Book History Students Visit the RBC

This semester the Rare Book Collection was thrilled to host a visit from graduate students in Dr. Ryan Shaw’s INLS 550: Reading the History of the Book course. We gave them a tour through material book history, heard about their researches in RBC’s reading room, and let them get up close and personal with some excellent teaching examples from the Collection. Books and other items were laid out at different stations, exposing students to topics such as the transition from manuscript to print, the differences between hand-press and machine-press books, binding styles and practices, paper, typography, format, early indexing systems, and non-Western book traditions.

Up close with Ms. 98

Up close with Ms. 98

The students examined a Latin manuscript of Spanish origin, written in 1173 in north Castile or Navarre. This manuscript, on parchment, features rubrication, pricked margins, and an ornamental initial.

Rare book research librarian Emily Kader described the process of making paper by hand and showed the students an example of a watermark with the help of a light sheet.

A volume from the Incunabula collection showed the students an early example of a concordance. This book was meant for use by the clergy and contains explanations of difficult words in the Bible. It also features capital spaces left by the printer, here filled in by hand in red, a tradition held over from medieval manuscript culture.


IMG_6415_So. Pam. 1209_

Emily Kader explained the concept of bibliographic format showing a bound octavo volume alongside an unbound pamphlet made up of one sheet of paper, that had been printed and folded into an octavo gathering.

A 1584 edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses provided the students with an example of a book containing an early modern index.

A nineteenth-century manuscript containing Islamic prayers, decorated with vivid pigments and gold leaf allowed the class to see a traditional type of Arabic binding. This style of binding features a flap that extends from the back cover, folds over the book’s fore edge, and tucks under the front cover of the book.





Graduate student Kathleen Monahan helped the students navigate the Liber Chronicarum, better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, of 1493. The students examined the book’s woodcuts and were able to locate an image depicting Pope Joan.

The Nuremberg Chronicle provided early modern readers with an illustrated history of the world as it was known in Europe in the fifteenth century.

The students compared different styles of binding, here with two copies of the same edition, one bound by a former owner in pigskin, the other bound by a former owner in calf.

The students also examined a volume from the RBC’s Victorian Bindings Collection, a fine example of the late nineteenth-century innovation of decorated publisher’s bindings.

We welcome classes with relevant interests to visit the Rare Book Collection and integrate its holdings into their curricula. Teachers and students who are interested in using the RBC for teaching or research can get in touch with us at

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April 1968


McClure, Michael. Grahhr April grharrr April, [Buffalo: Gallery Upstairs Press, 1968] | PS3563.A262 G72 1968

Rough winds may shake the darling buds of May, but the rumbling grahhr of April is what gets us shaking in the Rare Book Collection. We offer for your consideration this broadside from the Beats Collection. The poem is one of several written and performed by controversial Beat poet Michael McClure during the mid-1960s to feature prominent onomonopiac transliterations of beastly speech. Much of McClure’s poetry explores the animistic meatiness of human bodies, abandoning social codes in favor of raw experience.


Detail from McClure, Michael. Grahhr April grharrr April, [Buffalo: Gallery Upstairs Press, 1968] | PS3563.A262 G72 1968

The poem’s aggressive juxtaposition of elements of vitality and mortality echo the tumultuous events of April, 1968, a watershed month in the history of the United States that saw the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and mounting public protests against the Vietnam War.

Large in format (54 x 73 cm), the broadside arranges McClure’s poem symmetrically along a vertical axis, mirroring words and punctuation. The bright, calligraphic red script draws the eye to the visual arrangement of words, distracting from their syntactic meaning. In the background is a stock image of a lion in blue. Blown large and grainy, the lion confronts the reader with his animal and his printed presence, simultaneously an icon of nature and of manufacture.

McClure was well known for his public readings—Kerouac’s Dharma Bums includes a fictionalized account of his performance at the 1955 San Francisco Six Gallery. Those interested in hearing this poem vocalized are encouraged to consult the catalog for a 1968 recording on vinyl where McClure appears alongside fellow Beats Allen Ginsburg, Lew Welch, and Aram Saroyan, amongst others. McClure also recorded a filmed version in 1966 where he reads the poem aloud to a cage of lions.

