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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).

MV Blog

The Special Collections Room in Shield’s Library is full of many treasures. The ones that jumped out at me the most would have to be Shakespeare’s 2nd Folio, the French Illustrated Encyclopedia, and the facsimile of the 14th Century Italian Music Manuscript. The 2nd Folio of Shakespeare was an amazing thing to see. I have spent many years reading, studying, and seeing the works of Shakespeare, so it was amazing to see them in such a manner. It is amazing to me that this Folio was created with such care and finesse so that it may be enjoyed throughout the ages. Even the quote written on one of the first few pages had me in awe. The French Illustrated Encyclopedia was another amazing sight. I applaud the author, whose name I can’t seem to recall, who saw the need for such a book to exist. The sheer amount of work that must have gone into gathering what seems to be the summation of all the technological advancements and common knowledge of time is astounding to me. The fact that the book is in such a great condition is another blessing in disguise. Perhaps my favorite piece, however, would be the Facsimile of the 14th Century Italian Music Manuscript. I have always been a great fan of music, and am appreciative of everything from Gregorian Chant to Modern Classical. It is a great thing to be able to see such a work from a country that is well known to be a center of many of the great works that the world appreciates today. The facsimile captured the colors and richness of the pages beautifully. The artistry that went into making this manuscript must have taken countless hours. Each page was adorned with a vast array of colors and images that brought life to the lines of music. Our short tour of the Special Collections room was quite the treat, and I am happy to have had this opportunity to peruse such valuable works.

-Maheep Virk

Works Mentioned:

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

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

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

KW blog

After visiting the Special Collections exhibit at the Shield Library, I was astounded by the variety of books that our school had that were priceless due to their rarity and the educational value each book held. The very first book that I took notice of was in fact not quite a book. Upon viewing the Sumerian clay tablet, I was intrigued that something so old was in my presence. As a history fanatic, I was instantly enamored by the idea that thousands of years ago, that tablet was used by an ancient civilization in order to complete a daily task. The impressions were no longer clear on the tablet, worn down by time, a quality that only drew me to the piece more. After viewing various tables filled with priceless books, I once again was captivated by Shakespeare’s 2nd Folio. All throughout my educational experience, Shakespeare was taught in various forms: his life, his plays, and his era. Once again, the historically inclined side of me could only fathom the importance of having a hard copy of Shakespeare’s works in print and at the tip of my finger. The opportunity to study Shakespeare and even know his plays to this day was in part due to the effort of the Folio makers and their dedication to assemble his various works. The last piece that drew my attention was the Sierra Journals by Gary Snyder. Initially, I did not expect much from the book, since it was one of the more recent books made. I soon discovered that the book was not valued due to its timeless nature, much like the others, but its sheer beauty. The pictures were detailed and breathtaking, leaving me to stare at their pages for minutes on end without having the desire to move on. Going to the Special Collections allowed me to discover how amazing books can be, whether ancient or more recent, in all different forms, and in various languages.

-Katrina West

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