Conservation of Les declinaisons

Estienne, Robert. Les declinaisons des noms et verbes…(1545) | Estienne PC2271 .E8

Les declinaisons des noms et verbes… is part of the Estienne Imprint Collection, a collection of more than 500 titles printed by the Estienne family of scholar-printers in sixteenth-century France, presented by the Hanes Family Foundation as the University Library’s three-millionth volume. It was also the first treatment project to greet me when I began my job in Wilson Library’s Special Collections Conservation Lab last November.

The 1545 text was rebound in the 19th century by the Parisian firm Lortic in a style typical for fine bindings from that time and place. Accented with gold tooling, the brown calfskin binding has an overall feeling of refinement thanks to its careful decoration and delicate profile. The binder achieved this profile by paring the covering leather thinly enough to emphasize, rather than obscure, the sharp contours of the corners, caps, and raised bands. Though a sophisticated choice aesthetically, the thinly pared leather was weak. It had split over the book’s front joint, leaving the spine piece partially detached and vulnerable to the loss of its uppermost panel. The Rare Book Collection curator had selected the volume for conservation because its condition left it at risk for further loss during research use.

Though the damage appeared dire, the book’s binding had served its intended function by protecting the contents inside. The internal structure was intact, with the pages held together securely and the paper strong and flexible. Repairing a binding can often be simpler than stabilizing internal issues such as broken sewing threads, and less time consuming than extensive mending of torn pages. In this case, my treatment objectives of rebuilding and reattaching the compromised leather spine would be relatively straightforward to accomplish.

To create a replacement spine panel, I used cotton blotting paper as a base. This material, like all we use in conservation, is designed to remain stable over time. It can be layered and/or delaminated to approximate the thickness and shape of the missing material, and its edges can be easily feathered to create a non-damaging intersection with the original materials of the binding. Because the blotting paper is bright white, I then needed an outer layer to visually assimilate my repair with the book’s covers and to join the detached edge of the spine to the front board. While new leather might seem the obvious choice to repair old leather, a long-fibered brown paper from Japan was more appropriate for the context. This lightweight, strong tissue, made from kozo (mulberry) bark, is more stable than leather and can integrate less invasively and less obtrusively with a variety of materials. The efficiency of its working properties is key in our library setting, where only two conservators have responsibility for a vast collection.

In my treatment, I aimed to only roughly match the missing spine panel’s shape, thickness, and flexibility, along with the covering leather’s color and texture; I also opted not to re-create any missing decoration. These decisions allow the book to function and to be experienced as whole, while still signaling the interloper status of the replaced spine panel. They also reduced the amount of time the book spent in conservation. Researchers can now access the book comfortably, focusing on its contents rather than worrying that it will fall apart as they use it.

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Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Manga, and More: The Mexican Comic Collection

A unique set of comics, graphic novels, manga, fanzines, trading cards and more has made its way to the shelves of Wilson Library and is ready for research. This new collection, the Mexican Comic Collection, focuses on comic material created in Mexico. The dates of the materials range from 1998 to 2015, with the bulk of the materials dating between 2010 and 2015. The collection gives a broad picture of current comic books and graphic novels in Mexico, also showing the growing interest in Spanish manga that began in the late nineties.

Due to the nature of the collection and the common use of pseudonyms, self-publishing, and other peculiarities, I had to get creative in learning about these pieces in order to bring the collection together. In fact, author and illustrator pages on Facebook and Twitter were incredibly useful in learning the context of these works and how they were created, as well as who might be behind the pseudonyms.

There are a number of collection highlights that will be of interest for anyone looking to learn more about and access recent Mexican comic books and graphic novels.

Valdez, Gerardo. El Lider Fantasma: Hortax el caballo de batalla (2011) | PN6790.M482 M4

The collection holds quite a few items from Gerardo Valdez’s El lider fantasma, including the original series, a book of artwork, manga, and two copies of El lider fantasma: Hortax el caballo de batalla (2011). You can learn more about the series here or on this website, dedicated to the study and distribution of comics in Mexico. The volume pictured here is very unique, and if you head to the character’s Facebook page, you can see what Hortax the war horse might look like as an action figure.

