The current spotlight exhibits are Hesburgh Library Special Collections: A Focus on W. B. Yeats (October – December 2022) and The Ladies Flower-Garden of Ornamental Annuals (December 2022 – January 2023).
Due to OIT infrastructure work being done in the Hesburgh Library, Special Collections will be closed on Monday, December 19, 2022.
Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Notre Dame’s Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 23, 2022, through January 2, 2023).
We otherwise remain open for our regular hours during Reading Days and Exams, and welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.
The painting of a wild turkey featured in this Thanksgiving post is also displayed in pride of place in the book in which it was printed: opposite the title page in Audubon’s American Birds, from Plates by J.J. Audubon, published in 1949 in London and New York by a British publisher, Batsford. As the title indicates, this is a book of reproductions of fewer than two dozen of John Audubon’s paintings from his monumental work of natural history and painting, Birds of America, published in London between 1827 and 1838.
Batsford, the publisher that produced this modest, post-war volume, wished to place Audubon’s accomplished paintings within reach of nearly everyone. The publisher asked Sacheverell Sitwell to write the introduction, which makes up (excluding the illustrations’ captions) the book’s text. Sitwell was a poet and a prolific writer, mostly on artistic themes and as an art critic. In this book on Audubon’s birds, Sitwell places Audubon’s work firmly within the history of British and American art.
Sitwell also underscored the publisher’s populist intent. The writer noted that books like Audubon’s original work, which was produced in the largest possible format—elephantine, was the “modern equivalent of the illuminated missals of the middle ages. They were accessible only in the houses of the rich and in public libraries.” (p. 10) Sitwell (who was himself both wealthy and titled) and Batsford made Audubon’s great nineteenth-century achievement accessible to popular audiences in Britain and the United States. Turkey for the people.
RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break (November 24-25, 2022). We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!
As fall comes to a close and leaves blanket the landscape, there are still apples fit for picking and ideal carving pumpkins throughout much of Michiana. You may not find any such apples or pumpkins rolling around Rare Books and Special Collections this fall, but a journey into the books from Edward Lee Greene’s personal library is certain to furnish you with some fruity history about the connection between fruit and identity in American history. Edward Lee Greene (1843-1915) was an American botanist whose personal library of over 3,000 volumes is held in Rare Books and Special Collections. Though you won’t encounter a botanical history that explains the pumpkin spice latte in the stacks, Greene’s library does contain an intriguing manual that helps us to think about the role of fruit in American history and our daily lives from the perspective of a state well-known for its horticulture: California.
Written by Edward J. Wickson in 1889, The California Fruits and How to Grow Them is a manual that covers nearly every topic a novice California horticulturist would seemingly need to learn to begin cultivating fruit, whether in the late-nineteenth century or today. Wickson’s handbook begins with an overview of California’s climate and soils before moving into descriptions of the range and histories of various wild and introduced plant species, such as the California crabapple, the wild gooseberry, and the California jujube. Those eager to introduce their own varieties of common fruits could find more than enough help in the second half of Wickson’s The California Fruits and How to Grow Them. From recommendations for growing specific plants to guides on how to implement certain cultivation techniques, such furrow irrigation or grafting, an important method for propagating certain species like apple trees, Wickson’s volume contains an array of horticultural tips and tricks to help the aspiring horticulturist to get their backyard orchard up and running.
The California Fruits and How to Grow Them, however, is much more than just a horticultural manual. Wickson’s volume, like many others contained in the Edward L. Greene Collection, reveals much about the intersections between science, human-nature relationships, and American identity in the late-nineteenth-century United States. For Wickson’s readers, the scientific knowledge they gleaned from The California Fruits and How to Grow Them rendered history visible in the form of the very fruit they plucked from the California environment. Crabapple trees and evergreen shrubs such as manzanita became reminders of California’s indigenous histories as Wickson informed readers that these fruit-bearers were “highly esteemed by the Indians.” Other fruits conjured images of Spanish California, including “orange, fig, palm, olive and grape,” all of which, according to Wickson, Jesuit priests established at the Spanish missions that spread across the region in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In Wickson’s view, however, “these early efforts at improvement of California fruits were but faint forerunners of the zeal and enterprise which followed the great invasion by gold seekers.” For Wickson, specific techniques typified this pioneer “zeal” and ushered California not only into a new historical period but a new era of fruit cultivation, such as grafting. Grafting is a technique of propagating a variety of fruit by inserting a bud of the chosen variety into the trunk of an existing tree (usually of a different species). Though grafting is an old technique for food production, one likely present in California since at least the Spanish colonial period, Wickson omits this detail in text instead associating grafting with other American technical innovations such as the use of railroad transportation to move fresh fruit in and out of the state. Instead, grafting and railroad transportation embodied the ways in which Wickson imagined Californians as ushering in a new and, by implication, better era of fruit cultivation throughout the state. Deploying nineteenth-century notions of progress and improvement to chart the place of American migrants in California’s natural and human histories, Wickson’s book transformed horticultural practices into metaphors that signified how and why California fit into American history, grafting Wickson, other Californians, and their recent possession of the California landscape onto the fruits of the California environment in the process.
