There are so many items in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library that it would be impossible to tell you about each and every one. However, in our new series, the ABCs of Special Collections, which will run every two weeks for the next year, the library’s staff will share with you some of the unsung as well as better-known items of Special Collections. So today, we bring you the letter…
A is for abecedarium
An abecedarium is an alphabetical wordbook used as a primer for teaching reading and spelling. Among the many examples in Special Collections are those published by Henkel Press, a German language press in New Market, Virginia, that supplied newspapers, religious materials, and children’s books to communities throughout the Shenandoah Valley. Also shown here are examples of fine press and mechanical books as well as modern primers using various subjects to present the alphabet.
Contributed by Edward Gaynor, Head of Technical Services and Specialist for Virginiana and University Archives
A is for Amos Bronson Alcott
Amos Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May, friend of Emerson and Thoreau, was a leading figure of the Transcendentalist Movement in the middle of the 19th-century. His efforts at educational reform and utopian living were considered radical at the time, and though ultimately unsuccessful, his writings remain influential today. A search of VIRGO, our online catalog, features 27 hits related to Alcott, including letters to his famous daughter, and books he authored.
Contributed by George Riser, Collections and Instruction Assistant
A is for Ambrotype
Ambrotypes are sharply detailed, one-of-a-kind photographs on glass, packaged in protective cases similar to those used for daguerreotypes. An ambrotype is essentially a collodion on glass negative that is intentionally underexposed so that the negative image appears as a positive image when viewed against a dark background. The process of making ambrotypes was patented in the United States in 1854 by James Ambrose Cutting. The popularity of ambrotypes was short-lived, however, and the process was soon displaced by the growing popularity of albumen prints.
Contributed by Eliza Gilligan, Book and Paper Conservator, University of Virginia Library; text from the George Eastman House Photography Collections Online Glossary http://www.geh.org/taschen/htmlsrc/glossary.html
A is for American History
One of the cornerstones of the University of Virginia Special Collections is the American history library of Tracy W. McGregor (1869-1936). A unique call number classification scheme for the McGregor Library begins with “A” and is followed by the date of publication. A further delineation identifies the specific volume. The earliest volume in the collection is “A 1475 .P76” for the first edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, printed in 1475. It represents pre-discovery science and geography of the world before Columbus.
Contributed by Margaret Hrabe, Reference Coordinator
A is for Assiduous
It might also, in this case, stand for “artist” as they both define the life and personality of Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). His paintings are a legacy of devotion to divine detail. Creativity flowed from him like oil from a tube of artist’s paints, to the extent that the color cobalt blue came to be known as “Parrish Blue” by generations of artists who followed in his footsteps. Even his autographs reflect the care, detail, and flair of a born artist; why give in to mundane repetition when an upstroke here, a hook there, and a swash everywhere would embellish the letter more beautifully?
Contributed by Donna Stapley, Assistant to the Director
We hope you enjoyed today’s selections from the letter A, from the A is for Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library!