A History of the Future

Contributed by Anne Bahde, Rare Books and History of Science Librarian

The start of a new academic year always carries such hopeful anticipation about the future. This is the annual moment designated to define our best academic selves, to pin due dates on the calendar, to imagine the possible achievements of the new year. In September, we collectively make the effort to throw off the limitations of the past, heave our hopes into the future, and breathe in the freshness of new potential.

Though it may seem incongruous, rare book librarians think a lot about the future. Navigating the inherent conflicts between our dual goals – preserving materials and making them accessible – takes forethought and strategy. Lately, my thoughts as a rare book librarian and archivist have been swirling with uncertainties around the future of research, academic libraries, and unique materials. How does the concept of rarity change as academic libraries continue to discard physical collections? What will special collections reading rooms look like in a year, in three years, in twenty years? How will researcher demand for special collections and archives change as we find our way in a new research reality over the next few years? How will the advancing climate disaster challenge our missions, and will we be able to adapt? With others in my profession, I am anxiously scanning the horizon for what might be coming.

Before the pandemic when we were onsite, I would take a walk in the rare book stacks when my mind started spinning with thoughts like these. I would pull something interesting off the shelf to help me interact with the past and put things in perspective. Though we are now transitioning back to more onsite work, for the past 20 months I haven’t been able to handle any of the books in our collections for more than a few minutes at a time. There is one book I have missed more than others, and I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Fasciculus Tempo[rum]… Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1480.

Published by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice in 1480, the Fasciculus temporum (rough translation: ‘little bundles of time’) is an illustrated timeline of historical events from biblical creation up to the year of publication. (A digitized copy of the 1481 edition can be found via Google Books here.) German Carthusian monk Werner Rolevinck compiled the first edition in 1474 from a variety of sources. His text quickly became a bestseller due to both its practical features and its engaging content, and was republished dozens of times as a popular title promising easy profit to the printers in the burgeoning European marketplace for books.

The 1480 Ratdolt edition, his first of five over the next few years, begins with an index of events sorted alphabetically by first name or title of event. In our copy, a past reader has helpfully highlighted these first letters in an earthy yellow color for easy reference. This orderly presentation moves past the solid block of an introductory page (supplied in facsimile in our copy), but quickly turns to a typographical riot of of lines, circles, text, and illustration, all mixing together to represent the notable events, people, and relationships throughout history. Ratdolt based his layout on previous manuscript and printed versions of the Fasciculus temporum, but his lively, challenging pages have a special movement in them. The reader is pulled into the flow of time and bobs from event to event in the rivers of information.

In the first part of the book, the two timelines settle into parallel tracks. The upper timeline dates the years since creation (year 1), while the lower timeline, which Ratdolt has printed upside down and in reverse chronology, counts backwards to the year of Christ’s birth, after which it resets to year 1 and turns right side up. This layout, supplemented throughout with rough woodcuts depicting cities and events, is as eye-catching and engaging now as it was meant to be in 1480.

The parallel timeline, with the bottom printed upside down and in reverse chronology

During this infancy period of the new art of printing, printers signed their work in a statement at the end of the text called the colophon. A (very) rough translation of the colophon in the Fasciculus temporum would be: “Here ends the chronicle, which is to say, a bundle of time, so issued by a certain Carthusian. Now the second edition amended with some additions to this our time. Printed in Venice at the interest and expense of Erhard Ratdolt from Augsburg in the Year of our Lord 1480 on the 24th of the month of November and Doge Giovanni Mocenico, builder of the city. Praise be to God.”

The colophon

When he printed this book, Ratdolt was at the height of his creativity as a printer. He had been born at the right moment in time to be a teenager when Gutenberg introduced his printing press to Europe. Ratdolt grew into adulthood while witnessing the birth of the printed word, and in a sense he guided and shaped the new form as it evolved from that birth. He was the first printer to figure out how to print in three colors on the same page (in order to represent the phases of an eclipse); and the first to print in gold ink. He was the first to represent constellations in print. He was the first to date books in Arabic rather than Roman numerals. He created the first printer’s type specimen as a needed tool for his busy printing business. He invented my own favorite paratext, the woodcut initial. He also gets the credit for designing the first title page resembling our modern format. (Though dated, Redgrave’s article still has the most entertaining and thorough exploration of Ratdolt’s accomplishments.)

Ratdolt was also the first to figure out how to represent geometric diagrams, in his triumphant 1482 edition of Euclid’s Elementa (HathiTrust copy, OSU restricted). I have had the privilege of handling many beautiful rare books in my career, but the thrilling experience of handling the copy of his Euclid at a previous institution (San Diego State University) is among the most memorable. Quarter bound in black and green cloth, its front binding joint was very tender and it always had to be opened with care. But after that initial physical hesitation, the reader was instantly drawn into the geometric genius of the work. Page after page of labeled figures are set into and around the explanatory text, a printing invention that would change how the world learned geometry from then on. Margins meant nothing to Ratdolt, and he used the page space to the purpose he needed without the constraints of conformity. His Euclid, and indeed all his other creations, are delights of text and other page elements interacting in spirited, stimulating ways.