Nineteenth-century Californians like Wickson understood fruit as more than simply a thing to cultivate. Fruit trees, vines, and shrubs were also botanical texts through which Californians could read themselves into the history of the state. Much like the apple orchards, pumpkin patches, or corn mazes many Americans will wander through this fall, orange groves and hillsides covered in gooseberries provided nineteenth-century Californians with experiences that may have helped them to anchor themselves in new places, communities, or environments. Fruit, as Wickson’s volume reveals, was central to being Californian–a thing California is not only known for, but through which people have historically come to know themselves and the state. Perhaps, with our autumn strolls through apple orchards or pumpkin patches, Americans today are not so different? Food for thought, I suppose. Happy fall everyone!
As we wish you a celebratory Independence Day, we also mark the retirement of longtime rare books cataloger, Joe Ross. We thank Lou Jordan. Associate University Librarian, who was for many years the Head of Rare Books and Special Collections, for contributing an essay on Joe’s career.
As an undergraduate Joe pursued an interest in theology. He was awarded a BA in religion in 1973 from Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA, and went on to obtain a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Joe also studied the history of science, spending the 1975-76 academic year as a research assistant at the Institut für die Geschichte der Medizin, Tübingen.
Joe took his first library job in 1979 as a library assistant at Emory University. In 1981, Joe was hired at Notre Dame by Maureen Gleason as a library technical assistant to work with the collection development librarian Joe Huebner. His workspace was centrally located, close to the circulation desk in the room where the current shipment of new books from our North American approval plan were displayed for decisioning. Also located in that room were the 3×5 book slips for our approval plan from German publishers. Consequently, most subject librarians and many Arts and Letters faculty stopped by the room on a regular basis to peruse the latest publications and at the same time also got to know Joe. Joe quickly gained a reputation as a linguist and a scholar, assisting a wide array of librarians and teaching faculty procure needed titles. During this time Joe renewed his interested in the history of science, taking one course at a time and finally in 1991 completing an MA in the History of Science program at Notre Dame, focusing his study on Hegel.
In 1992, Joe resigned his staff position in order to pursue a Masters of Library Science degree full-time at Indiana University in Bloomington. Following his MLS, Joe accepted a library faculty position at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C as the Bibliographer for Philosophy, Theology, and Humanities. In 1996 Notre Dame advertised for a rare books cataloger; Joe applied for this position and was hired at the rank of a staff librarian as the first full time Rare Books Cataloger at Hesburgh Library. In 1997 he took on the added duties as liaison to the program in the History and Philosophy of Science and in 1999 was promoted to Assistant Librarian.
Joe is a master linguist, fluent in German and with a command of Greek, Latin, most major Western European languages, as well as Arabic and even Sanskrit. His language ability and meticulous scholarship are his signature traits. Joe surrounded himself with rare books and the reference works needed to catalog these texts. There was hardly any open space in his office—even the chair he reserved for visitors was often filled with the past month’s copies of The New York Times.
Joe consistently produced high level original cataloging for rare materials no matter what language they were in. He was especially diligent with complex works that most catalogers would put aside. He accurately described each individual text in our numerous neo-scholastic theological anthologies that has come from various Olmütz monastic libraries. Similarly, he clearly distinguished the numerous lectures, poems and dissertations collected in our 17th century German university miscellanies. Joe also meticulously documented provenance information, tracing down handwritten signatures and ex-libris annotations as well as identifying many hitherto unrecorded early book stamps and labels.
