book trades appear to have been an exception.  In colonial and revolutionary Maryland, both Anna Catherine Green of Annapolis and Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore were printers who oversaw the complicated processes associated with the production and distribution of printed information in the form of books, newspapers, political broadsides, pamphlets, almanacs, and various types of printed ephemera such as forms, tickets, and advertisements.  After 1800, fewer women operated as independent printers, which was an indication of changing social norms for the role of women and a changing economy that concentrated power in the hands of a few publishers.  However, women continued to participate in some aspects of the book trades, specifically type founding and book binding.  The casting, sorting and packaging of tiny pieces of lead type for printing required patience, a steady hand, and attention to detail.  Similarly, sewing the gatherings of leaves that formed books, required great manual dexterity.  Many woman had the basic eye-hand coordination required in these trades, because sewing, embroidering and other needle skills were expected activities for young females.

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