Ratdolt continued his contributions over a long and illustrious career. One biographer, Moritz Cantor, reports that Ratdolt “continued his business with undiminished distinction to an old age.” He died in 1528, so he even got to see his earlier work reinvented to its maximum when his new title page format finally solidified in the early 16th century (and he probably had a hand in that somewhere too). Despite this decorated career and notable impact, Ratdolt has a sadly puny Wikipedia entry. A biographical site linked there is rife with link rot. (What would this print innovator make of link rot?)

The second ever depiction of Venice in print

When this book was published, the familiar forms of the book that we know today were still being shaped, and that freedom from tradition is palpable on the pages. Ratdolt couldn’t know what the future of publishing would look like, but he had some ideas and ran with them, and ended up changing the way humans learned and read, now still up to our own time. His boldness, confidence, creativity, and unfettered vision still leap from his pages and inspire the reader, nearly 550 years after he had those ideas.

My favorite part of this book, though, is not among the printed pages. Our copy, in an early binding, has many indications of past reader interactions – marginalia, manicules, and other notes are scattered throughout. A musical staff is sketched next to the entry for that invention as a handy reference. One artistic early reader even added pen flourishes and decorative lines to enhance features throughout the book.

Perhaps it was the same past owner who gave this artifact its lasting power. Bound in after the very last page of the printed text are new, clean pages, neatly lined in a parallel timeline imitating Ratdolt’s design, waiting to be filled in so the reader could faithfully track events yet to happen. 

These empty pages take my breath away and make my heart skip a beat, every time. Most times, my eyes tear up too. The manuscript timeline, lined in a confident hand and stretching on for a dozen pages, conveys so much readiness and anticipation. These blank lines are hope itself to me, propelled forward by the imagination of what might come next.

Living at the end of the Anthropocene, through a human time defined by uncertainty and rapid change, it is easy to get lost in prophecy or dwell on what could have been. At this moment, we are disoriented and distracted. In every other Zoom meeting, someone mutters, “time has no meaning,” as they try to remember when something did or is scheduled to happen in this blurry era.

Artifacts from the past such as this one help me live in hope, anchor me in possibility, and focus my energy on creating the future. As we begin the new year, SCARC will be back in our 5th floor reading room welcoming researchers by appointment only. If, like me, you need to feel a spark of hope and fresh anticipation, I urge you make an appointment to see this book, and to wonder: what will you be first at? What event will you number your years from? How will you manifest your talents to improve the world? What will you look back on with satisfaction in your later years? How will you live outside the margins? What are your additions to this our time, and how will you make them last? What future will you create?

Best wishes for a safe and inspiring Fall 2021.

October is Oregon Archives Month, and we will be featuring other SCARC staff favorites from our collections here on Speaking of History.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Redgrave, G. R.  Erhard Ratdolt and His Work at Venice : a Paper Read before the Bibliographical Society, November 20, 1893. England: The Society, April 1894-September 1895, 1895.

Bowers, Diana. “The Physical Text is History”: Erhard Ratdolt’s Editions of Werner Rolewinck’s Fasciculus Temporum,” History of Art & Design Theses, Pratt Institute, 2015, accessed September 1, 2021, http://hadthesis.pratt.edu/items/show/62.

Bühler, Curt F. “Erhard Ratdolt’s Vanity.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 49 (1955): 186–88.

Bühler, Curt F. “The Laying of a Ghost? Observations on the 1483 Ratdolt Edition of the “Fasciculus Temporum”.” Studies in Bibliography 4 (1951): 155–59.

Josephson, Askel G.S. “Fifteenth-Century Editions of Fasciculus temporum in American Libraries.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 11 (January 1, 1917): 61-65.

Cantor, Moritz. Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Mathematik v.2: 265-68.  Translated by Richard Froese. Cited by JF Ptak, “The Color Blind Geometer and the Color-Coded Euclid,” https://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2008/10/the-color-blind.html.

Jeremy Norman’s ever-fascinating History of Information blog has many entries on Ratdolt’s work: https://www.historyofinformation.com/index.php?str=ratdolt

Hints of Gold in the Backlog: Part 4 of 4

This is Part 4 of a research exploration by Cataloger Vance Woods and History of Science/Rare Books Librarian Anne Bahde.  Part 1Part 2; Part 3.

With these details confirmed, Vance could finally prepare the catalog record for the item. The time spent on cataloging proper is by far the least time-intensive of the process; the key is to have all the pertinent information at hand so that when one begins working on the bibliographic record most of the necessary data is readily available. 

As it happens, Vance was in the middle of a rare books cataloging class, and was able to incorporate some of the things he learned in the class into the record as he went. For one thing, having not worked with too many items of such early date, this was Vance’s first foray into the wonderful world of signatures (otherwise known as a collation, an indication of how the printed leaves were meant to be folded and gathered for binding). In this case, the situation was complicated by the fact that the symbol used was the Greek letter eta, which is not available in most cataloging systems, and therefore required bracketing and “transcription”: “Signatures (in Greek characters): ē4.”

Through each step of our research process to answer our initial questions “what is this item?” and “how did it come to OSU?,” we both had to call on our primary source literacy skills. Primary source literacy is defined as the set of skills needed to successfully find, understand, analyze, interpret, and use primary sources such as rare books and archives in research. 

Developed in 2015-2018 by a team of 12 special collections and archives educators (of which Anne was a proud member), the SAA/ACRL-RBMS Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy show why these skills are critical for students of all ages engaging in any research involving original sources. Fluid flexing of these skills allowed us to find information quickly and efficiently through the research process for our Libavius item.

