Class Notes: Tolkien, Middle Earth, and Medieval Manuscripts in Special Collections

A few weeks back, we shared on this blog the story of our recent acquisition of a rare Tolkien book. A few days later, curator Molly Schwartzburg received an e-mail from English Department graduate student Caitlin Hamilton, who had just begun teaching her own semester-long undergraduate course, Exploring Middle-Earth: Tolkien and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition. Caitlin was hoping we could show the recently acquired volume to her class.

Well, we could do more than that, right? Molly and Caitlin decided to put together a broader presentation introducing students to items in Special Collections that would help them to understand the kind of cultural artifacts Tolkien studied as a scholar, and which he often imitates or alludes to in his Middle-Earth novels.From objects printed with text–such as cuneiform tablets and runestones–to medieval manuscripts and early maps, the session was jam-packed with items that would spark the intellectual imagination of any Tolkien scholar (and perhaps a few budding medievalists).

Setting up

Curator Molly Schwartzburg puts the finishing touches on the display before the students arrive. Don’t miss the tiny cuneiform tablets and facsimile runestone at the front right of the picture, just behind the massive choirbook. These were of great use in discussing the tenth-century Exeter Book Riddles and the inscribed ring in Tolkien’s trilogy.

Molly leading class

Curator Molly Schwartzburg starts off the class with the story of acquiring Songs for the Philologists. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A student feels a piece of parchment. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Much of the session was about medieval books, so we passed around sample pieces of parchment for students to handle. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Curator Molly points out detail of ? for students to examine. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Molly points out tiny illuminated dragons decorating a fragmentary manuscript. The students had just finished reading the greatest monster story of all, “Beowulf,” and Tolkien’s 1936 lecture, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” In relation to this (and of course, to Tolkien’s own creature creation Smaug) Caitlin hoped to show them some medieval iconography of dragons or other magical creatures. Happy to oblige! (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Students take a close look at our medieval manuscripts, featuring the legend of St. Margaret. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Students take a close look at two illuminated  medieval manuscripts featuring the legend of St. Margaret, who was swallowed by a dragon. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

One of the images students viewed was this page from the Verse life of St. Margaret from a Picardy Book of Hours, ca 1325. Image by UVA Library Digital Services.

One of the items students viewed was this page from the verse life of St. Margaret from a Picardy Book of Hours, ca 1325 (MSS 12455). Image by UVA Library Digital Services.

Caitlyn? shows her class a facsimile of ? (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Caitlin (center) uses a facsimile of an early map of the world to show students how changing norms of map orientations can be confusing. Turn this map sideways, and suddenly Britain is recognizable. Students viewed a number of map facsimiles and originals in the class visit in preparation for an upcoming assignment on Tolkien and cartography.   (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

In conclusion: what more could we ask for from a gift such as the Tolkien book that inspired this visit? It is wonderful how one item in our collection can open new pedagogical opportunities. Now, if only someone would donate us some beautiful first editions of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

grad_student_borges_2A few days before the semester begins, our reading room generally gets pretty quiet, since summer visitors have headed home and our own faculty are busily preparing for the semester. So I was delighted to find this trio poring over materials together at the front table this afternoon, looking extremely excited and even a bit giddy. Some quick investigating revealed that they are (left to right) Tommy Antorino, Rebekah Coble, and Maggie Czerwien. They are brand new Ph.D. students in the Spanish Department. They met at their department orientation on Monday and learned about Special Collections at a Graduate Student Resources panel yesterday.  Finding themselves with a bit of free time on their hands this afternoon, they headed down Under Grounds, and after learning the ropes from our reading room staff, found themselves in front of a Jorge Luis Borges manuscript. Hence, the giddiness.

I didn’t want to interrupt them for too long, so I asked if I could take their picture, and if they would share with me an adjective about their experience:



“Ecstatic to learn of the resources here at U.Va.”

Tommy, Rebekah, and Maggie, welcome to U.Va.!! We are so excited to have you and all your fellow new graduate students here on grounds. Here’s to a fantastic new academic year.

Tales from Under Grounds: Literature and U.Va. Societies

This is the third in a series of four posts, spotlighting the mini-exhibitions of students from USEM 1570: Researching History. This is the abridged version of the students’ projects, featured at their outreach program, Tales from Under Grounds.

"Save the Date," Fall 2014. (Photograph by Caroline Newcomb)

“Save the Date,” Fall 2014. (Photograph by Caroline Newcomb)


Abby Ceriani, First-Year Student

Photograph of Abby Ceriani by Sanjay Suchak, November 19, 2013.

Photograph of Abby Ceriani by Sanjay Suchak, November 19, 2013.

Gothic Literature

This exhibit shows a brief history of Gothic literature, which has had a great influence on both its readership and later literary works. Gothic novels were taken both seriously and ironically as shown by the popularity of the genre and its parodies.

Authors, such as Ann Radcliffe who wrote The Mysteries of Udolpho, were at the heart of the Gothic novel movement. However, not everyone took Radcliffe’s novels seriously. Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey, making fun of Gothic romance novels.

To appeal to a broad audience, Gothic fiction was produced in multiple volumes as well as in smaller, cheaper booklets called chap-books. These books, with their elements of romanticism, horror, and mystery have thrilled and entertained audiences over the centuries.

(Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey: and Persuasion. London: John Murray, 1818. Jane Austen’s famous novel Northanger Abbey was a parody of Gothic romance novels, specifically, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. Austen’s novel is about a girl with an overactive imagination. She tries to imagine her ordinary situation as that of a Gothic romance, which causes her much trouble. Austen also makes use of the iconic Gothic scenery by having much of the book take place in an old Abbey. On page 69 of Northanger Abbey, Austen refers to The Mysteries of Udolpho and lists several other Gothic novels. (PZ2 .A8 N 1818 v.1. Sadlier-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction. Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

(Image by Petrina Jackson)

The Bleeding Nun, a Mechanical Print from The Monk. London: S. Poole, 1817.  The writing on the bottom of “The Bleeding Nun” says “This mechanical print exhibits by its shadow, the terrific change of features of the bleeding nun, according to the description in the novel of The Monk.” The Monk, written by Matthew Gregory Lewis, is an iconic Gothic novel. The mechanical print shows the nun with normal features and can be changed to show the nun with a skull’s face. (Broadside 1817 .B54. Sadlier-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction. Image by Petrina Jackson)


Becca Pryor, First-Year Student

Becca Pryor talks to a guest about her exhibition, November 19, 2013. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak.)

Becca Pryor talks to a guest about her exhibition, November 19, 2013. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak.)