During his 25 years as a rare book cataloger Joe provided thousands of original catalog records for early imprints unlocking the content of these important resources for the Notre Dame community and for scholars around the world.
Best wishes in your well-deserved retirement Joe, we shall miss you.
Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed on Monday, July 5th, in observance of Independence Day. For research visits to Special Collections, please make an appointment by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you and yours a happy Canada Day (July 1) and a festive Fourth of July!
Americans might be seeing fewer turkeys on their tables this Thanksgiving, due to the demands of social distancing during the pandemic. No matter what holiday fare you get to enjoy this year, we offer a reminder of our unofficial national bird. This illustration of wild turkeys comes from American Ornithology; or, The Natural History of Birds Inhabiting the United States, Not Given by Wilson, a four-volume work by French scientist and ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte (1803-1857). He worked on the project while he lived in the United States in the 1820s and it was published between 1825 and 1833.
An armchair ornithologist, the aristocratic Bonaparte did not do fieldwork himself, as this print shows. It was engraved by Alexander Lawson (1773-1846) from an illustration “Drawn from Nature” by Titian R. Peale (1799-1885). Bonaparte’s strengths lay in his abilities to classify and name birds, and he directed his talent to supplementing work by an earlier ornithologist, Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), whom Bonaparte referenced in his title.
Rare Books and Special Collections holds only the plates from Bonaparte’s multi-volume work; it is part of the library’s history of science collection and complements our Edward Lee Greene collection on the history of botany.
Notre Dame’s fall semester concluded on November 20, 2020, but the campus remains open during the much of the Winter Session (November 21, 2020 – February 2, 2021). Rare Books and Special Collections will be CLOSED on the following dates:
November 25-29 (Thanksgiving Holiday) December 19-January 5 (Winter Break)
Our health and safety protocols continue to include limiting our building population to those people essential to the teaching and research of our current students and faculty. To that effect, we are not encouraging visitors or patrons who are not current, active members of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College communities.
Members of these communities may request appointments to access Rare Books & Special Collections materials. Please email Rare Books & Special Collections for research and course support or to make an appointment. Research requests by non-ND-affiliates are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, per the University’s Campus Visitors Policy.
In the fall of 2019, my fellow curator, Julie Tanaka, and I planned our exhibition, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. This exhibition was an opportunity to share Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings with South Bend community youth as much as a showcase of our natural histories featuring animals. We promoted the show with local school districts and arranged visits for first graders, second graders, and high school students.
Beyond tours, which are primarily a visual and aural experience, we wanted to provide a fun, hands on opportunity for local kids related to our exhibition. Touching, holding, and even smelling is integral to the experience of handling a book—especially an old book. We wanted young students to be able to feel the weight of traditional early modern wooden boards and handle a half leather binding. We wanted them to be able to view our woodcuts and engravings of an early modern rhinoceros, elephant, sloth, and other critters up close!
This desire to share the physical experience of a rare book with kids prompted us to explore the possibility of creating a facsimile of an early modern book that students could handle freely. As curators in a special collections setting, we interact frequently with conservators, our colleagues skilled in the treatment and preservation of books. They provide guidance on handling rare materials and perform repairs that facilitate use of our materials on a daily basis. This project, however, was a special opportunity to collaborate with our preservation department, particularly one of our conservators, Jen Hunt Johnson, and our current Gladys Brooks Fellow, Maren Rozumalski. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge and has postponed our use of the facsimile, but it has nonetheless been completed! This blog post is an opportunity to share the facsimile with readers and to highlight the collaborations that often occur between curators and conservators.
Julie and I met with Jen, Maren, and Sara Weber, our digital project specialist (and the constant force behind this blog!) to flesh out the details of this project. Ultimately we decided to create a sort of composite facsimile volume comprised entirely of images selected from the works featured in our physical exhibition. Sara photographed the images that Julie and I selected. They were formatted and printed on heavyweight paper chosen to mimic the look and feel of early modern rag paper. Jen and Maren then performed the heavy labor to construct this artifact! In the following paragraphs, Jen describes her work on, and experience with, this project.
