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Archive for the ‘Rare Books’ Category

Yesterday marked the last class visit to the Archives & Special Collections for the Spring 2016 semester. The class was “Early Women Writers” taught by Amherst English Professors Amelia Worsley and Ingrid Nelson, and it was a great excuse for me to dig into our collections to see what we have in this area.

Austen 1818

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Recently cataloged:

Valentine Vaux title page

The Adventures of Valentine Vaux, or, The Tricks of a Ventriloquist / by Timothy Portwine

Valentine Vaux woodcut on part no 3

This is another “penny dreadful” (you can read an earlier post about others in our collection). “Timothy Portwine” was actually the prolific Thomas Peckett Prest, who also wrote many parodies (or plagiarisms!) of Dickens’ works under the pseudonym “Bos.” Prest or his contemporary James Malcolm Rymer are usually credited with the authorship of The String of Pearls, or, The Barber of Fleet Street, in which the character Sweeney Todd had his first appearance. Valentine Vaux is a parody/plagiarism/lampoon of Henry Cockton’s The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist.

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Today marks the end of my three month research leave from my daily duties in Frost Library. I have spent some of my time away digging through the holdings of other repositories, including the Library Company of Philadelphia, The American Antiquarian Society, the Rare Books Division of the Library of Congress, New-York Historical Society, and New York Public Library. There are still many other collections on my list — my goal is to personally inspect as many copies of Samson Occom’s Sermon as I possibly can, a project that will take much longer than three months to complete.

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Equinox pressmark (designed by John Heins)

Equinox pressmark (designed by John Heins)

In 2010 the Library of America reissued all six of Lynd Ward’s “novels in woodcuts” (also called “novels without words”) in a two volume set. If you like graphic novels but have never read Ward’s work, these are a great introduction, and you can check them out from any of the Five Colleges libraries. If you like what you see, you can also visit the special collections at Amherst or Smith to compare the experience of reading one of the original editions. The Archives and Special Collections at Amherst owns a second printing (from December 1929) of Ward’s first, and probably best known, wordless novel Gods’ Man. Even though it was first published a week before the Stock Market Crash, the book sold so well that it went through five printings by October of 1930, with a sixth printing in 1933, totaling more than 20,000 copies.

A copy of the 1929 edition (left) and the 2010 reissue (right)

A copy of the 1929 edition (left) and the 2010 reissue (right)

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Last month, Mike posted about a recent gift of books from alumnus Peter Webb. I have cataloged them and they can be found via this search. Mike mentioned in passing that the gift included copies of some of Charles Eastman’s books in their original dust jackets:

Since dust jackets on hardcover books are common today, these may not seem all that exciting. But dust jackets from the early 1900s and before are quite rare, even in special collections libraries. See this recent post from the University of Virginia about a collection of 19th-century books in original dust jackets, donated by Tom Congalton. (more…)

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Christmas came early to the Archives & Special Collections when we received two boxes of books by Native American authors from Amherst College alumnus Peter Webb (Class of 1974) just before we closed up shop for our holiday break. There are many exciting items in this very generous gift, including copies of some of Charles Eastman’s books in their original dust jackets, but this item eclipses all the others:

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

Hmmm…a piece of an old newspaper? (more…)

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Just yesterday in the Archives Reading Room a student was looking over an artist book from our collection that caught my eye.  It is accurate to say that any book that comes in its very own egg casing typically does catch my eye.

IMG_1733The book is Evolve/Unroll by book artist Sara Press, published in 2012 by her imprint Deeply Game Publications. (more…)

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Etching by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1646

Recently cataloged: Muscarum scarabeorum vermiumque varie figure & formae / omnes primo ad uiuum coloribus depictae & ex Collectione Arundelian a Wenceslao Hollar aqua forti aeri insculptae (Antwerp, 1646) QL543.H65 1646

These 12 lovely little etchings of “flies, beetles, and worms” are over 350 years old, but look as crisp as when they were printed. The thin paper carries some foxing (the small brown spots that appear with age), and at some point in the past they were mounted onto newer leaves and bound. They are the work of Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677) who, though born in Prague, lived and worked primarily in England. He may perhaps be best known for his views of London, especially those before and after the Great Fire of 1666.

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Here in Archives & Special Collections we have a large and interesting collection of fine press books — that is, the work of small presses that produced, in limited numbers, books featuring design, typography, paper, ink and illustrations of the finest quality. It has been my lucky task this week to organize and catalog our wonderful collection of one of those fine printers, the Harbor Press, which operated in New York City from 1925 to 1942.  Specifically, I am working on our collection of Harbor Press ephemera — not its books, but all the flyers, greeting cards, advertisements, labels, letterheads, trade cards, bookplates, etc., which the Press produced for hundreds of commercial businesses, individuals, and, as we shall see, for itself, too.

HP-SH-1935-Book-26-EndDeviceWithPressName

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A page from this volume.

A page from this volume.

There was some celebrating back in early May, when we completed the cataloging of the 1,397 titles in the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection. Thankfully, no one got Gatorade poured on them, as had been threatened. I thought I would share in this post a little bit of the detective work that the last few titles required, and suggest questions that may be worth further research.

At first glance, a collection of poetry, stories, and art created in 1969 by students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) certainly looked as if it were a one-of-a-kind manuscript. Indeed, a note from the book dealer had called it “a unique collection.” Closer examination revealed that the text was printed (probably by silk-screening), although some of the artwork may have been done by hand before the printing. With no title page on our copy, I searched WorldCat in several different ways before I felt confident that there are at least two other copies of this work in libraries, one at the New Mexico State Library, and one at UC Davis. I suspect no copy has an actual title page, and this can lead to different libraries accidentally cataloging the same work in different ways. The copy at UC Davis was given a title based on the first poem in the book…which can be a valid choice according to cataloging rules, but sometimes is confusing for researchers.

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