Meeting Marjorie

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was born on August 8, 1896 in Washington DC. At 14, Rawlings’ short stories were published in the Washington Post. During her studies at the University of Wisconsin, she wrote for the Wisconsin Literary Magazine.  While living in Louisville, KY and Rochester, NY, Rawlings wrote for local journals as well.  After feeling restless living in cities, Rawlings and her husband moved to the rural coast of Florida.  It was here where Rawlings’ writing career really took off.  She drew inspiration from the people, nature, and interactions between the two to shape her novels, such as The Yearling, and short stories.

Rawlings exposed a side of American culture that had not been shared.  She lived in the scrub with a family in order to experience their lifestyle and learn how to appreciate their high spirits amidst low circumstances.  By fully immersing herself in the culture of Florida, she was able to write from a genuine and sincere perspective.

(Image by Petrina Jackson)

Photographs of Rawlings’ Cross Creek, Florida Home. These photos were developed on October 23, 1968, which is 15 years after Rawling’s death.  Rawlings and her husband bought a seventy-two-acre farm in Cross Creek because of the great beauty she associated with the area.  Cross Creek inspired Rawlings to write many short stories, which were published in Scribner’s Magazine.  After some time at Cross Creek, Rawlings moved in with a family who resided in the scrubs of the inland of Florida, so that she could experience firsthand life in rural Florida.  Here, the honesty of the people in the scrub amidst their challenging circumstances impressed Rawlings. (MSS 6785-d. Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Image by Petrina Jackson)

(Image by Petrina Jackson)

Catalog of Books In the Taylor Library of American Best Sellers. Lillian Gary Taylor records the title page of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling as well as other information about the book, including its price and physical description.  The Yearling was published in 1938 and won Rawlings a Pulitzer Prize in 1939.  The novel was also the best selling book of 1938 and sold over 250,000 copies in that year alone.  The popularity of this book was so great that it has been translated in over 20 different languages and also made into a motion picture in 1946.  The novel describes the relationship between a young boy, named Jody, and his pet fawn, Flag. Like Rawlings’ other books, The Yearling is set in the inland of Florida where nature plays a key role in shaping the story. (MSS 5231-b. Taylor Collection of American Best-Sellers. Image by Petrina Jackson)


Adam Hawes, First-Year Student

Adam Hawes introduces himself at Tales From Under Grounds, November 19, 2013. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak.)

Adam Hawes introduces himself at Tales From Under Grounds, November 19, 2013. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak.)

The Raven Society

Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps the most well-known Gothic author of the 19th-century. His mysterious tales are some of the most recognized works in literature.  Poe is probably also the most famous college dropout in the history of the University of Virginia. He only attended the university for one year before gambling debts forced him out.  Despite only attending U.Va. for one year, Poe’s influence can still be felt here in the form of the Raven Society.

Named for Poe’s best-known poem, The Raven Society has been at U.Va. since 1904 when it was established as a merit-based, social, literary society. The society continues to hold academic integrity at a high value and presents awards to students and faculty for their academic interests and pursuits.  The Raven Society also presents scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students at each school of the university.  In addition to awarding academic achievement, the society has worked since 1907 to restore and upkeep Poe’s room on the West Range. Overall, the society keeps Poe’s spirit alive at the University of Virginia.

(Image by Petrina Jackson)

The Raven Society of the University of Virginia: A Brief Historical Note by Authur Kyle Davis, 1987. This broadside serves as an overview of the Raven Society. Printed over 80 years after the founding of the society, it lists the history of the society as well as the many aspects of the organization. It also explains membership requirements as well as the the purpose of the society. This document is from the papers of Francis L. Berkeley, Jr. (Broadside 1987 .D38. Image by Petrina Jackson)

(Image by Digitization Services)

This photograph shows the Raven Society at their annual Raven Awards Ceremony, 1952.  At this ceremony, the Society presents the annual Raven Award to students, faculty, administrators, and alumni, recognizing them for their scholarly pursuits.  The members can be seen here dressed formally. (RG-30/1/10.001. University of Virginia Visual History Collection. Image by Digitization Services)


Carrie Zettler, Second-Year Student

Carrie Zettler discusses her exhibit with (fill in). (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak.)

Carrie Zettler discusses her exhibit with library staff member Barbara Hatcher. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak.)

The Hot Feet In Hot Water

The Hot Foot Society was formed in the spring of 1902 by a group of U.Va. students living on the East Range. The stated purpose of the organization was to host large parties that were open to all who wished to partake in the revelry. Unstated was the acknowledgement that members of the Hot Foot Society liked to drink. Never intending to be members of a secret society, Hot Feet often publicly displayed their drunkenness to the dismay of the University’s faculty.

In 1911, the Hot Foot Society pulled a bold prank. After a particularly rambunctious celebration, a few Hot Feet broke into the natural history exhibit in Cabell Hall and extracted stuffed animal specimens. President Alderman did not see the humor in the prank. He expelled four Hot Foot Society members and effectively disbanded the organization. In January 1913, the Incarnate Memories Prevail (I.M.P.) Society was formed. With the motto of “Nos Mortous, Sed Dormiens” (not dead, but sleeping), the legacy of the Hot Foot Society was preserved in this new organization.

(Image by Petrina Jackson)

“Recollections of the Hot Feet.” Papers of the Hot Foot Society, 1903-1973, n.d. Written by Hot Foot Society member Herbert “Herb” Nash, “Recollections of the Hot Feet” is a poem that tells about the notorious prank pulled by the Hot Foot Society, circa May 1911. The incident happened after a celebration on the Lawn attended by members of Tilka, Eli Banana, and the Hot Foot Society. The poem recounts how a few Hot Feet broke into Cabell Hall and removed stuffed animal specimens from the natural history exhibit. They placed these animals, including a polar bear, a Bengal tiger, and an ostrich behind the desks of professors and on the steps of their Lawn residencies. The poem also alludes to the expulsion of four Hot Feet and the banishment of the organization. (RG-23/46/1.971. University of Virginia Archives. Image by Petrina Jackson)

(Image by Petrina Jackson)

Charter of the I.M.P. Society from Papers of the Hot Foot Society, 1903-1973, c.a. 1914. This document is the first charter of the I.M.P. Society, which was founded on January 12, 1913. Written by Mc-K-Ski I, the charter was officially enacted a year later. The papers contain information about how the new organization would function. Details are provided about the I.M.P. Society’s meetings, members, fees and assessments, initiation, insignia, and festivities.(RG-23/46/1.971. University of Virginia Archives. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Albemarle Garden Club Celebrates 100 Years of Service

On November 19, 2013, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library had the pleasure of hosting the Albemarle Garden Club’s 100-year anniversary celebration and business meeting. The Club’s mission is “to encourage the knowledge and love of gardening; to protect our environment through education and conservation; and to promote community development and restoration.” The library’s holdings include this illustrious group’s archival records, documenting its 100 years of service.