At the beginning of our process, we drew on the item to generate and refine our research questions, moving from “what is this item?” to exploring its role in the alchemical debate and the potential complications of its publication (1C). As sources were discovered and knowledge was extended, our questions took on different angles and elements, and new information was gathered at each step. We integrated that knowledge into our searching, and searched in different ways for the item in different places (1D). To place the item in a disciplinary context, we pursued secondary sources and used our knowledge of the relationships between secondary and primary sources. (1A). We examined the item and factored in material elements to understand the piece through the communication norms of the period (3A, 4E). Because we understood that the title might exist in a variety of iterations, excerpts, transcriptions, or translations through time, we searched for it across multiple platforms and adjusted our search terms as needed. (3C).

As we learned more about the item, we evaluated it critically in light of what we knew about the creator and his personal biases, as well as the original purpose behind its publication (4B). We were able to situate the source in context by applying knowledge about the time and culture in which it was created, while considering its publication history and format (4C). Our consultation of trusted expertise helped us identify and consider the reasons for gaps and contradictions in the potential publication history of the item (4D). 

When examining its provenance and movement through the centuries, we articulated what might serve as primary sources to answer this question: purchase receipts, communication with dealers, descriptions from rare book dealers and auction records (1B). We identified possible locations of these sources in other collections using a variety of strategies and pursued those leads for more information (2A, 2B). We encountered policies that affected our access to primary sources and recognized their potential impact on our research (2E). When considering new sources, such as the auction catalog, we assessed their appropriateness for meeting our goals (4A). We met the actors in our story with historical empathy and understood how their moment in history affected their actions (4E). Finally, through our reports here, we communicated the content of sources with attention to the context of their production (3E). We examined a variety of sources to construct our research claims (5A), and practiced appropriate citation and copyright practices (5B, 5D). 

With the catalog record completed, the Libavius pamphlet can take its place at last among its partners in the History of Science Rare Book Collection and join a strong concentration of rare books on the history of pharmacy and chemistry. Because we now know some of its hidden stories, the item can now function in a variety of ways to teach these primary source literacy skills. It might used to support classes or research involving early modern scientific discourse or communication, or the history of pharmaceutical use of metals, or the effects of war on the human condition, or the movement and dispersal of collections over time. 

For each of these approaches, this same Libavius pamphlet could be used in class activities or research, but for each context it can hold a different teaching power, and be used to teach and learn various primary source literacy skills in partnership with other complementary sources. 

The resources needed to complete quality descriptive cataloging of materials are significant, and the effort must nearly always be collective. We complete our stage of this work with questions still turning in our heads: Was the full text for our preface ever published? Might there be a record of anyone using or referencing it? Were there more prefaces printed? If so, where did they go, and if not, why not? How might this text have affected alchemical arguments of the time? Knowing that research is iterative, and that there will always be more questions than time, we place the item in the collection and wait for others to take up these paths of inquiry. 

Acknowledgements
Professor Bruce Moran, University of Nevado-Reno
Brad Engelbert, Oregon State University Library and Press 
Cali Vance, University of Washington Special Collections
Allee Monheim, University of Washington Special Collections
Thüringer Universitäts- und Landsbibliothek in Jena, Germany staff

Bibliography and Further Reading

Principe, Lawrence M., ed. Chymists and Chymistry: Studies in the History of Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications, 2006. 

Moran, Bruce T.. Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution. United Kingdom: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Moran, Bruce T.. Paracelsus: An Alchemical Life. United Kingdom: Reaktion Books, 2019.

Moran, Bruce T.. Andreas Libavius and the Transformation of Alchemy: Separating Chemical Cultures with Polemical Fires. United States: Science History Publications/Watson Pub. International, 2007.

Debus, Allen G.. Chemistry and Medical Debate: Van Helmont to Boerhaave. United States: Science History, 2001.

Newman, William R. Atoms and Alchemy : Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

For more on u/v historical usage: 

McKerrow, R. B. An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927.

Leslie, Deborah J. and Benjamin Griffin. Transcription of Early Letter Forms in Rare Materials Cataloging. 2003. https://rbms.info/files/dcrm/dcrmb/wg2LeslieGriffin.pdf

Hints of Gold in the Backlog: Part 3 of 4

This is Part 3 of a research exploration by Cataloger Vance Woods and History of Science and Rare Books Librarian Anne Bahde. Part 1; Part 2.

We were heartened by Professor Bruce Moran’s response to our inquiries, though they had introduced new questions. We sent scans of the rest of the pamphlet to Moran, and told him of our discovery of the title in this index, to see if he could shed any further light. He replied:

“I can affirm that this is a preface to a work that is focused on the Disputatio de auro potabili of Thomas Erastus.  Libavius admits that the man (Erastus) is dead [Erastus died in 1583], but that what he wrote is still alive; and he points out that Erastus, in his book, has brought together nearly all the arguments that “we recollect he wrote and said against our opinions/ views.”  So, this is very much a counter-thrust, but without seeing the text itself there is no way of knowing what kinds of arguments Libavius has in mind.  The main thing is, you have here only the preface to the work itself.  I looked at the library in Jena to see what it has.   That copy also has only the preface.  So, it too is not complete and has no text beyond what you have.  The interesting thing is that the preface refers to the Disputatio as having been edited fourteen years before.  We know that the book appeared in 1578, so that would make the composition of the Libavius text, if not its publication, 1592.  I have no idea where the date 1596 in the index comes from.  The Jena copy has no date.  Perhaps the text went to print later.  But since both you and Jena have copies that have no date and only include the preface (and nothing else), perhaps the text was never published (for one reason or another) and all that remains are a few copies of the preface itself.”

