tullykk's blog

The Kelmscott Chaucer in Special Collections

Miami's Walter Havighurst Special Collections is happy to announce the recent acquisition of one of the most famous private press books ever printed.  Issued in 1896 by William Morris's Kelmscott Press, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is considered the crowning achievement of Morris's press and is arguably one of the most beautifully designed books in the history of printing.  William Morris was a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century when he founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891.  Seeking to return to traditional forms of craftsmanship and inspired by folklore and medieval literature, Morris's book design choices, including his typeface design, placement of the text, and choice of ink color, were heavily influenced by the aesthetics of medieval manuscripts and early printed books.

Though Morris's trademark heavily decorated borders and elegant illuminations are found throughout the text, the gorgeous eighty-seven illustrations were contributed by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones.  The text of the collected works of the 14th century "father of English literature" was drawn from the 1894 Clarendon Press edition edited by Walter Skeat.  Morris did not seek to compete with this new edition, but instead used the text as the basis for his own work of art.  His original plan only called for 325 paper copies, but, due to demand, the printing run was extended to 425 copies.  There were also an additional 13 copies printed on vellum.

Miami's copy is, as a bookseller describes it, "a remarkably well-preserved copy" with the leaves in pristine condition.  Though many copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer have elaborate bindings, our copy has the more modest original holland-backed blue paper boards, with paper spine label.


We're very excited to add this landmark volume to our collection and look forward to showcasing it in future class visits and exhibits.  Special Collections already has some Kelmscott Press titles in our collection, but this acquisition certainly enhances our collection of private press titles.  It's a true treasure!

Kimberly Tully
Special Collections Librarian

Happy Homecoming! Happy Hobbit Day!

To all Miami alums, welcome back!

This weekend the statue of Coach Paul Brown was unveiled in the Cradle of Coaches Plaza; in honor of the occasion we have a display of Paul Brown materials from the Cradle of Coaches Collection in the case outside Special Collections, on the 3rd floor of King Library. (Because the case is outside our secure area, these are facsimiles of the originals.) We hope you can stop by and enjoy the display as you stroll about on this beautiful fall weekend - before or after the game, of course. Go Redhawks!

And, as if that weren't enough reason to celebrate, 75 years ago today (Friday) J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was published. Tolkien, a professor at Oxford University, created an incredibly rich, strange, yet familiar mythic world that we still enjoy exploring: hence the upcoming film trilogy from Peter Jackson.

Special Collections is proud to possess a first edition of The Hobbit in our collection, although sadly lacking the dustjacket. Last year it was one of the most popular selections by students assigned to analyze a modern first edition for an English 490 class.

Whether you are journeying through your own college memories or adventuring out of the Shire in search of dragons, the staff of Special Collections wish you a wonderful weekend.
Elizabeth Brice
Assistant Dean for Technical Services and
Head, Special Collections & Archives

Signed Sealed Delivered: A letter from Private George Seeley

“I sometimes wonder if the American people as a whole will ever awaken to the desperate seriousness of the task we are just beginning. Everywhere I go I am impressed by the remoteness with which people view the war. I think it will take a direct attack on our shores to rouse us out of our lethargy. The fact that newspapers are playing up the words “we can lose this war” should help a lot. We must face the facts.” - Private George Seeley, February 22, 1942
In connection with Miami University's Summer Reading Program and its selection of Jess Goodell's war memoir Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq, I've been asked to curate a small exhibit on the theme of "War and Remembrance" using selections from our collections.  In her memoir, published in 2011 after her return from service in the Mortuary Affairs unit of the Marine Corps in Iraq, Goodell writes of her experiences recovering and processing the remains of fallen soldiers.  I thought it would be interesting to contrast her experiences with American soldiers fighting in earlier conflicts.  Reading through our various printed and manuscript accounts of American soldiers at war, I was particularly drawn to the story of World War II soldier George Seeley.  Many passages from his letters home and his diary resonated with me, especially as I could imagine American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq today would have similar reactions to their experiences and talk about them in similar ways.
In February 1941, George Allen Seeley left Miami University, where he was finishing his senior year. After being drafted for service in the United States Army in April 1941, he spent time at various training bases across the US and was then sent to Australia, where he was an Assistant Detachment Commander and Training Officer with the 105th General Hospital of the Army. He stayed in Australia for two and a half years, then ended his assignment at Biak, a Dutch Indonesian island north of New Guinea. Seeley was at Biak during the return of American troops to the Philippines, caring for those troops who were liberated from the Bilibid prison.