During the event, club members viewed a wonderful array of items documenting the club’s history, President Kim Cory presented the Special Collections Library with a check, and Historian Mary Pollock shared an amazing history of the organization.

Albemarle Garden Club members catch up before the program begins. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Albemarle Garden Club (AGC) members catch up before the program begins. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

AGC President Kim Cody present Special Collections Director Nicole Bouche with a check as Head of Research Services Heather Riser and AGC Historian Mary Pollock look on. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Albemarle Garden Club President Kim Cory present Special Collections Director Nicole Bouche with a check as Head of Reference and Researcher Services Heather Riser and AGC Historian Mary Pollock look on. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

AGC members present Special Collections Head of Researcher and Reference Services Heather Riser with a for her tireless work in assisting the club with their 100 Anniversary program. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

AGC members present Head of Reference and Researcher Services Heather Riser with a orchid for her tireless work in partnering with the Club on their 100th Anniversary program. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

AGC Historian gives a presentation of the club's 100-year history. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

AGC Historian Mary Pollock gives a presentation of the Club’s 100-year history. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Special Collections acquired the Records of the Albemarle Garden Club in 1987.  The records include meeting minutes, reports, yearbooks, handbooks, programs and miscellaneous letters from Club members as well as histories of the Club written by Elizabeth B. Gamble and Mary Stuart Cocke Goodwin. In 2013, the library obtained a second group of records from the club, including year-by-year histories, obituaries, awards, calendars, photographs, and miscellaneous materials.

First entry of the first minute book of the Albemarle Garden Club, 1913. (MSS 5520. Image by Petrina Jackson)

First entry of the first minute book of the Albemarle Garden Club, 1913. (MSS 5520. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Albemarle Garden Club year book, 193.  The year book features the club's programs, members, and other activities. (MSS 5520. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Albemarle Garden Club year book, 1934-1953. The year book features the Club’s programs, members, and other activities. (MSS 5520. Image by Petrina Jackson)

AGC members at work at , 1999. (Image by Petrina Jackson)

AGC members at work at Booker T. Washington Park, Charlottesville, October 1999. (MSS 15320. Image by Petrina Jackson)

We celebrate all of the great work the Albemarle Garden Club is doing in the community and look forward to its continued partnership with the Library!

Albemarle Garden Club, ()

Photograph of Albemarle Garden Club by Jen Fariello, taken at Morven on September 18, 2013. Morven is the birthplace of the Albemarle Garden Club and the site of the first meeting of the Centennial celebration.

Class Notes: 250 Years of Fairy Tales in Print

Professor Mark Ilsemann recently brought his class, German 3590: Special Topics–Fairy Tales, to Special Collections to see materials related to the European fairy-tale tradition. He asked if we could “give my students an idea about early collections of tales and the formation of ‘fairy tale’ as a genre; teach them about the importance/style of illustrations and other forms of book art; show them how fairy tale collections were ‘framed’ by their respective authors (through frontispieces, opening remarks, etc.); and to demonstrate to students the importance of the book object and of working with historical artifacts.”

Oh yeah, we could do that. Little did he know the extent of the riches at our disposal.

A selection of fairy tales (Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

A selection of fairy tale editions, anthologies, recordings, toys, and even finger puppets! (Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

Curator Molly Schwartzburg wowed his class with an eclectic selection of some of the fascinating and visually stunning fairy tales that comprise our collections. In turn, Professor Ilsemann provided a great deal of insight on the history of fairy-tale publishing, and his students jumped in with comments based on the knowledge they’ve gained so far this semester. As is often the case, we wondered if we gained even more from the session than our visitors!

Professor Ilsemann explains the likely origins of this unusual and beautiful moveable book. He noticed that the publisher was associated with the Waldorf School movement, based in Stuttgart, where the book was published. The book’s flowing text and images, seem to echo the Waldorf philosophy, which requires that classrooms contain no right angles. (PZ34 .S358 1926. Henry S. Gordon Fund, 2009/2010. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Professor Ilsemann explains the likely origins of this unusual and beautiful moveable book. He noticed that the publisher was associated with the Waldorf School movement, based in Stuttgart, where the book was published. The book’s flowing text and images seem to echo the Waldorf philosophy, which requires that classrooms contain no right angles. Hilde Langen, Schneewittchen (Stuttgart: Waldorf-Spielzeug & Verlad G.m.b.H., 1926). (PZ34 .S358 1926. Henry S. Gordon Fund, 2009/2010. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Many of the items we discussed were from Special Collections’s remarkable Little Red Riding Hood Collection, generously donated in 2007 by collector Martha Orr Davenport.  The collection comprises approximately 480 books, a hundred pieces of print ephemera, fifty works of art, ten magic lantern slides, and more than a hundred objects, including tableware, figurines, vases, pottery, puppets, recordings, and more.

Detail of items from the Little Red Riding Hood Collection (Gift of Martha Orr Davenport. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Just a few of the items in our Little Red Riding Hood Collection. (Gift of Martha Orr Davenport. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The students also were drawn in by several fabulous pop-up books from the Brenda Foreman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books.

Molly and the students take a closer look at pop-up books. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Molly and the students take a closer look at pop-up books. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Hansel and Gretel from the "Pop-Up" Cinderella and Other Tales with illustrations by Harold B. Lentz, 1933.  (PZ92 .F6 L46 1933b. Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Hansel and Gretel from Harold P. Lentz’s  “Pop-Up” Cinderella and Other Tales, 1933. (PZ92 .F6 L46 1933b. Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Perhaps a student paper or two about these magical books will be in hand by the semester’s end, inspired by this wonderful introduction!

Class Notes from Rare Book School: A Special Collections Edition

You know it is officially summer when Rare Book School (RBS) begins at the University of Virginia.  RBS offers week-long, intensive courses on manuscript, printed, and born-digital materials.  Although a completely independent institute, RBS shares a close relationship with the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. In fact, its director, Michael Suarez, is honorary curator of the Special Collections Library (SC).  Nicole Bouché, director of Special Collections, describes the relationship:

The relationship between SC and the RBS is unique: it allows a convergence of an outstanding Special Collections and a world-class school for the study of the history of the book, combining forces and resources for an intensive summer of instruction.  The Rare Book School program would not be possible without the strength of our collections, and we benefit annually from the expertise that an international faculty brings to the study of the rare books, manuscripts and other resources held by the Small Special Collections Library.