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“We like March, his shoes are purple”

Here at the Rare Book Collection, we find ourselves agreeing with Miss Emily Dickinson–we, too, like March. Especially as it brings with it our 2015 Recent Acquisitions Event. February snows caused us to postpone this biennial showcase of the collections, but its time has come ’round at last. On March 31st, we invite you to join us in the Grand Reading Room in Wilson Library from 5 to 7 p.m. for a not-under-glass display.

RBC_Folio2_F1376_W1518_1838_supervd_pl_iv copy 2

Frédéric de Waldeck. Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dans la province d’Yucatan (Amérique Centrale), pendant les années 1834 et 1836. Paris: Bellizard Dufour et Co, 1838 | F1376 .W1518 1838 Folio-2 | Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book

The items on display were acquired over the last two years and include purchases made on endowed funds as well as materials donated by alumni, staff, and other friends. The great variety of the display underscores not only the diversity of collecting interests within the Rare Book Collection, but also the intellectual passions of our community of benefactors.

These galley proofs contain emendations in Eliot's hand and an inscription from E. McKnight Kauffer, an artist and book designer who worked with Eliot and the Curwen Press.   T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets galley proof. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943 | in process | Gift of James R. and Mary M. Patton.

These galley proofs contain emendations in Eliot’s hand and an inscription from E. McKnight Kauffer, an artist and book designer who worked with Eliot and the Curwen Press.
T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets galley proof. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943 | Patton Folio-2 PS3509 .L43 F6 1943b | Gift of James R. and Mary M. Patton.

The pictures in this post highlight just some of the materials included in the event—the full list is so superlative that we find it rather difficult to pick examples.

Literature in English is well represented by items as diverse as galley proofs for T.S. Eliot’s tour de force modernist masterpiece The Four Quartets and Geffrey Whitney’s A Choice of Emblemes and Other Devises (1586), the first illustrated English emblem book, thought to have informed Shakespeare’s works.

There are also strong examples of innovation in visual media, with items such as Flora Anomoia (1817), the first British book illustrated by nature printing, Ansel Adam’s photographic volume Taos Pueblo (1930), and Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse’s Between Page and Screen (2012), an experimental book that explores the pleasure and play that emerge when the printed page meets the computer screen.

pend nameh 2

This important work of Sufi poetry contains the text in French and Persian.
Farīd al-Dīn ʻAṭṭār. Pend-namèh. ou Le livre des conseils de Férid-Eddin Attar. Traduit et publié par M. le B. on Silvestre de Sacy. Paris: Debure brothers, 1819 | Accession 130829 | London Fund

The Acquisitions Evening is also our opportunity to showcase the global aspect of the Rare Book Collection. The evening will include poetry and fiction from France, Ireland, Persia, and the West Indies, travel books on Mexico and the Yucatán, French colonial serials from Vietnam, and books printed in Scotland, Russia, Barbados, and Belgium.

As an added bonus, visitors will also have an opportunity to view the exhibition An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room. The exhibition features a wide array of items from six University Library special collections, arranged alphabetically by themes—including three recent Rare Book Collection acquisitions: the University Library’s seven millionth volume, Juan Latino’s Ad catholicum … (1573); an early nineteenth-century traveling library; and Karel Teige’s avant-garde masterpiece Abeceda (1926).

The Rare Book Collection Recent Acquisitions Evening takes place Tuesday, March 31, 2015 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Grand Reading Room in Wilson Special Collections Library. The event is free and open to the public.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day from UNC’s Rare Book Collection

Across the Western world today, the legendary deeds of Saint Patrick, the fifth-century “Apostle of Ireland,” are celebrated by the Irish and the Irish-at-heart. Pictured here is a page from The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick that describes one of the Saint’s most legendary acts, the banishment of Ireland’s snakes.


Katharine Tynan, The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick (London, 1907) / Yeats PR4790.H3 R59 1907 / Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book

The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick, by the Irish poet and novelist Katharine Tynan, is a work from 1907. During the early twentieth century, Irish writers and poets wanted to present an Irish identity that was void of British influence. The growing interest in Irish language and culture at that time, as seen in The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick, fueled what would become known as the Irish Literary Renaissance. It was Tynan’s contemporary (and one-time suitor) W.B. Yeats, who came to lead the movement.