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Victor Vega, “De un Jalon Hasta el Panteon,” in La Catrina: Bella Bellisima Catrina: Ven y arráncame la vida (2015) | PN6790.M482 M4

Among the collection pieces devoted to comic book history and art, of particular interest is an artbook collecting comic depictions of La Catrina, a popular icon of Mexican art. The figure of La Catrina is attributed to Mexican printmaker and cartoon illustrator José Guadalupe Posada (see an image of his original print from between 1910 and 1913 here). This image of a female skeleton dressed only in a hat has inspired art, makeup, sculpture, and much more ever since. La Catrina is now a symbol of both “El Día de los Muertos and the Mexican willingness to laugh at death itself,” according to David de la Torre, who was the director of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco until 2015 (Delsol 2011). You can see further examples of La Catrina in popular culture here and here.

Some pieces in the collection even have author dedications directed at UNC, including one from izzaki and one from OrenJuice (make sure to read this name aloud):

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OrenJuice, Aquí está él | PN6790.M482 M4

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oni-koni/izzaki, Trauma Nation | PN6790.M482 M4

Manga is well-represented in this collection, and the serial pictured here, Doon!! mangazine, is quite active on social media. Manga has become very popular in the Mexico comic scene, and you can find a small glossary of manga terms and history on the Asamblea Comics website (Part I and Part II), written by Mario Cárdenas.

Doon!! mangazine, No. 001 (2012) | PN6790.M482 M4

In addition to a number of issues of Comikaze, an Indie magazine devoted to Mexican and foreign comics, the collection also includes fourteen trading cards highlighting important figures in Mexican comics.

Comikaze trading cards | PN6790.M482 M4

To see these items and more, stop by Wilson Library. You may also be interested in our Latino Comic Books Collection, which focuses on comic books and other graphic material by United States-born Latino writers and artists, also available in the second floor reading room of Wilson Library.

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Fairies, Spiritualism, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

With the recent adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes proliferating in television and film, I thought it would be interesting to see what works by Doyle could be found within the Rare Book Collection. The Rare Book Collection houses the Mary Shore Cameron Collection of Sherlock Holmes & Sherlockiana, which contains approximately 1,000 items related to Doyle’s famous detective, and has additional materials related to Doyle in other collections within the RBC.

Perusing the catalog, Doyle’s The Edge of the Unknown caught my eye. I thought this would be a good starting point for understanding Doyle within the context of flourishing spiritualism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Left: The Edge of the Unknown (1930) | Murray 1023; Right: Essays on the state of psychical research, including an essay by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Murray 1713

 

A collection of tales by Doyle with supernatural elements (such as the unicorn pictured here on the cover), published at the same time as his report on fairies (1922) | Murray 5485

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published a full report of his investigation into the Cottingley fairies in 1922, The Coming of the Fairies, which you can read online here. In this book, he compiles evidence for the existence of fairies. (In case you were wondering, the sisters who created these alleged photos of fairies when they were 9 and 16 did finally admit to faking them in the 1980s.) Published in 1930, Doyle’s The Edge of the Unknown collects his essays on a number of supernatural phenomena, including Doyle’s belief that Houdini’s magic was indeed supernatural, despite Harry Houdini’s attempts to convince him otherwise. Doyle notes that he himself has “no spiritual gifts […] and none of that psychic atmosphere which gives a tinge of romance to so many lives.” (Doyle 158). He did have encounters with the supernatural with the help of mediums, which he details in the chapter “Some Curious Personal Experiences.”

From here, I wanted to see what other materials on Doyle and fairies existed in the collection, when I stumbled upon Richard Doyle’s In Fairyland: a series of pictures from the Elf-World (1875). Richard Doyle was the uncle of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and known for his illustration of the supernatural and the fantastic. As it turns out, an interest in fairies ran in the family, as his father, Charles Doyle (Richard Doyle’s brother), was also an illustrator known for his depiction of fairies.

Cover of Richard Doyle’s Fairyland | PR4004.A5 I5 1875

Page 9 of Richard Doyle’s Fairyland

Fairies were just one small part of the spiritualism that was sweeping the world at that time. Investigations into the paranormal were commonplace, leading to profuse publications on topics such as mesmerism, animal magnetism, and séances. The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 to conduct scientific investigations of supernatural phenomena, and many publications from this society and other related materials can be found in the Rare Book Collection here at Wilson.

Just one shelf of many with materials related to spiritualism. These materials are part of the Yeats Collection.

