Between 1943 and 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime shipped nearly 123 million books to American soldiers. Not just any books, but 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. Continue reading
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!
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!
William 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”
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.
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.
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?
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 1651. The 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.
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.
The ‘History of the Book’ class being offered through the iSchool at the University of Maryland often has an assignment requiring students to compare a book published before 1850 with its more modern equivalent. It gives students the opportunity to examine differences in binding, paper, size, and many more details that distinguishes books produced in different eras. They are able to examine a rare book up-close, taking in the tactile nuances that you don’t always find in a modern paperback or ebook.
Special Collections and University Archives has a wonderful Rare Books collection that can serve as a teaching tool for those interested in book history. Stop by the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library North and ask a librarian for more information about our Rare Books holdings.
Interested in more history of the book resources in Hornbake Library? Check out our subject guide.
SO, HOW DO I FIND A BOOK PUBLISHED BEFORE 1850?
If you are interested in locating a book published from a particular time period, use the ‘Advanced Search‘ function in the Classic Online Catalog and limit the date range to the years you would like to search, then limit the location to ‘Marylandia & Rare Books’. If you would also like to view books from McKeldin and other libraries on campus, simply skip this step. You can also narrow your search by title, author, or keyword.
If you have any questions, we are here to help! Visit us in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library North and ask a librarian.
SOME POSSIBILITIES FROM OUR COLLECTION INCLUDE:
- Balzac. Eugénie Grandet. (1841) Rare Stacks PQ2166 .A1 1841
- Balzac. Le Pere Goriot. (1839) Rare Stacks PQ2168.A1 1839
- Boswell. Life of Johnson (1807) Rare Stacks PR3533.B6
- Bryant, William Cullen. Poems. (1832) Rare Stacks PS1150.E32 & PS1150.E32a
- Bunyan, John. Pilgrim’s Progress. Rare Stacks PR3330.A1 1844 (other editions also available)
- Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. (1790) Rare Stacks DC150.B8
- Byron, Lord. Childe Harold’s pilgrimage. (1812). Rare Stacks PR4357 .A1 1812b
- Chaucer, Geoffrey. The works of Geoffrey Chaucer. (1721). Rare Folio PR1850 1721
- Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe (1810) Rare Stacks PR3403.A1 1810 (2 v.)
- Dickens, Charles. American Notes (1842) Rare Stacks E165.D53 1842
- Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. (1841) Rare Stacks PR4566 1841
- Dickens, Charles. The posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club. (1842). Maryland Rare Stacks PZ3.D55 Pi 1842
- Goldsmith, Oliver. The Vicar of Wakefield. (1830) Rare Stacks PR3490.A1 1830
- Homer. Iliad. (1795) Rare Stacks PA4025.A2 1795 (other editions also available)
- Homer. The odyssey of Homer. (1818) Rare Stacks PA4025.A5 P6 1818 (other editions also available)
- Livy. Roman History (Ab urbe condita) (1578) rare Folio PA6452 .A2 1578
- Locke, John. Letters Concerning Toleration (1765) Rare Folio BR1610.L4
- Marshall. Life of George Washington (1804) Rare Stacks E312.M342
- Milton, John. Paradise lost. (1739) Rare Stacks | PR3560 .A1 1739. (other editions available)
- Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven and Other Poems. Maryland Rare Stacks | PS2609 .A1 1845b
- Thomas Paine. Rights of man; being an answer to Mr. Burke’s attack on the French revolution. (1791) Rare Stacks JC177 .C128
- Richardson, Samuel. Clarissa. (1751) Rare Stacks PR3664.C4 1751
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Contrat social; ou, Principes du droit politique. (1762) Rare Stacks JC179 .R83 1762a
- Scott, Sir Walter. Kenilworth (1821) Rare Stacks PR5319.A1
- Scott, Sir Walter. Rob Roy. (1818) Rare Stacks PZ3.S43 Ro 1818
- Shakespeare. The merchant of Venice. (1802). Rare Stacks PR2838 .A1 1802. (several of Shakespeare’s works are available in altered editions)
- Shakespeare, William. The plays of William Shakespeare, in ten volumes. (1773) Rare Stacks | PR2752 .J6 1773
- Shelley. Poetical Works (1840) Rare Stacks PR5402 1840
- Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations (1789) Rare Stacks HB161.S612 (other editions available)
- Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. (1774) Rare Stacks PR3714.T4 1774
- Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War (1588) Rare Folio PA4452 .A2 1588
- Virgil. Aeneid (1529) Rare Folio PA6801 .A2 1529
- Voltaire. Historical and critical remarks on The history of Charles XII, King of Sweden. (1732) Rare Stacks DL732 .L33
- Wollstonecraft, Mary. Vindication of the Rights of Women. (1794) Rare Stacks HQ1596.G62