RBS is outfitted with its own well-used teaching collections, and some of its faculty also arrange sessions in the Special Collections Library, using our materials.  RBS also organizes several public lectures of “bookish” matters, coinciding with their summer sessions. All of this makes for an engaging and lively environment around the learning about books.  Two Special Collections and RBS staff pull and organize 800 books over a five week period for approximately 25 classes.  It is a rapid-paced endeavor that takes lots of focus since some of the classes use the same materials, sometimes in the same week.

Here is a little behind the scenes look at what goes on to make the magic happen!

Week one slips for each Special Collections book pulled for Rare Book School.

First week slips for each Special Collections book pulled for Rare Book School (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)


Emily Cone-Miller pulls the books for each RBS class and organizes them in the stacks. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

George Riser checks out Special Collections books for RBS.(Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

George Riser checks out books for each RBS class that visits Special Collections.(Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Books are ready for an RBS class and include titles, such as the Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, the Kelmscott Chaucer, and the Doves Press Bible.

The books are ready for an RBS class.  This book truck include titles, such as Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, the Kelmscott Chaucer, and the Doves Press Bible. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

All of this preparation results in lots of opportunities for RBS students to immerse themselves in and learn about the many facets of rare books and book history made possible by the rich holdings of Special Collections.  The first week of classes with topics as varied as teaching the history of the book, scholarly editing, and 19th- and 20th-Century typography, included 15 sessions using our collections materials.

Here are some of the classes in action!

Antonetti_3 copy

Martin Antonetti discusses a medieval bible with his The Printed Book in the West to 1800 class. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

KandR_1 copy

New RBS faculty John Kristensen and Katherine M. Ruffin give background information on a book. Their class The History of c19 & c20 Typography & Printing made its debut the first week of RBS this summer. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Matthew Kirschenbaum and Naomi Nelson brought their Born-Digital Materials: Theory and Practice to Special Collections to see one book.  The book, featured here,  (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Matthew Kirschenbaum and Naomi Nelson brought their Born-Digital Materials: Theory and Practice to Special Collections to see one book, Notebook by Annesas Appel.  According to our catalog record the book “is a project based on mapping the inside of a notebook [computer].” Ours is number 7 of a limited edition.  (N7443.4 .A645 N6 2009. Associates Endowment Fund, 2012/2013. Photograph by Petrina Jackson.)

This summer, RBS runs through the last week of July, including notable faculty such as our very own Curator and Blogger David Whitesell and Mark Dimunition, Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.  If you are looking for an intensive learning experience, surrounded by enthusiastic, like-minded people, and outstanding faculty, look no further than Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.  You may get to study from some of the treasures of the Special Collections Library.

Class Notes Goes on the Road: Medieval Manuscripts in South Carolina

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post from Anne Causey, Public Services Assistant for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

When I joined the Small Special Collections Library eight years ago, I realized how much I loved medieval manuscripts: books from before the emergence of printing (ca. 1450), which are often artfully decorated in vibrant natural colors, and sometimes gold leaf. Mostly I loved them because they are so beautiful (and so old), and amazingly enough, all done by hand!

I am always searching for opportunities to learn more about these gems, so in March I attended “Understanding Medieval Manuscripts,” a two-day seminar at the University of South Carolina. The class was hosted by USC and Scott Gwara, USC professor of English and comparative literature, along with guest lecturer Professor Eric J. Johnson, curator of early books and manuscripts at the Ohio State University, who brought along 8 codices (books) and 40 fragments from his institution for study. In the class, I discovered that beyond the beauty of these illuminated books, there is much to learn–even from a single page of text.

Professors Scott Gwara and Eric Johnson show fragments of medieval manuscripts to the class. (Photograph by Anne Causey)

The Basics

Professor Johnson started us off with a discussion of parchment. Parchment (or, “vellum”) is treated animal skin, and was the dominant surface for writing from the fourth century C. E. to the fourteenth century C. E.

Making parchment was a planned process – “not an afterthought,” he said. It could take eight to 16 weeks.  One has to kill the animal, drain the blood, soak it in water and lime; set the skin on a herse (frame) and with a curved blade and gloves strip away the flesh side and “pull off as much hair and gunk as possible.” The uneven sheet that is left can be cut into regular pieces

You’ll see lots of imperfections in the skin, Johnson pointed out.  The hair and flesh side are easy to distinguish: the hair side has lots of follicles and is rougher. There may be sewing holes that were elongated and repaired on the herse, or round holes that came from a wound or insect bite. “The saggy bits,” such as the neck, shoulders and belly, become translucent and are sometimes wrinkled.

You can determine man-made damage such as cuts and scrapes, or ink that burned through from the letters, or there may be elemental damage – extreme temperatures can cause parchment to be brittle and brown.

There are other things to look for as well. What kind of quill did the scribe use – small bird or large? What is the pricking and ruling like? What kind of ink ? Was it lampblack (not as good for parchment) or was it oak gall mixed with sap? Are visible differences due to a change in the ink or the introduction of a different scribe? Are there scribal errors and corrections – eye skip errors, erasures, insertions?

“This is text under the text – every last bit of manuscript has gone through a craft process,” Johnson said. By studying a manuscript’s physical characteristics and comparing it to other examples, we learned, you can determine how and when it was produced.   He suggested that when teaching to undergraduates, you might even pair fragments with incunables (the earliest printed books, from about 1450 to 1501) as well as books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Unexpected Beauty of Fragments

In the class, we discussed and reviewed Bibles, books of hours, breviaries and psalters. We had ample time for hands-on examination, which we did in pairs. Surprisingly, the category Eric Johnson is most excited about? Fragments! And not even the “prettiest” fragments at that.

The dirtier they are, the better – it means they have been used a lot and they have a lot to say—undergrads have a huge opportunity to access them.

Look at your manuscripts – fragments with many hands [multiple scribes] and imperfections. They are really great places to learn. You can pass them around and give students a chance for the tactile experience.

Professor Johnson talks to the class about a fragment of a medieval manuscript.

Students from South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Michigan, and Virginia study fragments of medieval manuscripts during class. (Photograph by Anne Causey)

Sometimes fragments come about because someone has broken apart a medieval manuscript. Breaking books is a problem for many reasons – including the fact that pages lose their context. People often want the decorated pieces to frame as artwork and don’t care about the text or meaning. However, the undecorated fragments have much to say to us, Johnson said:

Studying them is not so much about coming up with the right answer but coming up with answers to help us interact with a book.

Returning Home, Energized!