The Rare Book Collection has a substantial W.B. Yeats collection, acquired as the University Library’s five millionth volume through the generosity of the Hanes Family Foundation. The RBC also has many works from other Irish Literary Renaissance writers like Tynan, John Millington Synge, and Sean O’Casey.

Outstanding Irish purchases of late will be on display at our Recent Acquisitions Evening on March 31. Until then, we wish you a safe and pleasant Saint Patrick’s Day!

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Such Love I Don’t Envy!

Francesco Petrarca, Il Petrarca (Lyons, 1550) PQ4476 .B50

Francesco Petrarca, Il Petrarca (Lyons, 1550) / Whitaker Fund / PQ4476 .B50

If you find yourself in the grips of unrequited love this Valentine’s Day, you might seek company with the verse of Francesco Petrarca, esteemed lyric poet of early Renaissance Italy. Petrarca (often known as Petrarch in English) wrote that he first spotted his muse-to-be Laura in church, at an Easter mass in 1327. Her glowing beauty and evident virtue immediately overwhelmed him. She quickly became the heart (!) of hundreds of his poems. The title page from the pocket edition at left (printed in France by Jean de Tournes) shows the profiles of Petrarch and Laura: he gazes dreamily at the wondrous beauty before him, while she follows Cupid’s arrow with her eyes. A previous owner of the volume has commented with a manuscript annotation above: “tel amour n’envie,” “such love I don’t envy.”

The book contains Petrarca’s songs about Laura that form his Canzoniere, as well as his poems known as the Trionfi or Triumphs. Laura’s true identity has never been confirmed, although she may well have been Laure de Noves of Avignon, who was born in 1310 and died in 1348 during the Black Plague. The name Laura conveniently coincides with the Italian words for laurel and breeze, both particularly poetic.

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Travel Through Time: The Gregorian Calendar

With the start of a new year and a new calendar, it is timely to reflect on how calendars have evolved and changed throughout the centuries. One volume in the Rare Book Collection has particular value for this endeavor, the Martyrologium Romanum ad novam kalendarii rationem et ecclesiasticae historiae veritatem restitutum.

The RBC edition of the Martyrologium Romanum was published in 1598, just fifteen years after Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar.  Before 1582, most of the western world used the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE.  The Julian calendar had 365 days divided into 12 months with a leap day added to February every 4 years, making each year exactly 365.25 days long.

Under the Julian system, the equinoxes and solstices advanced by 11 minutes annually with respect to the calendar.  While this seems like a small increment, this meant that by the 16th century, the spring equinox was falling on March 11th rather than March 21st.  This was a particular problem for the Catholic Church because the date of Easter each year depended in part on the full moon after the equinox, so the shift in the calendar caused Easter to be celebrated earlier and earlier in the year.  To solve this problem Gregory XIII instituted a small reform.  His Gregorian calendar moved ahead 10 days and would omit three leap years every four centuries.  The Gregorian calendar is still in use today, and while it remains out of sync with the astronomical calendar by twenty-six seconds, it will take thirty-five centuries before the calendar is off by an entire day.

The Martyrologium Romanum was published by the Typographia Apostolica Vaticana, the official printing press of the Vatican.  The 1589 edition is the third and was updated to include the feast days of Nereus and Achilleus (two early Roman martyrs) in the calendar. This combination of a calendar and theological history was not intended for a single year, but was intended for reuse each year.  To that end, rather than assign the day of the week to each date, every entry has what is known as a Dominical Letter. January 1 starts with A, and the sequence runs through G and then repeats. It would be announced each year on which letter all Sundays fell.

Epact table

Epact table

Because lunar dates were also valuable, particularly in determining the date of Easter as well as some other moveable feasts, each entry also lists the ages or phases of the moon in a table, depending on the epact (or age of the moon on January 1) of the year, which can be determined using charts at the beginning of the volume.  If we’ve done the calculations correctly, the age of the moon for 2015 will be listed under the character “k” for each entry in this volume and all Sundays fall under dates with the Dominical Letter “D.”

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Happy Holiday Travels!

Polaris DisasterWhen making a trip to the North Pole, you may have better luck hitching a sleigh ride with a mysterious old man cloaked in red, rather than traveling with arctic explorer Charles Francis Hall. His expedition to the North Pole in 1871 via the sailing ship Polaris ended in disaster due to harsh weather and an unruly crew. Hall’s arctic adventure and many others are chronicled by Alexander Hyde in The Frozen Zone and Its Explorers  (Hartford, Conn., 1874) / Travel Collection G620 .H9. Wherever you are headed this time of year, the Rare Book Collection wishes you safe travels and a good read.  Happy Holidays!