If you are interested in learning more, these titles in the Rare Book Collection may be of interest:

Melchior Gorles; a tale of modern mesmerism (1867)The Peckster professorship: an episode in the history of psychical research (1888)The spirit-rapper; an autobiography (1854)Experiences in spiritualism with D.D. Home (1924)Light in the valley: my experiences of spiritualism (1857)Spiritualism: its history, phenomena and doctrine (1918)The Margery mediumship (1929)Mrs. Piper & the Society for psychical research (1903)The secret commonwealth of elves, fauns & fairies: a study in folk-lore & psychical research (1893)Hypnotism, animal magnetism, and hysteria: abstract of an address delivered at the Sheffield Philosophical Institute (1893)

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The Ikemua and a History of the Hawaiian Language

Sheldon Dibble, O ka ikemua… (Oahu: Mea Pai Palapala A Na Misionari, 1840) | PL6445 .D52 1840

Since languages are of human origin, it only makes sense that they go through differing phases as part of an overarching evolutionary process, just as humans do. For all the thousands upon thousands of languages spoken by people today, there are just as many that have completely fallen by the wayside. When we think of dead languages, we often first think of ancient ones—Latin, Sanskrit, Ancient Egyptian, and Sumerian, to name a few. But each of these languages died long ago or have long since evolved into something else. Languages are constantly in the process of dying or evolving. Throughout history, as certain languages such as Chinese, English, and Spanish have become more and more widespread, others, only naturally, have fallen away. Between a language’s birth and death, however, it occupies a number of phases as the population of its speakers changes over time. The Rare Book Collection holds materials representing an abundance of languages, many of each at differing points in these phases. One such work is a short instructional book, the Ikemua, written in Hawaiian by missionary Sheldon Dibble.

Hawaiian is one such language that has passed through most phases of language evolution. It has developed over centuries from other Polynesian languages, flourished, declined, and, at near death, has been revitalized. This piece by Dibble was published in 1840 at a particularly interesting period in the history of the language. While Hawaiian was still widely spoken during this period, it was only just beginning to be written down. Like most other written Hawaiian works from this time, the Ikemua was authored by a non-Hawaiian, a missionary from the mainland United States. Missionaries sought to learn the Hawaiian language in the hopes of publishing a Hawaiian Bible, and, upon discovering that Hawaiians had no written script of their own, utilized Latin letters as the official Hawaiian alphabet.

The Ikemua features a wide variety of content, all for the purpose of instilling literacy in speakers of the Hawaiian language. The book is particularly targeted toward children, featuring short stories, paraphrased Bible passages, and short poems that explain everyday objects such as trees, umbrellas, and bells. Dibble includes a short note in the beginning of the book, instructing teachers on how to best teach children. It is quite comprehensive in content and includes detailed illustrations by Dibble’s fellow missionary, Alonzo Chapin.

Depiction of the bronze serpent erected by Moses in the Book of Numbers

While the influence of English-speaking people in Hawaii caused a rise in Hawaiian literacy rates, within the next couple of decades, from the mid- to late 19th century, a growing anti-Hawaiian sentiment caused fluency in the language to fall as quickly as its literacy rate had grown. This decline is partly due to the crop of new diseases that began to sweep over the native Hawaiian population, brought about by western settlers. Illnesses such as smallpox and influenza caused the number of native speakers to drop dramatically. As the native population fell and the population of westerners increased, English gradually became the language of those in power in Hawaii, and thus the one that ought to be learned. A mere 53 years after the publication of the Ikemua, a group of westerners within the Kingdom of Hawaii’s government, many of them Americans, staged a coup d’état that ultimately led to the United States’ annexation of Hawaii. Just three years later, in 1896, Sanford B. Dole, the president of the Republic of Hawaii (a short-lived state that existed between the coup d’état and the American annexation) passed a law banning the usage and instruction of Hawaiian in schools. Virtually no Hawaiian children were taught the language, as those caught speaking it in school often faced harsh punishment. Within the span of five decades, westerners in Hawaii went from actively advocating literacy in the Hawaiian language to extinguishing it altogether.

Like some highly-endangered languages, Hawaiian was revitalized somewhat in the 20th century. Starting in the 1950s, Hawaiian began being offered in schools, and new dictionaries and other reading materials were published. A number of Hawaiian language immersion schools currently operate, and today approximately 24,000 people have some degree of fluency in it, about 1.7% of the total population of Hawaii.

Since languages like Hawaiian can sometimes undergo dramatic changes in the span of just a few decades, it is always remarkable to find a document rooted in one particular phase of the language, such as the Ikemua. It stands frozen in time as the Hawaiian language itself has since shifted in its prominence over the years. Hawaiian is only one example of many endangered languages represented in the Rare Book Collection. One can also find works in Navajo, Irish, Rusyn, Basque, Cherokee, Scottish Gaelic, and other endangered languages throughout the collection.

