brickeje's blog

From the Stacks: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

I read Flatland so many years ago that I don’t remember most of the details of the story. I do remember that I was captivated by the idea of a two-dimensional world inhabited by geometric figures and their struggle to comprehend worlds of one-dimensional and three-dimensional beings. The story was narrated by A Square, which also happened to be the pseudonym that Edwin Abbott Abbott used to disguise his identity when he published this satire on class and social problems in 19th century Britain. Flatland has been in print continuously since it was first published in 1884. One book publisher referred to Flatland as a precursor of modern science fiction. Special Collections has a first edition copy of this book. We also have a flat copy, our Arion Press edition.

In 1980 Arion Press published Flatland in an accordion-fold format of 56 folded panels. The book is bound in aluminum covers and is housed in an aluminum frame with a hinged top that closes with a clasp. The title is stamped on the covers in black. This edition was limited to 275 hand-numbered copies, of which our copy is 72. The introduction was written by Ray Bradbury and he has signed and numbered the book. The illustrations and 10 mounted die-cut panels were done by the printer, Andrew Hoyem, based on designs by the author. Hoyem signed the Colophon.

The panels for Flatland unfold to a length of 33 feet with text printed on each side, making this a 66 foot long book. Each panel of the book is 7 by 14 inches. Hoyem’s design is a creative expression of the plane of existence for the two dimensional story that Abbot tells. I am intrigued by this book every time I have the opportunity to look at it.

Arion Press was founded in San Francisco in 1974 by Andrew Hoyem and has been called the Nation’s leading publisher of fine-press books. They have printed 93 books to date, mostly by letterpress. The illustrations are often original prints by significant artists. Special Collections has a number of books published by Arion Press, including works by Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Jim Dine, and William Shakespeare, to name a few. Check the library catalog for a more complete listing of books by Arion Press in our collections.

From the Stacks: Please Plant This Book

The Walter Havighurst Special Collections is home to over 65,000 volumes, manuscripts and archives. Some of the volumes are rare, some are unique; all are special in some way. All of us who work in Special Collections develop attachments to certain books in the collections, for a variety of reasons; perhaps because of an elaborate cover, or because of memories that a book triggers, or because of the provenance of a particular volume. The reasons are as varied as the individuals who work here.

One of my favorites is a small volume of poetry by an author that I discovered in late 1971. Richard Brautigan was a poet, short story writer and novelist with a unique imagination. The Dictionary of Literary Biography wrote that "Brautigan is commonly seen as the bridge between the Beat Movement of the 1950s and the youth revolution of the 1960s." I had discovered some Brautigan books on a friend’s bookshelf and soon had read most of his published work. I was excited when I found Please Plant This Book in Special Collections many years ago because this was one book of his that I had not read. It is a collection of eight poems, each written on a seed packet filled with seeds. It was published in 1968 with a note on the back cover that states: “THIS BOOK IS FREE. Permission is granted to reprint this book by anyone as long as it is not sold.” Some of the author’s thoughts about this publication are expressed in the poem on the package of Shasta Daisy seeds.

SHASTA DAISY

I pray that in thirty years passing
that flowers and vegetables will
water the Twenty-First Century
with their voices telling that they
were once a book turned by loving
hands into life.

The text of this book can now be found easily on the web, with interactive sites displaying the individual poems, but in the 1970’s this volume was difficult to track down. It is nice to be able to see the book in its original format. Other poems/seeds in this volume are: Squash, Sweet Alyssum Royal Carpet, Parsley, Lettuce, California Native Flowers, Carrots and Calendula. Some printings of this book have planting instructions on the reverse side of the seed package. Our copy does not.

Please peruse our new website, or check the Library’s catalog, to explore the collections of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections. Perhaps there is something here that will capture your imagination.

Geodæsia: Land and Memory. An Exhibit in The Walter Havighurst Special Collections

Traverse landscape and its many meanings with Geodæsia: Land and Memory, a special exhibition in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections at 321 King Library, January 24 to July 31, 2011. Artifacts such as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maps, portraits, surveying transit, and Indian peace medal illustrate meanings and memories of land in Butler County, Ohio, during the period 1787 - ca. 1826, and inform an interdisciplinary study that incorporates history, material culture, Native American studies, geography, science, and economic issues in early America.

Kalie Wetovick, a graduate assistant in Special Collections, curated the exhibit as part of her master’s degree requirements in History.

The exhibit is in conjunction with an upcoming series of lectures hosted by the Humanities Center, Culture and Memory, which will occur from March 2 to March 24, 2011. The culminating speaker is Dr. Simon Schama, renowned scholar of history and art history. The exhibit Geodæsia was inspired by Dr. Schama’s book Landscape and Memory.

Buddhism: An Exhibit in Honor of the Dalai Lama’s Visit

Please visit the Walter Havighurst Special Collections Exhibit Room (321 King Library) to see our exhibit in honor of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Miami University. The exhibit has several related themes. The teachings of the Buddha are illustrated with images and books from the Library’s Instructional Materials Center. The section on the Dalai Lama features selected books by His Holiness from King Library’s circulating collection. Buddhism in North American and Southwestern Ohio include newsletters, photographs, and popular magazines with a Western perspective on Buddhism. Thai Fortune Telling is the theme for three manuscript books from Special Collections. On display are folding books from Thailand. These are the sort of books that would be found in Buddhist monasteries. One book is a dream book; another is a manuscript on astrology. The third book is devoted to fortune telling. Also on display is an ancient Thai palm leaf manuscript book. This exhibit runs through the end of December.

This link will take you to a copy of the exhibit brochure:
http://spec.lib.muohio.edu/Buddhism_for_web_A.pdf