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Special Collections, history of book

The Classroom in Special Collections

Special Collections prepared a “History of the Book” table exhibit for Prof. Jane Beal’s University Writing Program 101 course.  The students were then asked to answer the following question: What were three of the most memorable and meaningful books that you saw in the “History of the Book” table exhibit in the Special Collections of Shields Library? The blog posts in the “Classroom in Special Collections” series will display their answers (permission granted by students mentioned below).

KK Blog

Last week, looking at the “History of Books” exhibit at the Library, I experienced art in a whole new way. There were many books, but 3 resonated most with me. The Sumerian Clay Tablet, the Book of Hours, and the 14th Century Italian Music Manuscript all spoke to my heart. The amount of craftsmanship and love that was put into writing captivated me. Back then there was more appreciation in the written word. In order to write, one would have to be apart of the process. In the Clay Tablet, one would need to form the clay and carve out the writings. In the Book of Hours, monks would spend hours decorating and artfully writing down prayers. Today books are soullessly mass-produced, and as such, are treated with little respect. The 14th Century Italian Music Manuscript was a reproduction but still was treated with respect from the maker. Each page of the Manuscript was embellished beautifully. Today everyone can read, write, and has access to paper. The beauty is lost because many who write do not do so with love for the art. Books and art go hand in hand, because books are just written artworks.

-Kristina Khuu

Works Mentioned:

1. Sumerian clay tablet. PJ4071 .S9

2. Hours of the Virgin, in Latin, preceded by a Calendar in French,... BX2080 .A2 1497

3. Il codice Squarcialupi : Ms. Mediceo Palatino 87, Biblioteca medicea laurenziana di Firenze. Oversize ML96.4 .S68

CM Blog

The three books that were meaningful and memorable books that I saw in the “History of the Book” table exhibit in the Special Collections of Shield Library are Sumerian clay tablet, Shakespeare’s 2nd folio, and [The High Sierra of California] fine pages and Japanese-like illustration. Firstly I saw the Sumerian clay tablet, I was so surprised because I was expected how the oldest book was. However, it was totally different from my expectation. The reason why this book is meaningful to me is because as this book is the oldest book in history, and so this book has been known and seen all the history event more than people did. The book did not have any emotions; however, it might feel historical event the most closest. Secondly, Shakespeare’s 2nd folio reminded me to tell my mother because my mother is a big fan of Shakespeare. When I was young, she kept telling me the story of Shakespeare and so I feel close to his book while I grow up. In fact, after I went to this exhibit in the Special Collections, I called to my mother and told her about Shakespeare’s 2nd folio and then she wished to see it in her eyes. Thus, this Shakespeare’s 2nd folio is related with my childhood memory so it is one of my memorable books. Last, this is my favorite in the Special Collection: fine pages and Japanese-like illustration. Inside of the fine pages and Japanese-like illustration, they have used Japanese traditional tissue papers. Those papers recalled my grandmother because until she passed away, she was collected those kind of papers and sometimes showed me. When I saw it in the exhibit, suddenly her smile came up in my mind. Plus, I do have same kind of tissue paper in my home; however, the book’s paper was so sensitive, gorgeous, and beautiful. That is totally represent of Japanese nationality. Overall because of those reasons, three books are my meaningful books and I am surely so happy to see and get knowledge of history from books.

-Chiaki Miura

4. Sumerian clay tablet. PJ4071 .S9

5. Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall copies. Oversize PR2751 .A2

6. The High Sierra of California / Tom Killion ; with excerpts from the Sierra journals of Gary Snyder and John Muir. Oversize PS3569.N88 H54 2000


Archives and Special Collections


Classroom in Special Collections series Rare Books Student Reflections