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A Tearful Goodbye to Sandi Honnold

On March 15, 2017, Wilson Library said goodbye to Sandi Honnold after 38 years of service to the Libraries. Sandi began her career in 1979 and over the years has worn many hats. Since 2009, she has been part of the Special Collections Technical Services department, working behind the scenes to provide accurate resource description and access for rare books.

L to R: Nancy Kaiser, LeTroy Gardner, Sandi Honnold, Eileen Dewitya, and Elizabeth Ott

Sandi’s retirement comes at the end of a long and wonderful career. Colleagues past and present stopped by Wilson to say goodbye, giving speeches attesting to Sandi’s warm and friendly personality, as well as her deep institutional knowledge. Sandi brought an ethic of hard work and care to the RBC, and we are sad to say goodbye!

Jan Paris gave a tearful speech about Sandi’s years at Wilson Library

The following speech was delivered by Eileen Dewitya, Head of the Bibliographic Technical Services section for Special Collections:

Over the span of her career, Sandi developed into a talented rare book librarian as she learned each of the specific areas involved in rare book librarianship and became a resource to her colleagues. She was responsible for ordering/acquiring rare materials, accessioning once the items arrived at Wilson, cataloging up to national standards, working on exhibitions, participating in programming events, meeting with donors, and managing student employees (many of whom became librarians themselves). She always kept us moving forward with her attention to detail, incredible memory, infinite patience, and caring ways.

Sandi has been my partner in crime the past 7.5 years, offering constructive feedback, ideas, historical context, unconditional support, and a sense of humor. I always trusted in her ability to hire exceptional students, and I knew she’d jump in to take on more work when staffing needs shifted and left us short.  

Sandi has been a most thoughtful team player, not only for the Rare Book Collection and Technical Services, but also for the greater Wilson Library. She was always one of the first to volunteer for reference shifts when her colleagues needed assistance due to illness or scheduling conflicts. 

The national cataloging standard has changed over time, and Sandi has weathered pre-AACR2, AACR2, and RDA. We have laughed and commiserated along the way, but you have done it gracefully and successfully. When I looked at your official application form, your comment under Typing ability was, “a bit slow but accurate.” You always joked about your technical skills, but you were always willing to put the time in and learn something new.

Sandi, you have been the library’s constant for 38 years, and mine since July 6, 2009. You’ve done so much work and been a great friend along the way. Thank you for everything. We all wish you much happiness in the future!

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Recent Acquisitions feature: a textile text!

Our Recent Acquisitions Evening is tonight! We hope you’ll be there to examine some of our remarkable recent acquisitions, including the Library’s eight-millionth volume!

Livre de Prières

Livre de Prières, published in 1886, is a book of hours–a book of devotional literature used by laypeople to guide their prayers throughout the day.

Books of hours have been an important genre of book since the medieval period and are the most common type of surviving illuminated manuscript. The style of illustration used in Livre de Prières is a pastiche of many kinds of illumination and manuscript decoration from different eras and geographical locations across Europe.

Livre de Prières is the first and only illustrated book woven on a Jacquard loom. The Jacquard loom was invented in 1804; it employs a punch card system of programming to produce complex woven patterns of textiles. This punch card system inspired 19th-century inventor Charles Babbage, who examined the loom while working on his Analytical Engine. Employing an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 punched cards to complete its complex design, Livre de Prières is considered to be a precursor to computer programming.

Because the UNC Library’s eight million plus volumes now include electronic books, Livre de Prières was selected to mark the ever-evolving technological innovations in the Library’s collections.


See this incredible volume and more in just a few hours at the Rare Book Collection’s Recent Acquisitions Evening, a not-under-glass display of some of the Collection’s notable acquisitions. We hope you’ll join us for the unique opportunity to see these incredible items up close.

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Recent Acquisitions feature: African postcolonial literature collection

Our Recent Acquisitions Evening is tomorrow. For the past couple weeks we’ve been featuring recently acquired individual items. This feature shines a light on a notable collection of works we’ve recently acquired.

African postcolonial literature collection

This collection of African post-colonial literature includes works published from the 1950s through the 1980s, primarily titles published in English and French, all by African authors. Most were published in the United States, London, and Paris, with some titles published in countries across Africa including Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria.

The three decades beginning in the 1950s found African literature flourishing in a post-colonial moment. African writers took to the pen, telling or retelling stories of African life, often in the languages of the colonial powers who had occupied their nations. Their work had a significant impact on the novel in the West and represented a global turn in literature.