Afterward the course ended, I wanted to rush back to the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library and immediately begin examining our fragments! Besides our thirty  more-or-less complete medieval manuscript codices, there are 235 fragments in the Rosenthal Medieval Manuscript Collection alone. These date from the ninth century C. E. on, and some of the fragments are unidentified and undated. Just what I needed!

Unidentified fragment from the Rosenthal Medieval Manuscripts Collection. (MSS 9772. Photograph by Anne Causey)

The Rosenthal manuscripts were purchased in 1972. The collection contains no pre-800 manuscripts because they are so rare and expensive; interestingly, a note in the collection indicates that just one of these earlier fragments would have cost almost as much as the entire collection. Most of the fragments are vellum, though some later leaves are paper; many were reused as covers for archival bundles or book bindings and show traces of use such as fading, stains, cut edges, remains of glue, and pen and ink scrawls.

There is nothing identifying the fragment, so we must examine it for clues. You will notice the black ink written in the middle–down the “spine.” That was likely added later when the fragment was used to rebind a book. On the right side of the fragment, there is a wrinkled pattern, and it is slightly translucent–probably what Professor Johnson referred to as the “saggy bits,” either from a shoulder or neck of the animal. On the far right edge, you can see holes that were probably prickings made to help rule the page for the scribe. (MSS 9772. Photograph by Anne Causey)

The Rosenthal Collection is not the only place to find medieval fragments at the Small Special Collections Library. There are 20+ manuscript fragments in the Atcheson Hench Collection.

I look forward to using all I learned regularly in my job, whether it’s assisting researchers and students in the reading room or teaching undergraduates how to start understanding these beautiful artifacts.

This amazing course was FREE, underwritten by sponsors in South Carolina, including The Humanities Council of South Carolina, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of English at USC.  Also, Scott James Gwara, professor of English and comparative literature at USC, was a most generous host who added his knowledge of Latin and medieval manuscripts to the class.

Class Notes: Finals Week Edition with Media Studies’ Sports, Media and Society

Earlier this spring semester, about 40 undergraduates from Allison Wright’s media studies course Sports, Media, & Society came to Special Collections Library for an orientation on finding primary sources.  They were preparing for an assignment that required them to select a primary source and write a paper analyzing its sociohistoric context and relationship to topics covered in class.  Out of the class, six of the student papers rose to the top, so we are featuring them to show their great work!

You may ask, what separated their papers from the rest?  According to Dr. Wright, who is also the Assistant Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, it was their level of analysis and application of good investigative journalism that made these papers strong ones.  She emphasized that they did good hands-on research, but also clearly integrated primary sources with quality secondary sources.  They went beyond the basic class framework and requirement of the assignment and applied critical thinking skills especially well.

Now check out these fabulous students!

Allison Wright and her students Chris Wood, E.P. Stonehill, Robbie Kemp, and Patrick Schuler (left to right). April 8, 2013 (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Students Charlotte Clarke and Kayleigh Hentges pictured with their instructor Allison Wright (on the left) round out the group with superior essays.

Let’s take a closer look at their work.

Chris Wood’s “The End of Black Jockeys”

Not all primary sources are accessible on paper: many of them have been provided in a digital format.  That is the case with Fourth-Year student Chris Wood’s choice of Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide, a publication for those interested in horse racing, particularly jockeys and racing associations in the U.S. and Canada. Wood’s selection is not from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, but it is an example of how these types of materials can be accessible via the Internet.  In this case, it is accessible via the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Chris Wood, Fourth-Year student, displays Goodwin’s Annual Turf Guide. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Goodwin’s Annual Turf Guide as viewed on Allison Wright’s tablet.  (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Chris Wood’s “The End of Black Jockeys”:

Close examination of Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide displays a lack of African American jockeys in the early twentieth century. Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide was the most respected guide to horse racing during this time period and contains information regarding jockey mounts, horse deaths, weight limit rules, gambling guidelines, and other horse racing information from the period. It was published semi-annually, with the second volume always containing the full information from the past year. Comparing the names of jockey mounts from 1905-1908, I found that only the 1907 guide lists more than one black jockey (Goodwin’s). The only two African American jockeys whose names are included in Goodwin’s are Dale Austin and Jimmy Lee (Goodwin’s). Considering that in the first Kentucky Derby, fourteen out of fifteen riders were black and that fifteen of the first twenty-eight Kentucky Derbies were won by African Americans, there must be a reason for the lack of black jockeys listed in these four years of Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide.

E.P. Stonehill’s Whitewashed Columns

Elizabeth (E.P.) Stonehill, Fourth-Year student, selected an editorial column from a 1968 Cavalier Daily (student newspaper of the University of Virginia) to explore the University’s resistance to black athletes after the end of segregation.  The column she used was part two of an editorial/article by Bob Cullen in “The Sports Scene” titled “Orange, Blue, and Lily White II.”

E.P. Stonehill, Fourth-Year student, pictured with Special Collections’ bound copy of the 1968 Cavalier Daily. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The central piece of Stonehill’s essay is Bob Cullen’s article from the Cavalier Daily, entitled “Orange, Blue, and Lily-White.” November 5, 1968. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from E.P. Stonehill’s “Whitewashed Columns”:

In 1968, the Olympic Project for Human Rights [OPHR] threatened to boycott the Mexico City Olympics as a denunciation of racism within sports and society.  Specifically, OPHR focused on the plight of the black athlete.  Print journalism, in publications such as Life and Sports Illustrated, featured the issue prominently and thus garnered it international attention.  Nearly 2,500 miles away in Charlottesville, Virginia, issues surrounding the black athlete took on a salient position–or, technically, a lack thereof.  Indeed, The Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia’s student newspaper, ran a two-part series entitled “Orange, Blue, and Lily-White” in its Sports section between November 4 and 5, 1968.  The articles, written by Bob Cullen for his column “The Sports Scene,” criticize the University’s systemic racism and espouse the need to recruit black football players and coaches.  Although comprising only two columns of text, Cullen’s articles reflect the national focus, particularly within print journalism on black athletes.  By framing black athletes within the whole university culture, Cullen’s articles additionally highlight the inherent inability to separate politics from sport and the gradual nature of athletic integration.

Robbie Kemp’s “Sampson’s Lasting Legacy”

Fourth-Year student Robbie Kemp chose two Sports Illustrated articles to examine U.Va. alumnus and basketball great Ralph Sampson’s role as an athlete and a college student. Kemp stated that this assignment exposed him to paper sources again, instead of relying so heavily on databases and proxies as he had become accustomed to doing.