Professor Moran’s interpretation provided some fascinating answers, but yet again we had more questions than we began with. We knew now that the item was likely meant to be used in an educational context, and was intended to be presented in direct juxtaposition to Erastus’ work on Paracelsus and the ingestion of gold. But we also knew that what we held was only a fragment of what was intended to be part of a larger product; because it had been potentially separated from its original context, we could not fully appreciate how it was intended to be used and understood. 

We puzzled further over the item’s provenance and began tracing its potential movements from the date of its publication through various owners, and ultimately to SCARC’s backlog. A review of acquisition records confirmed that we lacked clear documentation about how or when it was acquired by OSU. 

We began this research from the ownership mark we did have, the bookplate from pharmacologist Emil Starkenstein. Starkenstein was one of the most important figures in European pharmacology in the 20th century. He published prolifically on a wide range of topics in the field and held respected teaching positions. He had a passion for book collecting early in his career, and he built an unrivaled pharmacological collection

We quickly found other evidence of other treasures he collected. The Morgan Library holds a 14th century manuscript herbal from his library, and a census of the rare Fabrica of Vesalius indicates a copy with his bookplate.  The bookplate in his rare Libavius piece was one of at least four lovely plates Starkenstein used to mark his books. 

But this brilliant life was among the six million murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust. According to an oral history from rare book dealer Ludwig Gottschalk cited in Starkenstein’s Wikipedia entry, Starkenstein’s family agreed to sell the collection to him before Starkenstein was sent to Mauthausen in 1942. But “when Gottschalk faced deportation to the camps himself, he secreted the library in several locations in the Black Forest and went into hiding. After the war, he reassembled the Starkenstein books and for nearly half a century sold items from the collection under the name Biblion, Inc., in Forest Hills, New York.” 

Our pamphlet likely laid hidden in the forest with the rest of Starkenstein’s collection during the war. This heartbreaking report urged us to consider the awful decisions Starkenstein, his family, and Gottschalk had faced as they were persecuted for their faith. Making the decision to part with a lovingly acquired, splendid collection must have been achingly sad; perhaps that sadness was only outweighed by the immense fear Starkenstein must have felt for himself and his family. 

Gottschalk selected those hiding spots for the precious books hoping to live through the war and come back for them. As keys to his potential economic survival after the war, he must have hoped desperately that they would still be there. What had seemed at first an unassuming pamphlet now stood to us as a potent symbol of the profound losses of the Holocaust.

As far we as could tell from other compiled provenance data for our collections, we held no other books with Starkenstein’s bookplate. As we reviewed internal historical acquisitions files, Anne found a typed dealer description for our item. Though no dealer was listed on the page, the format and style matched many other items in our collection with dealer descriptions from the well-known Los Angeles book dealer Zeitlin & Ver Brugge. 

It is unknown how the pamphlet moved from Gottschalk’s Biblion to Zeitlin & Ver Brugge, but we began to look closer at how it may have moved from Zeitlin & Ver Brugge to OSU.

The unmarked, typed dealer description that matches the style of others from Zeitlin & ver Brugge
A typical typed dealer description from Zeitlin & ver Brugge
Catalog for the sale of Jake Zeitlin’s stock at Swann Galleries, 1988
Shelf lots at the end of the Swann Galleries Part 1 Sale

Upon Jake Zeitlin’s death, his stock went to Swann Galleries to be sold. This sale took place in two parts in 1988. We were able to consult a copy of the catalog for Part 1, and asked a library holding the catalog for Part 2 (University of Washington Special Collections) to consult their copy, which they graciously did despite having very limited access to collections during COVID. 

The Libavius title is not listed in the catalogs to either Part 1 or Part 2 of this sale, but could have appeared in one of the “10 uncataloged shelf lots” listed at the end of Part 1, which consisted “primarily of works in chemistry, physics, and medicine.” OSU’s Special Collections department was founded in 1986, and librarians at the time were building history of science book collections through bulk purchase.  

While we don’t have direct evidence of an OSU purchase, we do have indirect evidence that an OSU special collections librarian was at the Part 1 sale in April 1988, in the form of an unrelated piece of correspondence from that time. It is likely that this item was purchased at the Swann sale to add to our growing history of science collections. (If this is true, the item has stumped catalogers and lingered in our backlog for over thirty years!)

Excerpt from correspondence in internal files showing OSU presence at sale

In Part 4, we will reflect on what we have discovered and the research skills helping us arrive at these answers.

Hints of Gold in the Backlog: Part 2 of 4

This is Part 2 of a research exploration by Cataloger Vance Woods and History of Science and Rare Books Librarian Anne Bahde. Find Part 1 here.

From here, we could branch our research into different directions to expand our knowledge of the work. We now had pending questions about the title’s content, production, context, and story, as well the physical item’s origin and provenance. First, Vance reached out to the other holding library in Germany. They responded to Vance’s message, but did not have any more information than we did about the piece. (However, after our own discoveries, Vance reached out to them again to share what we had learned; they are in the process of updating their own records accordingly.)