Many of these works have long been read in academic departments at UNC and can be found elsewhere in the library’s collections–but not as preservation copies. The Rare Book Collection has acquired this collection to preserve the artifactual history of these important works, documenting how these works were marketed for a mass audience.


This collection and many other items will be on display at the Rare Book Collection’s Recent Acquisitions Evening, a not-under-glass display of some of the Collection’s notable acquisitions. We hope you’ll join us on March 22 for the unique opportunity to see these remarkable items up close.

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Recent Acquisitions feature: Phantasmion

Our Recent Acquisitions Evening is tomorrow. Here’s one more fascinating item that will be on display — this one offers an intimate glimpse into the life of a 19th-century woman writer of increasing relevance.

Phantasmion

Sara Coleridge was a talented writer and translator whose work is often overshadowed by the biographical fact of her parentage: Her father was literary giant Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Many critics consider her Phantasmion, first published in 1837, to be an early precursor to the modern fantasy novel. Coleridge’s life has been little studied, though there has been increasing scholarly interest in her since the 2007 publication of many of her poems, the majority of them newly-discovered.

Phantasmion

This extensively annotated volume of Phantasmion holds special significance because its vast marginalia was written by Coleridge as a long letter to Aubrey de Vere, an Irish poet who Coleridge formed a close friendship with after the death of her husband. In it, she offers a look into her inner life, including remembrances of growing up in England’s Lake District, the anxieties of growing up with a famous writer for a father, and her experiences as an opium addict. More than just a presentation copy, this book represents a unique record of female authorship, written in Coleridge’s characteristically eloquent style.


See this remarkable volume and more at the Rare Book Collection’s Recent Acquisitions Evening, a not-under-glass display of some of the Collection’s notable acquisitions. We hope you’ll join us on March 22 for the unique opportunity to see these incredible items up close.

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Recent Acquisitions feature: William Webb’s journal

Our Recent Acquisitions Evening is in just two days. As we eagerly await the event, we continue our blog feature of recently acquired items that will be on display on Wednesday evening.

William Webb journal

William Webb’s A Record of My Journey from London Bridge to Berlin Thence to Persia via the Baltic Volga & Caspian Sea is the only known copy of Webb’s travelogue documenting his travels through Persia in 1870.

William Webb traveled to Tehran from London to begin a new job as a signaler for the Indo-European Telegraph Company. The title of the book references a stop in Berlin, where Webb was trained to use cutting-edge high-speed telegraph equipment.

Webb’s diary records an arduous two-month-long journey from Berlin to Tehran, during which Webb faced hardships including being thrown from his horse and having two teeth pulled.

William Webb journal

This illustration, done by a Persian artist, depicts Webb (on the right). The person on the left is identified in a caption as Mirza M. Hussein, “who gained the highest no. of marks at the college for the English language under examination of Capt. Pearson.”

The book’s text, in a beautiful script, was done using lithographic printing at the Royal College of Tehran, also known as Dar al-fonun, the first modern university in Persia. Lithographic printing was the primary method of publishing in Tehran at that time because lithographic printing was better suited to Arabic scripts than movable type.

No record of an earlier lithographed English-language book printed in Persia has been found.


This and many other unusual items will be on display at the Rare Book Collection’s Recent Acquisitions Evening, a not-under-glass display of some of the Collection’s notable acquisitions. We hope you’ll join us on March 22 for the unique opportunity to see these remarkable items up close.

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Recent Acquisitions feature: Opuscula Anatomica

With only five days until our Recent Acquisitions Evening, our parade of recently acquired items continues.

book open to medical illustration

Bartolomeo Eustachi’s Opuscula Anatomica is a medical classic, first published in Venice in 1565. This book ticks off an impressive list of medical text firsts:

  • First monograph on the kidney, including the first account of the adrenal gland
  • First correct description of the Eustachian tube in the ear (which bears his name)
  • First description of the thoracic duct and the Eustachian valve in the heart (also named for the author)
  • First detailed account of the teeth in a medical text

book open to medical illustration

But what makes this book particularly interesting is the way Eustachi uses a grid system, similar to those used on maps, as a way of marking the location and scale of the parts. In the first edition of Opuscula Anatomica, Eustachi advised using rulers to find the grid references. This edition supplies a separate scale that is attached to the book by a thread. Editions in which the original scale remains attached are rare.


See this and other intriguing items at the Rare Book Collection’s Recent Acquisitions Evening, a not-under-glass display of some of the Collection’s notable acquisitions. We hope you’ll join us on March 22 for the unique opportunity to see these incredible materials up close.

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