Robbie Kemp, Fourth-Year student, pictured with two of the Sports Illustrated that featured Ralph Sampson as an undergraduate athlete at the University of Virginia. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Sports Illustrated article, “His Future is Up in the Air,” by Larry Keith. December 17, 1979. (GV885 .43 .V57 K45 1979. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt of Robbie Kemp’s “Sampson’s Lasting Legacy”:

Sports Illustrated featured Ralph Sampson in a variety of articles starting with his first season at the University of Virginia in 1979.  The analysis of my sources results from a combination of two specific articles: “His Future Is Up in the Air” by Larry Keith and “Hello, America, We Came Back” by Curry Kirkpatrick. Together, these articles explain both the stellar athletic talents Sampson possessed along with the passion to excel academically.  Sports Illustrated reaches a national audience and is considered the premier weekly sports magazine in the country.  When Larry Keith first published his article in 1979, he was revealing Sampson to an audience that had likely never heard of his accolades in an era before information was spread easily and widely.  By the time Kirkpatrick published his article profiling Sampson’s return to U.Va., it is safe to assume that even the casual basketball fan had been introduced to Sampson.  However, it is important to note that Kirkpatrick’s article does not emphasize the importance of Sampson’s decision as setting a precedent for extremely talented college athletes; perhaps it is with the benefit of hindsight that the lack of this emphasis is glaringly missing.  Ralph Sampson could have easily turned to the NBA after his second season at the University, a move that would have earned him a six-figure salary.  Although earlier quotes alluded to the criticism Sampson received, some NBA general managers approved of the move at the time as Bob Ferry of the Bullets stated, “All kids benefit from four years in college…maybe not basketballwise, but lifewise. They all benefit” (Kirkpatrick 37). Ferry’s opinion is mirrored today by the NBA’s decision to enforce a mandatory one-year waiting period after high school before being draft-eligible, although basketball at the collegiate level is not required.

Patrick Schuler’s Untitled Essay Analyzing Murrell Edmunds’ Letter

Fourth-Year student Patrick Schuler selected a letter from the Papers of Murrell Edmunds for his assignment.  Murrell Edmunds was a poet, novelist, and U.Va. alum, who wrote and spoke out against segregation and the mistreatment of African Americans during the Jim Crow era.  The 1968 letter is from Edmunds to the Editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In it, he uses examples of incidents in football to admonish University administration for its lack of action against mistreatment of black and Jewish students.

Patrick Schuler, Fourth-Year student, pictured with two letters written by alum Murrell Edmunds BA 1917, Law 1920, regarding the treatment of black athletes at the University of Virginia during the 1960s. Hook em!  (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Letter from Murrell Edmunds, U.Va. Class of 1917, to Virginius Dabney, Editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 12, 1968. (MSS 5989-x. Published Permission of the Estate of Murrell Edmunds. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Patrick Schuler’s essay:

While the University administration allowed this behavior to continue, the student body was active in promoting racial equality in other areas on life on Grounds. The “University finally actively embraced the ideals of a changing world”, calling for equality throughout the state (100 Years on the Lawn). A flier from February 17, 1969 from the University community calls the Governor and Board of Visitors to address “the affront to the black community posed by the presence on the Board of Visitors of representatives of the segregationist Massive Resistance Movement” and the lack of involvement in improving the lives of African American members of the Charlottesville community (Fliers Concerning Racism at the University of Virginia). The Student Council also declared segregated businesses off-limits to university student organizations. However, as Edmunds argues, the one thing absent from any of the University’s efforts to rid the institution of racism was the treatment of black football players. Racism survived at UVA for quite some time after Harrison Davis, Kent Merritt, Stanley Land, and John Rainey took the field for the first time. The University’s inaction on the football team contradicted their apparent commitment to ridding the community of racism on other fronts, reinforcing the perception that football was a way to maintain the Southern institution of racism.

When we look at the race of today’s best college football players or the roster of the team here at UVA, it is hard to imagine that this was the reality of college football 40 years ago. Murrell Edmund’s letter is a perfect depiction of how football was used as a vehicle to maintain the prejudiced treatment of blacks in the South during the decade following the end of legal segregation. Discrimination against black players did not end when they were allowed to play for Southern universities. While formalized acts of racism were no longer tolerated, college football provided a venue to re-assert the self-perceived superiority of white southerners, as black players were harassed on and off the field. The University of Virginia and other institutions in the South turned a blind eye to their football stadiums to maintain “tradition.”   

Charlotte Clarke’s” Fighting the Feminine Ideal: Social Constructs of Gender and Their Impact on How We Perceive Women in Sport”

Third-Year student Charlotte Clarke chose and analyzed the 1914 published paper, “Girls at Play” by Arthur Kyle Davis.  In her paper, she explores what Davis deemed acceptable behavior and qualities for women participating in sports during the 1910s.

Charlotte Clarke, Third-Year student, photographed with “Girls at Play,” the centerpiece of her essay. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

“Girls at Play: A Paper on ‘Forms of Recreation Desirable in Schools for Girls'” by Arthur Kyle Davis, 1914. (LB3608 .D3 1914. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Charlotte Clarke’s “Fighting the Feminine Ideal”:

How female athletes are perceived by society is a topic that has been hotly contested and analyzed in recent years. Through the analysis of the paper “Girls at Play”, which was read before the National Recreation Congress in June of 1914 by Arthur Kyle Davis, A.M., his beliefs and recommendations as to the appropriate and desirable forms of recreation for girls in the early 1900’s are outlined. This paper compares the opinions expressed by Davis in 1914 to the beliefs held in today’s society in regards to women’s participation and success in sport. Through these analyses and comparisons, it will be shown that despite massive gains in equality achieved by women in many areas of society, including sport, there still persists today a perception that sport is a male dominated arena. This paper also explores how and why these beliefs are capable of infiltrating into society, and able to become established and accepted as societal norms.


Arthur Kyle Davis was the president of the Southern Female College in Petersburg VA. His father William Thomas Davis founded the college in 1863 and it ran until 1938. Davis presented his paper during an era that was socially extremely different to that of today. Women were subject to discrimination in all areas of their lives and at the time of his reading, women in America did not have the right to vote. At this time, men’s colleges did not accept female students and so between the 1860s and the 1930s, women’s colleges were founded to provide their students with the means to achieve an education that would assist them in their “female duties” as mothers and teachers. In order to demonstrate their respectability, women’s colleges placed many social restrictions on their students, and southern colleges, such as the Southern Female College, were exclusively white until the civil rights era. Society was typically male dominated and women were considered and expected to be more reserved, placid and peaceful in nature.