We began filling in our gaps in knowledge about the historical context of the item. A typed bibliography of history of science holdings at OSU produced in 1988 identifies the piece as an “introduction to Libavius’ response to Thomas Erastus’ attack on Paracelsus and the Ioatrochemists. Erastus had attacked Paracelsus in his Disputation Concerning Potable Gold, Basel, 1578.” 

This note gave us some excellent starting points to dig deeper. We confirmed that description and built our contextual understanding by quickly finding a few other secondary sources. Our crash course in early modern alchemy yielded a deeper understanding of the significance of this item.

Andreas Libavius was a most eminent figure in early chemistry, an alchemist who attracted his share of controversy during his career. As an alchemist, he was interested in the transmutation of metals into gold. As a physician, he was also interested in the practical value of medical chemistry and the particular medicinal qualities of gold. 

His emphasis on pharmaceutical applications put him in opposition to Paracelsus, another physician and alchemist who emphasized the more mystical elements of alchemy. Thomas Erastus, a Swiss physician and defender of medieval Galenic medical practice, was also an outspoken opponent of Paracelsus, and attacked the Paracelsian belief in the transmutation of metals. But Libavius did believe transmutation was possible, and passionately so. He refuted Erastus’ position in a series of publications around the time our pamphlet was published. Our pamphlet seemed to be related to this exchange. 

While we began to understand more about the historical context of the item, we also continued to look for the title or fragments of it in Google, HathiTrust, and other digital repositories. 

This title presented a common challenge when seeking information about books published in Latin during this time. In the Roman alphabet, there was no distinction between the letterforms V and U. By the time this book was printed, printers were beginning to distinguish between the consonant V and the vowel U, and the rules for using these letters in printing varied over time. 

Later catalogers of these items may or may not have transcribed these letters into their modern usage. These variations in spelling, printing, and cataloging practices over time, along with modern variability in optical character recognition of digitized texts, means that when U’s and V’s (or I’s or J’s) are involved, using a variety of spellings in keyword searches will yield the best results.

However, despite many different variations of the title searched across multiple platforms, we found only one result for a title fragment via Google Books (a further indication of the item’s potential rarity). This book, printed in 1600, lists our title among others in an index format. 

Vance determined that this book was a compilation of publications between 1593 and 1600, and that the marginal numbers were dates of printing. To test this, he looked for other titles listed in this book in Worldcat and found that they corresponded to the dates listed here. This title therefore suggests that our title was published in 1596.

Volume 1 of Elenchus seu index generalis in quo continentur libri omnes, qui … usque ad annum 1600 … prodierunt. Allgemeine Verzeichniße der newen BücherHenningus Gross

As we researched the historical context of the item, one name kept coming up in our secondary sources: Dr. Bruce Moran, a scholar of Libavius and early modern chemistry at the University of Nevada, Reno. Moran’s definitive scholarship on Libavius has included a number of Libavius’ known works and editions. Vance reached out to him with a scan of the title page to see if he could help us identify the piece. He graciously replied with some intriguing answers. 

Moran’s translation of the final line of the title page indicated that a copy of the Erastus text in question was meant to be attached to this counter-text by Libavius for the purposes of comparison and censure. However, Moran also indicated that he had never heard of this title before, and that the item was stumping him as much as us. While we now had some understanding of this piece, previous questions still lingered just as new ones had been raised. Part 3 follows next week.

Hints of Gold in the Backlog: Part 1 of 4

The title page of the pamphlet

Throughout the pandemic, catalogers at OSULP have been working hard to complete projects and make progress on others. One ongoing project for the Special Collections and Archives Research Center is the creation of new catalog records for our old books.

Most libraries have an imbalance between the materials needing to be cataloged and the professional resources devoted to that work. OSULP is no different, though we are proud in SCARC that our ‘backlog’ is fairly minimal after years of progress by dedicated catalogers. 

To prevent materials languishing between acquisition and cataloging, we proactively move acquisitions through descriptive processes at a steady rate. However, the backlog is still a place where mysteries can turn up, and one such mystery appeared there recently. 

A short, six-page pamphlet in an unassuming binding immediately presented more questions than answers when Cataloger Vance Woods set out to create its record. Vance and History of Science Librarian Anne Bahde teamed up to find some answers about what this intriguing item was and just how it ended up in our backlog. We will explore our research over four parts presented weekly in August.

From the title page, there were a few clues to glean about what this item could be. Though neither of us read much Latin, the title of the book presented familiar Latin word roots that could at least give us indications of the time period and subject matter. For example, ‘mineral-,’ ‘corpor,’ and ‘chymia’ suggested that we were dealing with something having to do with minerals, the body, and chemistry. 

A quick pass of the title through Google Translate allowed us to guess further at content and meaning in the title through a rough translation. We looked closely at the large printed mark near the bottom of the page. This spot is typically where a printer’s device would go, but in place of that identifying image, there is a decorative ornament instead. At the very bottom of the title page we typically find the publisher’s imprint, which often lists details such as the place of publication, publisher, printer, or date of publication. 