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120th Anniversary of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Untimely Death

Arthur Johnstone, Recollections of Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific (London, 1905) / PR5495 .J6) / Presented by Carl W. Gottschalk and Susan K. Fellner

Frontispiece in Arthur Johnstone, Recollections of Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific (London, 1905) / PR5495 .J6 / Presented by Carl W. Gottschalk and Susan K. Fellner

Today marks 120 years since the passing of the great Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson in 1894. The author of such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson was only 44 years old when he died in the Samoan Islands of a mysterious sudden illness. Though he lived a short life, Stevenson’s writings revived the Romantic movement in his time and continue to inspire wonder in readers today.

The Rare Book Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is fortunate to have a large number of works by and about Robert Louis Stevenson. Many of these fine and rare volumes were generously gifted by renowned doctor and book collector Carl W. Gottschalk and his wife Susan K. Fellner. Dr. Fellner is a research professor in UNC’s Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology. The late Dr. Gottschalk was Kenan professor and distinguished research professor of medicine and physiology at UNC and an eminent expert on the kidney. His stellar library of rare books on the human kidney came to the RBC following his death in 1997.

Stevenson is best known for his prose, but he also published several works of poetry. One highlight from the Gottschalk gift is an elegant edition of children’s poetry (below). A Child’s Garden of Verses was originally published in 1885 by Longmans of London after a trial book had appeared the same year with the title Penny Whistles. It was subsequently re-editoned many times due to the popularity of its over 60 short poems.

PR5489 .C5 1896

Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses (London, 1896) / PR5489 .C5 1896 / Presented by Carl W. Gottschalk and Susan K. Fellner

The RBC’s 1896 edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses was published by John Lane of London in a lovely green binding with gilt decoration to the spine and covers. It features 100 illustrations by the prolific English illustrator Charles Robinson. A Child’s Garden of Verses was the first full work that he illustrated. This edition was so popular that it demanded several additional printings.

Of all the poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses, one seems to capture the essence of Stevenson’s writing better than all the others: The Land of Story-books.

PR5489_.C5_1896_p93At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.

Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back.

There, in the night, where none can spy,
All in my hunter’s camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.

These are the hills, these are the woods,
These are my starry solitudes;
And there the river by whose brink
The roaring lions come to drink.


I see the others far away
As if in firelit camp they lay,
And I, like to an Indian scout,
Around their party prowled about.

So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks
At my dear land of Story-books.

Whether young or old, one cannot help falling in love with Stevenson’s tales. Possibly what makes Stevenson’s writing so beloved is its timeless ability to tap into the imaginations of readers. Stevenson’s fiction comes alive in the minds of those who close their eyes with childlike wonder and allow themselves to be transported to the worlds where pirates bury treasure and monsters lurk in the night.

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A Fashionista in the Stacks

This blogger has a confession: I love looking at fashion magazines. They always provide great ideas on what styles and colors work well together, which is certainly important as I decide what to wear before heading into the 2nd floor reading room of Wilson Library—always a hub of both research and fashion! (See our sweater posts last winter.) So why not look beyond the current magazines and see what people were wearing in the past?

The Rare Book Collection has a number of fashion periodicals of days gone by. My attention was drawn to ladies’ magazines of the 1840s to the 1860s, which featured not only fashion plates but also short stories and essays that were geared toward the nineteenth-century female reader.

The most well-known of these is Godey’s Lady’s Book, a monthly periodical published in Philadelphia. Louis A. Godey began publishing Lady’s Book in 1830; it underwent a number of title changes in its 68-year run before it ceased publication in 1898. During the 1840s, Sarah J. Hale (author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and an influential figure in making Thanksgiving a national holiday) was the editor of Godey’s. Each issue included a full-page plate illustrating ladies’ fashion, as well as short stories and essays.


AP2 .G56 v.68-69 (1864), c.2 / Donated in Honor of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Royal Davis by Mrs. Kathleen Stone.