Kayleigh Hentges’s “Pinpointing Prejudice”

Fourth-Year student Kayleigh Hentges focused her assignment on a 1971 photograph of U.Va. quarterback Harrison Davis, which served as a starting point for discussing the difficulties and major opposition African American football players faced from fellow students and teammates when they integrated the U.Va. football team in 1970.

Fourth-Year Student Kayleigh Hentges pictured with photograph of Harrison Davis, U.Va. quarterback during the 1971 season. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

#15 Harrison Davis, U.Va. quarterback, from the Corks and Curls Photograph Archives. 1971 Football Season. (RG-23/48/1.841. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Kayleigh Hentges’s “Pinpointing Prejudices”:

As Harrison Davis took the field in 1971 in the position of starting quarterback for the University of Virginia, his reception was less than enthusiastic, and he realized his college football years wouldn’t be the idealistic football experience that most college football starters envision. The quarterback he replaced was none other than George Allen, a future politician who had transferred from University of California at Los Angeles (Phillips). The unenthusiastic reception, from both fans and students of Davis, along with three other signees- Stanley Land, Kent Merritt and John Rainey, stemmed not from a lack of talent but from their skin color. These four players were the first African Americans to be integrated into the football program at the University of Virginia (“All the Hoos in Hooville..”). Fans and students used even the smallest of mistakes that Davis made on the field as a scapegoat for their dissatisfaction with integration and the replacement of white players. Even his own white teammates would throw the “n-word” out around the four new additions to the team (Scherer). The racism that Davis experienced stands out amongst the others, however, because he was chastised not only for being black but also for his position as a black quarterback. Although the situation has improved today, white quarterbacks still largely outweigh the number of black quarterbacks, with only 6 black quarterbacks in the starting position as of 2011 (Gray). I charge that without the inconclusive scientific studies on the African American body in relation to athletic ability beginning in the 1930’s, the assumptions that “White quarterbacks are smart but not athletic, Black quarterbacks are athletic but not smart” would not have prevailed and a more equal representation between the two races at the quarterback position could exist (Buffington).


We don’t usually get to see the finished product of the work done here by students. We watch them learn to find, request, and handle materials, and then they disappear. Thank you to Dr. Allison Wright, her Sports, Media, and Society class, and especially Chris Wood, EP Stonehill, Robbie Kemp, Patrick Schuler, Charlotte Clarke, and Kayleigh Hentges for sharing with us these wonderful results!



Black Alumni Weekend: Manuscripts and Mimosas

Every other year, hundreds of black alumni come back to Grounds to have fun with old friends, reminisce about their time at the University, and attend insightful open houses and seminars, ranging from education to entertainment to entrepreneurship.

The staff at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, including Director Nicole Bouché and Head of Instruction and Outreach Petrina Jackson, hosted a number of alumni at the Library’s “Manuscripts and Mimosas” event.  The aptly named event featured some of Special Collections’ most recent acquisitions in African-American materials, a digital story of the early years of Black Greek-letter organizations at the University, and refreshing mimosas and pastries.  Note: No manuscripts were harmed during this event.  There was no contact between the refreshments and the manuscript materials.

African-American history is a key component of our collection development, and we are committed to documenting the institutions, communities, and people who influence this culture.  The alumni, family and friends who attended “Manuscripts and Mimosas” got a first-hand view of some of the books, manuscripts, photographs, and broadsides that comprise our African-American collections and materials.

Petrina Jackson discusses some of the collection materials with alumni and friends. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Event goers view recent African-American acquisitions. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Here is a sampling of what they saw.

Featured is the title page of Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles: Together with a Preamble to the Colored Citizens of the World, But in Particular, and Very Expressly to Those of the United States of America. The 1829 anti-slavery tract Walker’s Appeal is considered by many, the most radical document of its kind. In his book, David Walker, a free black man originally from the South, but living in Boston, advocates for slaves to rise up against their masters, refutes African colonization to Liberia, and attacks Thomas Jefferson’s views on blacks. (E446. W15 1829, Purchased from the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund, 2010/2011-2011/2012. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

In this June 10th, 1862 letter, soldier Aaron Sager writes to his sister Emma, regarding his service in the Union Army and his encounter with black people. This letter, accompanied by its transcript, is one of a several Sager Brother Civil War letters written by Captain Aaron and Sergeant George J. Sager, who were from Syracuse, NY and served in the 76th and 149th NY regiments, respectively. (MSS 15190, Purchased from the Coles-Special Collections Fund 2010/2011. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

An undated photograph of John Washington and one page from his slave narrative, entitled “Memorys of the Past,” are featured. The narrative, which was written after the Civil War, describes Washington’s life as a slave in Fredericksburg and Richmond, Va., where he was hired out, ownership by the Ware family, marriage, his escape to freedom across the Rappahannock River in 1862, scouting for the Union Army, identifying prominent Southern sympathizers, and avoiding Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby’s men. (MSS 15000, Purchased from the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund, 2011/2012. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This Reconstruction era document promotes a barbeque for the purpose of supporting African-American political candidates, civil rights, and fair voting practices. (Broadside 1869 .G73, Purchased from the Associates Endowment Fund, 2011/2012. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Pictured are two photographs, ca. 1950s, of the Board of Directors of the First State Bank and the minutes for a 1922 stakeholders’ meeting. We recently acquired this fantastic collection, documenting this African-American owned bank from Danville, Virginia. The bank thrives even today. (MSS 15550. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Featured is a page from the Peabody High School Yearbook (Petersburg, VA), 1939. The pages were mimeographed with pasted photographic prints. The volume includes a dedication, photographs of the school, faculty, and individual seniors, a class poem, class photographs and histories, and activity photographs and description, including clubs and athletics. (MSS 15284, Purchased from the Byrd Fund 2012/2013. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide, 1949 Edition, was created by Victor Hugo Green, an African-American postal worker and civic leader from Harlem, NY. The book listed safe places (hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, etc.) for black people to stay when traveling during the Jim Crow era. (Not yet cataloged. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

We also showed the digital story Black Greek Letter Organizations at the University of Virginia: The Early Years.  The story gives a snapshot of the founding, service, and social life of the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s historically black fraternities and sororities at the University from 1973 to 1985.  Happily, there were alumni at the event who saw photos of themselves that they had not seen in years.  This surprise made for lots of fun, spontaneous responses from the audience!

The audience watches the digital story Black Greek Letter Organizations at the University of Virginia: The Early Years. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Because Special Collections is the home of the University Archives (UA), documenting the University’s history is central to what we do.  The UA is filled with official records from the institution itself, but the student experience is under-documented.  This is woefully true in the case of black students.  One of the goals of the Library is to change that, but that can’t happen without alumni themselves.