We found none of those details in this section, and instead spotted Latin roots such as “sincer’ (sound, genuine, true) and ‘censur’ (judgment, opinion) here. The contemporary handwriting at the very bottom of the title page “Libavius [–ind] Paracel—” associated these apparent names to the title, along with the name Erastus which appears on the page twice. All these details began to suggest an unusual item related to the history of chemistry.

Several physical material clues intrigued us as well. The typeface and printing style suggested a printing date of the late 16th century, but confirmation of that suspicion was not found in any other elements of the item. The paper used was of a rougher nature, and the pages are now age-toned. But, no obvious clue to publication place or date could be found among the few pages. 

Bindings can sometimes give hints about where or when an item was published, but in this case the binding was a simple set of brown marbled boards, probably dating to the late 19th or early 20th century given the style and condition of the binding materials.  Sometimes, this type of slim, nondescript binding can suggest separation from a sammelband or nonce volume, both types of collections of pamphlets. 

Though the piece lacked stab holes or other markers of prior gathering, a thin strip of discoloration does run down the length of the inner margin, suggesting that it was removed from some other binding environment at some point in the past.

The first place we both turn to when searching for items is Worldcat. Considered to be the most comprehensive catalog of materials in libraries around the world, Worldcat offers special insight when trying to track down a difficult title. A catalog record in Worldcat can tell us not only further bibliographical details about an item, but also which libraries around the world currently hold this item, thus giving a basic indiciation of distribution and rarity. 

Despite search experiments with different spellings and other searching efforts, we found only one record with one holding library, the Thüringer Universitäts- und Landsbibliothek in Jena, Germany. 

Deepening this line of inquiry, we followed the Libavius author entry in Worldcat, then examined each item in that list of 382 records. This is a laborious but useful Worldcat trick and can sometimes turn up some potential matches or clues for difficult-to-find items. But this effort still did not yield any further hints about this title. It slowly became clearer that we could be dealing with quite a scarce item.

Bookplate of Emil Starkenstein

The item presented one further curious detail – the striking bookplate depicting two entwined poppy heads pasted inside the front cover. As physical signs of ownership, bookplates offer important evidence about the provenance of an item, and help later researchers track an item’s movements during its life. By searching for the name printed on the plate and looking at Google Image results, Vance discovered it was the bookplate of Emil Starkenstein, a Czech Jewish pharmacologist who was killed in the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1942. It was clear to us now that this was no ordinary book, and we began to pursue answers to the many questions the book had now invited. Part 2: Rare Books and Research follows next week.

New and Updated Finding Aids in May and June 2021

SCARC completed 10 new or updated finding aids in May and June 2021!

These finalized finding aids are available through the Archives West finding aids database, our website, and the OSUL discovery system (a.k.a. “the catalog”).


  • Seven of the guides are enhanced finding aids for collections that were previously under-described:
    • Farmers of the Sea Motion Picture Film Production, 1983-1984 (FV 185 – SG 2) – The Farmers of the Sea Motion Picture Film Production consist of pre-print and print film elements of the Farmers of the Sea documentary film produced in 1984 by the Oregon Sea Grant Program at Oregon State University. The film examines the most recent developments in aquaculture practices at the time, in Japan, China, the United States, Scotland, and Panamá. A digital copy of the film can be viewed here.
    • Froduald Harelimana Collection, 1994-1997 (MSS Harelimana) – The Froduald Harelimana Collection consists of materials documenting the campaign to bring Oregon State University doctoral student Froduald Harelimana and his son back to the U.S. after fleeing civil war in their native Rwanda. This collection contains a manuscript describing the campaign by international student advisor Irma Delson, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and a book (and the accompanying manuscript) written by Harelimana. Harelimana graduated with a doctorate in education from Oregon State University in 1998.
    • Lester M. Leland Papers, 1894-1938 (MSS Leland) – The Lester M. Leland Papers consist of several items from Leland’s student years at OAC including items of memorabilia, correspondence, reports, Leland’s diploma, two pieces of letterhead printed by Leland, a zoology sketchbook and organic chemistry notebook. Lester M. Leland graduated from Oregon Agricultural College in 1895 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture.
    • Oregon Sea Grant Communications Moving Images, 1973-1991 (FV 185 – SG 3) – The Oregon Sea Grant Communications Moving Images consist of final productions as well as extensive raw footage and film elements used in those motion picture films and others produced by Oregon Sea Grant.  The motion picture films pertain to marine resources, oceanographic research, and wildlife in Oregon.  Several of the final productions have been digitized from videotape versions and are available for viewing online.
    • John C. Scharff Collection, 1936-1995 (MSS Scharff) – The John C. Scharff Collection consists of materials documenting alumnus and conservationist John C. Scharff. In addition to a transcript of an oral history interview between Jack Southworth and John and Florence Scharff, this collection includes awards, certificates, photographs, plaques, and a scrapbook. Scharff studied animal husbandry at Oregon Agricultural College.
    • George A. Sense Photographs, 1930-1931 (P 249) – The George A. Sense Photographs consist of images created and assembled by Sense as a student at Oregon State College and document his student experience in Corvallis, Oregon.  Sense attended Oregon State College for one academic year in 1930-1931. Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.
    • Lulu Thornton Papers, 1893-1895 (MSS Thornton) – The Lulu Thornton Papers consist of two items created and assembled by alumna Lulu Thornton that document her student experience at Oregon Agricultural College (OAC), and training for a career in teaching. Lulu Thornton graduated from OAC in 1895 with a degree in home economics.