During his time in the service, George writes to his parents and to his future wife Peg Fisher and, like in the letter quoted above, shares his thoughts on the state of the war, his responsibilities on the base, and the morale of the troops.  All of George's letters, as well as his diary and other records of his war service, can be found in the George Seeley Collection in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections.

Information on Miami's Summer Reading Program can be found here.  A small exhibit with selections from the Seeley Collection will be on display in a special case outside the front doors of the Special Collections department from July 27th through the end of August.

Kimberly Tully
Special Collections Librarian

From the Stacks: Polydore Vergil's Anglicae Historiae (Basel, 1534)

Rediscovered recently during a cataloging project, this 16th century gem of a volume is Polydore Vergil's Anglicae historiae (History of England) printed in Basel, Switzerland in 1534 by Johann Bebel.  Vergil, an Italian historian, was commissioned directly by King Henry VIII to chronicle England's past from the ancient past through the early Tudor dynasty and ending with the beginning of Henry VIII's reign in 1509.  Portraits of Polydore Vergil (ca. 1477-1555) and his patron, Henry VIII (1491-1547), are shown below.

The book itself is a typical folio volume of the early sixteenth century, printed on cotton rag paper with wide margins and woodcut ornamentation.  The printer's device (a styilized palm tree) appears at the middle of the title page and on the verso of the final leaf.  Over 600 pages, this hefty volume has a contemporary leather over wooden board binding, with  decorative blind stamping and ruling on both front and back covers and surviving evidence of metal and leather clasps that once held the book closed.  Bookbinders in this period often  used manuscript waste, sometimes several centuries old, in their binding structures to strengthen the spine and as endpapers.  This volume has manuscript waste pages with decorative initial letters used as front and back paste-down endpapers.  The verso of the back paste-down endpaper (which has come unglued from the back board over time) is shown here.

A book often has more than one story to tell and this one is no exception.  In addition to the origins of the text itself and the fascinating details of the book as artifact, the provenance of the book also tells its own tale.  This book was once owned by Thomas Osborne, the first Duke of Leeds, (1632-1712) and could be found in the library at the Osborne family estate, Kiveton Hall, in South Yorkshire.  The volume has both the manuscript shelf-mark of the Kiveton library (seen in first image) and the armorial bookplate of Thomas Osborne dated 1701 pasted on the verso of the title page.  Thomas Osborne, who at the time was known as Lord Danby, was one of seven leaders of the Glorious Revolution who issued the famous invitation in 1688 to William of Orange to claim the English throne from the deposed Stuart king. Seen below are the bookplate, a contemporary portrait of Thomas Osborne, and an engraving of Kiveton Hall (which was demolished in the early 19th century).

Today, this regal volume printed almost five hundred years ago, with links to illustrious (and infamous) English kings and dukes, is housed in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections at Miami University.  It's just one of many early print treasures in our rare book collections.  Come explore our collections...you never know what you'll find!

Kimberly Tully
Special Collections Librarian

You're Invited: The 23rd Annual African American Read-In is next Monday, February 20th!

The Miami University Libraries Diversity Cluster will sponsor the 23rd Annual African American Read-In on Monday, February 20, 2012 between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. in King Library 320. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

The African American Read-In has been an important component of the communities of Oxford and Miami University's Black History Month activities. It is through the participation and support of the university and the community that this event has been an ongoing success throughout the years.

Readers and listeners are what make the day. We would like to invite you personally to read a work by an African American author, come listen to works being read, or both. Please bring a selection by an African American author or just come and listen! Books to select readings from will also be available at the event.