Flyer created by Jeff Hill.

An alumna asks a question, regarding donating photographs. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Based on responses from alumni at the event, we can safely say that the event was a great success.  One such response was a tweet from alum Quentin @AvenueSwank in which he states, “The UVA special collections library is amazing! Manuscripts and mimosas was super enlightening #uvabaw.”  We look forward to having another event like this when alumni come back home to U.Va. for the next Black Alumni Weekend!

I would like to extend a special thank you to my colleague, Digital Archivist Gretchen Gueguen, who took time out of her Saturday desk shift to take so many great photographs of the event and to Sarah Nyanjom, Assistant Director of Reunions, for all of her help in planning the event logistics and providing the mimosas and refreshments.

We look forward to seeing you all in 2015!



Virginia Festival of the Book 2013: Special Collections Edition

Every third week of March, hundreds of authors and bibliophiles sojourn in Charlottesville, immersing themselves in book culture at the Virginia Festival of the Book.  The Special Collections Library was well represented in this year’s festival.  Both of our curators (and fellow bloggers) Molly Schwartzburg and David Whitesell, as well as Honorary Curator and Director of the Rare Book School Michael Suarez, gave talks on a wide array of subjects, including the history of an abolitionist print, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Spanish dramas, miniature and artist books, and e-books.  U.Va. alum and former Special Collections student employee Lex Hrabe also made three appearances at the festival, sharing with area school students the inner workings of his young adult thriller, Quarantine: The Loners.

The Print That Changed the World: The Description of the Slave-Ship Brookes

The Rare Book School hosted this lecture by U.Va. Professor and Honorary Curator Michael Suarez, S.J., which described the circulation and history of the famous, or should we say, infamous, original diagram depicting enslaved Africans in the stowage of the British slave-ship Brookes. Special Collections’ copies of the print from 1791 and 1808 were on display.

Michael Suarez gives his talk on the publication history of the printing of the stowage of the slave ship Brookes to a packed audience in the Harrison-Small Auditorium, 21 March 2013. (Photograph by Nicole Bouche)

Special Collections has three plates of the “Stowage of the British Slave Ship Brookes.” Featured is our 1808 print, originally from volume two of Thomas Clarkson’s The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the Slave-trade by the British Parliament (HT1162 .C6 1808 v.2. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Audience members view Special Collections’ “Stowage of the British Slave Ship Brookes” prints and the books from where they originated. (Photograph by Nicole Bouché)

Lope de Vega Meets Shakespeare: Spanish Golden Age Drama Bibliography Considered

David Whitesell’s lecture, which was hosted by the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, focused on the bibliography of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Spanish drama.  He provided an introduction to Spanish Golden Age drama, explained some key challenges of the genre’s bibliographers, described how proponents of the New Bibliography have addressed these challenges, and closed with a case study of how the methods of analytical bibliography might advance the understanding of Spanish Golden Age drama and its reception.

David Whitesell gives his well-received talk on viewing bibliography through Spanish Golden Age drama in the Harrison-Small Auditorium, 22 March 2013. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Special Collections Director Nicole Bouché and Associate Professor of English Andy Stauffer chat as audience members view examples from David Whitesell’s personal collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Spanish plays. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

David Whitesell, Michael Dirda, and G. Thomas Tanselle share a laugh after the talk (in foreground from left to right). Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic for the Washington Post, and G. Thomas Tanselle is the President of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The Codex is Not the Only Book: the iPad, the Poet, and the Artist and Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books

Molly performed at two Virginia Festival of the Book events on the same day: first as a panelist and second as an exhibition guide.

The panel, “The Codex is Not the Only Book,” featured Virginia poet Mary-Sherman Willis, Charlottesville publisher Katherine McNamara, and Molly. The three discussed the 2012 ebook of Willis’s poem Caveboy, illustrated by Collin Willis and designed and published by McNamara at Artist’s Proof Editions. It was published around the same time as a limited-edition print book, which contains the same text but a radically different overall design; this volume was designed and produced by Collin Willis for Artist’s Proof.

As a panelist, Molly discussed her long-standing interest in how readers perceive e-books and how special collections libraries should begin thinking about preserving examples for the long term—a project that the field is just beginning to consider. She spoke about the ways that reading an ebook like Caveboy raises questions in the reader about the lines between the roles of the writer, publisher, and the software platform—in this case, Apple’s iAuthor. And she described some of the questions special collections librarians are asking themselves about creating a historical record of the digital revolution in book production—could a library actually acquire an ebook, rather than simply purchase access to a file? If so, where would that ebook end, and the interface begin? How will researchers look back at the early ebook phenomenon in twenty, fifty, or five hundred years?

Hosted by the member artists of Virginia Arts of the Book Center, Molly gave an engaging exhibition talk on Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books, a travelling exhibition that features 87 miniature books by artists from eight countries.  In her talk, she discussed the artistry of books and the relationships between miniature books, altered books, and artists’ books.

Molly Schwartzburg discusses Envelope Journal No. 3 by Jesse Alan Brown with exhibition viewers. Brown’s work is made of No. 3 coin envelopes, magnetic clasps, and PVA adhesive. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Insects by Sarojini Jha Johnson is featured in the foreground of the case. (Photograph by Tessa Currie)

Stefanie Dykes’ altered book, Querl, and Alicia Pelaez Camazon’s artist book, Esperando, appear prominently in the foreground of this case. (Photograph by Tessa Currie)

Unlikely Heroes in Youth Adult Books

U.Va. graduate (Class of 1999), former Special Collections student employee, and author Lex Hrabe was a panelist for the Saturday session at the book festival. During the week, he had given talks to two schools, including his alma mater St. Anne’s-Belfield (Class of 1995), and was a panelist for Unlikely Heroes in Youth Adult Books.  Lex is one half of Lex Thomas, the pen name for the writing team of Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies.  The duo wrote the young adult thriller Quarantine: The Loners, which was the subject of his talks.  Lex’s proud mother Margaret Hrabe is the reference coordinator for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library!

The YA novel Quarantine: the Loners is first in a trilogy, and was published in July 2012;  book two Quarantine: the Saints will be in bookstores on July 9th of this year. (PZ7 .T366998 Qud 2012. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Sign at St. Anne’s Belfield School announcing author and alum Lex Hrabe ’95 for his book talk (Photograph by Margaret Hrabe)

Lex Hrabe talks to students at St. Anne’s-Belfield. (Photograph by Margaret Hrabe)

We hope you all get to join us next year at the Virginia Festival of the Book.  Be sure to check out Special Collections’ involvement!