  • Two of the guides are for new collections that are now fully processed and described and available to researchers:
    • Portland Brewing Company Records, 1984-2021 (MSS PortlandBrewing) – The Portland Brewing Company Records includes brewing records, photographs, promotional and training materials, and ephemera. The Portland Brewing Company was incorporated by Fred Bowman and Art Larrance in 1983; it opened in 1986. Hart Brewing was founded by Beth Hartwell and Tom Baune in Kalama, Washington in 1984; the name was changed to Pyramid Breweries in 1996. The Portland brewery facility closed in 2021. At various points, these companies merged and purchased by other companies.
    • Ten Rivers Food Web Records, 1996-2017 (MSS TenRivers) – The Ten Rivers Food Web Records document the establishment, leadership and administration, and extensive programs and activities of this local community organization in Benton, Lincoln, and Linn Counties of western Oregon.  The Ten Rivers Food Web was formally established in April 2005 as a result of a Food Summit held in Corvallis, Oregon, in late 2004 that brought together individuals involved with and concerned about food and its production and distribution.  The energy and desire to strengthen local food security led to the formation of the Ten Rivers Food Web with a goal of seeing more of the food grown in the local “foodshed” (roughly Benton, Lincoln, and Linn Counties) processed and consumed locally. The collection includes extensive born-digital materials, which are available for use in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center Reading Room or upon request.  Born-digital videos are available for viewing online.

  • One of the guides is for a University publication:
    • Campus Directories, 1912-2014 (PUB 002-22c) – The Campus Directories for Oregon State University provide directory information, including addresses and phone numbers, for students and employees of Oregon State over more than a century from the 1910s to 2010s.  These directories were published by students and, while they include directory information for Oregon State employees, were primarily intended for students.The Campus Directory ceased publication in 2014 with the directory for the 2014/2015 academic year. Some of the items in this collection are available online in Oregon Digital.

New and Updated Finding Aids in April 2021

SCARC completed 6 new or updated finding aids in April 2021. The following is a list and a little information about what we accomplished. 

These finalized finding aids are available through the Archives West finding aids database, our Archon finding aids interface on our website, and the OSUL discovery system (a.k.a. “the catalog”).

All of these materials are available to researchers.


Five of the guides are enhanced finding aids for collections that were previously under-described: 

Presidential Search Committee Records, 1969-1970 (RG 310): The Presidential Search Committee Records consist of materials assembled and created by the Executive Secretary of the Committee, Robert L. Phillips, in the course of the Committee’s work to conduct a search for the President of Oregon State University.  This search led to the selection and appointment of Robert W. MacVicar as the 11th President of Oregon State University. The Presidential Search Committee was established by the Chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education and included academic deans, faculty, students, members of the Board of Higher Education, and alumni.

OSU Masters of Business Administration Association Records, 2005 (MSS MBAA): The Oregon State University Masters of Business Administration Association (MBAA) Records consist of a presidential report and a study compiled by OSU MBAA president Justin Lacche which document the activities of the association for the 2004-05 academic year.

J. Frank Ligon Papers, 1965-1979 (MSS Ligon): The J. Frank Ligon Papers consist of materials created and assembled by Ligon in the course of a series of administrative roles for academic programs at Oregon State University – specifically his roles in the 1960s and 1970s as Director of Summer Term, Assistant to the President for Continuing Education, Curriculum Coordinator, and Assistant to the President for Community College Relations.  J. Frank Ligon was a faculty member and administrator at Oregon State University from 1946 until his retirement in 1981.

Charles Burton Winne Scrapbooks, 1916-1979 (MSS Winne): The Charles Burton Winne Scrapbooks are comprised of two scrapbooks assembled by alumnus Charles Burton “Burt” Winne that document his student experience at Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) and service in the Army during War World I. Winne graduated from OAC in 1924 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

James Kenneth Fleshman Photograph Album, 1927 (P 250):

The James Kenneth Fleshman Photograph Album consists of images of the Oregon Agricultural College campus taken by Fleshman, likely for an Introduction to Photography class in the fall of 1927.  James Kenneth Fleshman attended Oregon Agricultural College in the mid-1920s and graduated in 1928 with a B.S. degree in chemical engineering.

Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

One of the guides is for a collection that was initially acquired in 2020 and for which an addition was received in 2021: 

Josh Worden Interviews on OSU Athletics, 2020-2021 (MSS Worden): The Josh Worden Interviews on Oregon State University Athletics were recorded by Worden, an OSU alum, for syndication on a podcast titled Beaver Tales. Conducted primarily with former OSU athletes and coaches, the interviews touch on the highlights of each interviewee’s athletic career while also documenting their lives following their departure from the university. The collection includes representation of nearly every varsity sport sponsored by Oregon State, with particular emphasis on Beaver baseball. Born digital .mp3 audio files of each interview are available in the SCARC reading room or upon patron request.

New collection guides in February and March!

We have several new guides to archival collections just for you!