For more information and ideas for readings, please see the Diversity Cluster's Read-In website:


Caring for Your Personal Collections

As a preservation librarian I am often asked what people can do to preserve their own personal treasures. Whether the item is valued for monetary, historical, and/or sentimental reasons, knowing the proper ways to care for your materials will ensure that they are around for years to come.

Correct storage of your materials is the single most important factor in their preservation. You should avoid storing important items in areas such as basements, attics, and garages, which are susceptible to fluctuating temperatures and high levels of moisture. A cool, comfortably dry area is ideal. It is important to store your items in a stable environment. While specific types of items have ideal temperatures and humidity levels in which they thrive, more important than specifics is consistency. Fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity can cause more damage to items than a slightly higher or lower, but consistent temperature and humidity level.

Light damage can also be a problem when trying to preserve important materials. You should avoid storing books and other items in direct sunlight, as this can cause rapid and severe fading. Artificial light can also be a problem; items should not be exposed to constant bright lights.

Do not wrap books and other materials in newspaper or store them in cardboard boxes. Acidity from the paper and boxes can leach into the materials and cause them to break down over time. Also avoid wrapping items in plastic, as this prevents good air circulation and can promote the growth of mold and mildew. Protective enclosures and boxes for storing fragile items can be purchased from several suppliers (see links below).

Periodically check for pests, such as insects or rodents, where your materials are stored. These pests will eat their way through your treasures if given the chance. Keeping the materials and storage area clean and free of dust will help keep these pests away.

Most books should be shelved upright, supported by bookends when needed. Larger, heavier volumes are best stored flat. When removing books from the shelf do not pull on the top of the spine, instead push the book to each side in to remove the book. When being used, do not force the book to open or lay flat; instead let the book open naturally, without any added pressure. If the book is especially stiff or fragile, support foams can be used to cradle the open book.

Paper items should also be stored flat and unfolded. Paper items can be stored in acid free folders. The use of pressure sensitive tape on books and papers should be avoided. The tape will degrade over time and can cause permanent disfigurement and embrittlement of the paper. If items are in need of stabilization or repair, it is best to seek the help of a professional conservator.

Ashley Jones
Preservation Librarian
Miami University Libraries

Links for additional information:

Your Old Books
Library of Congress
American Institute for Conservation
Library of Congress - Photographs
Library of Congress - Digital Materials
AIC – How to choose a conservator
AIC – How to find a conservator
Gaylord Archival Supplies

Special Collections fall exhibit: "The Deadliest that Ever Darkened Earth: Voices from the Civil War"

The Walter Havighurst Special Collections is pleased to announce its new fall exhibit in honor of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. “The Deadliest that Ever Darkened Earth: Voices from the Civil War in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections” draws from the wealth of Civil War-related materials in Miami’s Special Collections, including diaries, letters, official documents, photographs, printed books and ephemera. The exhibit explores the following topics: fighting for the Union, Miami University and the war, the rise and fall of the Confederacy, the state of medicine during the war, the African American experience, and the practice of journalism during the war. As you browse this exhibit, you will “hear” the voices of Union soldiers, Miami students, Confederate generals and spies, former slaves, African American soldiers, hospital workers, U.S. Sanitary Commission agents and newspaper correspondents as they tell their own stories and experiences during the war.

Walter Havighurst Special Collections is located on the third floor of King Library and is open Monday through Thursday 8:30-5:30, Friday 8:30-5 and is closed on weekends. The exhibit will run through December 23, 2011.

You're Invited! A Celebration of English Royal Weddings: a Special Collections mini-exhibit

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding is just days away on April 29th! Inspired by the upcoming royal nuptials, a mini-exhibit of materials celebrating English royal weddings from the 18th century to the present from the Walter Havinghurst Special Collections will be on display outside the main exhibit room on the 3rd floor of King Library through the rest of the semester. Among the items on display are a contemporary print account of the wedding of King George III and Princess Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz in 1761 and a pop-up book depicting the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.