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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).

GM Blog

Getting a chance to view the “History of the Book” exhibit at the Special Collections of Shields Library was an enlightening experience that showed me a side of history that I had not been exposed to in the past. Out of all the book works displayed, the three that stood out the most to me were the many editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, and Shakespeare Second Folio. I have always had an interested in the history of the Civil War. Taking a look at all the different editions of the book that “sparked” the conflict between the North and the South puts things in perspective. It is an incredible to think that such a small written text could have had such an influence in the course this country took in the past. Similarly, the book written by Isaac Newton all those year ago also had an affect on the way we see the world. Seeing the inspiration that brought forth so many new ideas and perspectives is truly inspiring. Being a science major myself, I am especially drawn to anything that had has to do with the history of modern science. Lastly, Shakespeare second folio is a really amazing piece of work to be able to appreciate. Learning that the folio was not written by Shakespeare but instead by someone who gathered all his works together was really an interesting fact. This information adds to the mystery of Shakespeare persona that I wish someone had been able to capture while he was alive. History has always been a subject of interest of mine. Getting a chance to see all the amazing pieces of history was an incredible experience. It gives me a further appreciation for what historians do in order to preserve this history for future generations.

-Gerardo A. Montoya

Works Mentioned:

1. Uncle Tom’s cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe; with 27 illustrations on wood by George Cruikshank. PS2954 .U5 1852d

2. Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica. QA803 .A2 1726

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

AS Blog

The trip to the Special Collections sections of the library was unique from a literary perspective, but it was also anthropologically intriguing. I am fascinated by the act of connecting a piece of tangible history (in this case– books) with a person, event, or time period. I was intrigued by the Sumerian Clay Tablet as it was one of the first written accounts in history. I also enjoyed flipping through the pages of the Illustrated Encyclopedia. It was essentially the equivalent of a modern-day instruction manual for hundreds of different architectural/design pieces. Finally, I found the Wine Cork Book to be especially interesting. It exemplifies the artistic evolution of book-making– from decorating the calligraphy of bibles with gold to using a cork as a creative literary medium. Ultimately, the experience was special; few people are granted the opportunity to see and experience such rare literary artifacts.

-Andrew Suliteanu

4. Sumerian clay tablet. PJ4071 .S9

5. Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers Oversize AE25 .E5 

6. The wine / illustrated and bound by Suzanne Thomas. TP548.7 .T46 2008


Archives and Special Collections


Classroom in Special Collections series Rare Books Student Reflections