In search of fashion inspiration, I checked to see what women were wearing 150 years ago. The November 1864 issue of Godey’s featured two detailed wood engravings of winter coats—the full length “Estramadura” and the shorter “Winter Jacket, in Double Crochet.” Both struck my eye for their careful detail and the way they conformed to the shapes of the dresses underneath. Like fashion magazines of the modern era, Godey’s included details on where to find the Estramadura (from the establishment of G. Brodie, in case you were wondering), as well as an assurance that the wood engraving was drawn from the actual articles of clothing, not the artist’s imagination. Even more fascinating, to my mind, was the winter jacket, for which the magazine included a crochet pattern so readers could make their own. Given the relatively modern style of the jacket, perhaps I should attempt to crochet this jacket for myself (or at least find a friend to make it for me). Who says fashion from 150 years ago has gone out of style?

The RBC’s holdings aren’t confined to just American periodicals, however. One of the most influential fashion magazines of the 1840s was Le Moniteur de la Mode (AP20 .M655), which began publication in Paris in 1843. Self-described as “Journal du Grand Monde,” it included articles on fashion, literature, fine arts, and theater. Issues were published on the 10th, 20th, and 30th of every month.

The most influential part of Le Moniteur de la Mode was not the articles but the hand-colored engravings by Jules David. The French artist created over 2,000 plates for the magazine before he died in 1892. Many of these were reprinted in other periodicals, such as Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, which found it more cost-effective to reuse David’s images than to furnish their own.


David’s plates were noted for their incorporation of contemporary décor into their backgrounds, a practice that other artists later began to adopt. David’s work contains great detail, such as the red cashmere shawl with its intricate designs (above). He employed both indoor and outdoor scenery—such as the room carefully decorated with a painting and small statue at right, and the hilltop arbor overlooking a distant landscape at left.

While I have found plenty of sartorial inspiration in these magazines, others have found them to be rich sources for research. Scholars have used these and similar ladies’ periodicals to study changes in style and printing history, as well as the role of women. No matter your point of interest, there is much to explore in these magazines.

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Oxford Dictionaries Word of 2013 Inspires Evening of Dance

Dancers on the floor with their smartphones.

Dancers on the floor with their smartphones.

“Please take out your phones. Please turn your ringers on, your volume on high. Please take phone calls. Please text. Please take photographs. If you tweet, set your profile from private to public. Tweet images and text with the hashtag #mxselfie. If you use Instagram, do the same. If you use Facebook, please like the Facebook Modernextension Dance Company page and post to our wall. In fact, please don’t stop doing these things from now until the performance ends. Please change your vantage point often. At the conclusion of a piece, offer your chair to a different person, go upstairs, downstairs. If a dancer interacts with you or takes a photograph with you, say yes.”

Those were the unusual instructions to the audience from Matt Karkutt, Wilson Library employee and Modernextension Dance Company member, before the UNC student ensemble performed “Self(i.e)” on Saturday, November 8. The creative improvisational program, inspired by the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013, selfie, provocatively examined how we communicate–and don’t–in our world of new technologies.

Conceived by Karkutt, the performance connected those in attendance virtually on vertiginous multiple levels–with real-time screening of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts behind the dancers–as well as physically–by bodily presence and movement in the Gerrard Hall space.

Selfie. page

MX-SELFIE-205x300An event with great positive energy, “Self(i.e.)” was the second collaboration between the Rare Book Collection and Modernextension. As Karkutt noted, the RBC, with its holdings ranging from cuneiform tablets to codices, “celebrates millennia of media.” “Self(i.e.)” publicity featured dancer Meredith Woodson at Wilson Library with smartphone in hand and Samuel Johnson’s legendary 1755 Dictionary of the English Language at her feet. Modernextension’s performance underscored the dual nature of the dictionary today as an online and physical book representing words “that are spoken and created in person and now online through virtual Media.”


The word SELF in Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (London, 1755), predecessor of the OED / Folio-2 J.B. 36 v.2 c. 1 / Presented by William A. Whitaker

Modernextension’s innovative performance came just a week before the OED announced its Word of the Year for 2014, “vape,” a verb that means to inhale or exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette.


The Oxford Dictionaries website

The RBC sees another subversive program in Modernextension’s future. Imagine the company (and the audience?) smoking their way across the floor of Gerrard Hall. Can we consider cigarettes a medium of communication?

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