Creating opportunities to promote our collections is a goal that’s shared between curators and conservators. As the facsimile provides an opportunity to bring elements of the RBSC exhibit to a broader audience through school visits, and other programming, the project also introduces participants to the work that conservators do in the library to treat and preserve books. Handling this book offers a tactile experience to illustrate the ways in which an historic book structure functions, and allows the audience, particularly children, to handle materials such as paper, leather, and wood, that they may be less encouraged to interact with when encountering our rare and fragile materials. This is an opportunity for participants to feel engaged in an environment where there are often barriers and restrictions to objects that can limit the sense of personal connection.
Creating the facsimile during the initial outbreak of a pandemic was not without its challenges. Working remotely restricted access to tools, equipment, and a proper surface to work on. Coordinating decisions regarding printing, sewing, material choices, and also foreseeing and troubleshooting problems was much harder to do through emails and still images, as compared to face-to-face meetings, and ready access to materials and supplies. In the end, a patio table and clamps set up in my living room served as a sturdy station for preparing wooden boards. A lying press, non-slip foam shelf liners, and careful balancing made do for a job backer to secure the material being worked. A 12 x 12” granite floor tile made a reasonable weight, applying even pressure when drying large areas like endsheets when a book press was unavailable. I even had to source material from a mail order wood shop when I realized the original wooden board I had purchased to work with was too thick to fit our textblock, and local vendors were closed due to the pandemic. None of these situations were ideal, but working through the process and figuring out what worked was ultimately rewarding, and fun!
We are very excited about the final product that has emerged from this collaboration. Here we share some photographs of our unique creation, Compendium Animalium, and we look forward to sharing the volume in person in the future with students on campus and in the South Bend community!
This year, we have no special announcement about closure for the Independence Day holiday, as the Hesburgh Library remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to serve our community remotely, drawing on digital images and other resources while working offsite, and we expect that the continuing challenges of limited in-person visits will demand more digitization.
As we move gradually back into our workspace, we look forward to working creatively with faculty and students to make the next semester successful for all and to figuring out how we can best serve our Notre Dame community in these different times.
In this digital exhibit, the curators, Erika and Julie, recreate the physical exhibit, including the unaltered text from the information cards as well as the accompanying rhino cards geared towards kids. They also offer a candid statement about their intent for the exhibit and how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted it. Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital documents this project in its entirety, from conception through planning, installation, and outreach.
Erika and Julie welcome questions about their original intentions and about how they made adjustments in light of the restrictions created by the COVID-19 outbreak. They would also like to hear from others who have undergone similar experiences or who are interested in doing something similar.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day—April 22, 2020—Rare Books and Special Collections offers an online exhibition, Describing, Conserving, and Celebrating the Earth: Primary Sources from Hesburgh Libraries. It displays sources about the earth in science, culture, public policy, and politics, from the 1750s to 2004. In keeping with the American origins of Earth Day in 1970 and the EPA, these sources are primarily from an American context.
Each section holds a primary source or group of sources that reflect different periods, kinds of materials (books, illustrations, posters, reports, etc.), and approaches to studying, appreciating, and preserving the earth. The library’s Rare Books and Special Collections resources are where some of these items come from; others are government documents that are available in the open stacks of Hesburgh Library (when the library’s print collection reopens).
A mid-eighteenth-century British naturalist’s illustrated description of wildlife and plant life in the American colonies.
The first issue of the Sierra Club Bulletin, a nature enthusiast’s magazine focused on the western United States.
A late nineteenth-century botanist’s findings, published in an early scientific journal.
A World War II poster by the United States Forest Service, urging people to preserve forests.
A mid-century warning about human damage to wildlife in the United States.
Examples of federal conservation before the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): a conference report on pollution in the Lake Michigan watershed, and an international commission’s findings about pollution levels in boundary waters between Canada and the US.
A compilation of environment-inspired poems, published a few years after the first Earth Day.
An Earth Day-inspired speech by actor and environmentalist Eddie Albert.
Two EPA publications: an early catalog of agency-sponsored training programs for professionals responsible for pollution control, and a 2004 brochure about the conservation of the Chesapeake Bay.
Each year, thanks to the Albert J. and Helen M. Ravarino Family Endowment for Excellence, the Center for Italian Studies sponsors a public lecture by a distinguished scholar of Italian Studies.
The spring exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800, is open and will run through the summer. This is an exhibit of rare zoological books featuring early printed images of animals. We welcome classes and other groups of any age and would love to tailor a tour for your students and your curriculum — and if you can’t come to campus, the curators can bring the exhibit to you. Watch for forthcoming announcements of additional related events!