Oregon State University Folk Club Records, 1908-2014 (MSS Folk Club)

The Oregon State University Folk Club Records contain records pertaining to the group’s charitable and social activities, and general records including annual reports, constitutions and bylaws, correspondence, meeting minutes, newsletters, news clippings, statements of policies and guidelines, and yearbooks. Also included in the collection are series documenting the establishment, activities, and membership of the Newcomers Club – a “department” of the Folk Club for those new to Corvallis and the OSU community – and the Thrift Shop of OSU Folk Club, which was established in 1949. Originally formed as the College Folk Club in 1908, the name was changed to the OSU Folk Club in 1972.

Donald Wesley Morse Photograph Album, 1917-1922 (P 255)

The Donald Wesley Morse Photograph Album documents the student life of Don Morse at Oregon Agricultural College in 1917-1921 and his convalescence at the U.S. Veterans Hospital in Walla Walla, Washington in 1922-1923.  Morse served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and graduated from Oregon Agricultural College with a B.S. in Commerce in 1921.  Morse died in 1923 of tuberculosis that he contracted during his wartime service. Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Henry C. Gilbert Photograph Collection, 1905-1917 (P 158)

The Henry C. Gilbert Photograph Collection consists of scenic postcards and photographs from around the Pacific Northwest and Canada, as well as images of activities taking place on the Oregon Agricultural College campus. The membership and functions of the Oxford Club at OAC are a particular focus of the collection’s campus images. Gilbert graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 1915, and a Master of Science degree in 1917, both from Oregon Agricultural College (OAC). Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Kappa Sigma Nu Fraternity Records, 1910-1955 (MSS KappaSigmaNu)

The Kappa Sigma Nu Fraternity Records consist of a record book, newsletters, informational reports, letters, and a warranty deed documenting the membership and activities of the Kappa Sigma Nu Fraternity at Oregon Agricultural College. Established in 1906, the Kappa Sigma Nu Fraternity became chartered as a chapter of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity in 1918.

Joshua Robert Akers Photograph Collection, 1915-1917 (P 244)

The Joshua Robert Akers Photograph Collection consists of eleven photographic prints collected by alumnus Akers that depict group shots of Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) students, all of which feature Akers. Akers graduated from OAC in 1917 with a BS in agriculture. Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital

McMenamins Brewery Collection, 1983-2015 (MSS McMenamins)

The McMenamins Brewery Collection includes digitized brew sheets, digital images, brochures, coasters, decals, event programs, flyers, newspaper clippings, tap handles, posters, labels, a wooden cask, and a six-pack of Hammerhead beer. McMenamins is a family-owned chain of brewpubs, breweries, historic hotels, and theater pubs in the Pacific Northwest. The brew sheets and some event materials were provided to the Special Collections & Archives Research Center in 2015 and 2016 for digitization. The original items have been retained by McMenamins.

Barley’s Angels Records, 2010–2021 (MSS BarleysAngels)

The Barley’s Angels Records document chapter administration, marketing and promotion, financial and banking information, and events. This is primarily an electronic collection and consists of born-digital materials (.mp4 videos, photographs, documents, websites); however, club merchandise is also included. The Barley’s Angels organization is a collection of individual chapters throughout the world that focuses on increasing craft beer appreciation for female consumers. It was originally founded in 2011 as the consumer education section of the Pink Boots Society organization.

Ella Mae Cloake Diary, 1941-1944 (MSS Cloake)

The Ella Mae Cloake Diary is a digital version of a personal daily diary created by Ella Mae Cloake from 1941 to 1944 documenting her daily activities as a high school and college student in Oregon during World War II.  Cloake graduated from Roseburg High School in 1943 and attended Oregon State College from Jan 1944 through June 1945.

The Erlinda Gonzales-Berry Papers, 1943-2010 (MSS Gonzalez-Berry) guide was updated to include expanded description in Spanish of a portion of the collection.

The Erlinda Gonzales-Berry Papers document the research and publishing of Gonzales-Berry in the fields of Latino literature and culture and immigration from Mexico to the United States and include publications and speeches, awards, photographs, oral history interviews, and a videotape. Gonzales-Berry was chair of the Oregon State University Ethnic Studies Department from 1997 until 2007.

The R. Buckminster Fuller Collection of Joe Moore and Trevor Blake

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center is delighted to announce the acquisition of the R. Buckminster Fuller Collection of Joe Moore and Trevor Blake. The hundreds of manuscripts, books, ephemera, and artifacts in this collection tell the story of Fuller’s visionary contributions to the worlds of architecture, the human built environment, design science, and sustainability. 

This collection intersects with existing collections in fascinating ways. Fuller’s radical vision of collective progress, peace, and equity is echoed within the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers many times over; together, the documents in these collections help us understand how the hopes of their era might yet be realized in ours. ‘Bucky,’ as he liked to be called, embodied a bold, independent, and unapologetic approach to the pursuit of humanity’s benefit, which can be paralleled with Pauling’s similar approach.The contents of these two rich collections will be in constant interaction and conversation with each other, on topics as diverse as shelter, renewable energy, marriage, molecular biology, world government, and technological change. Indeed, the vibrant Fuller collection will complement and expand subject concentrations found in many other collections in SCARC, ranging from environmental activism to energy production to information history.

Humanity still may have lessons to learn from Bucky. Students in OSU Humanitarian Engineering, Materials Science, and Design and Human Environments programs will find a wealth of historical sources in their fields, as will those in Environmental Arts and Humanities. It is our hope that this collection will attract students and researchers from a number of different disciplinary routes, and that the Special Collections and Archives Research Center can use it to further interdisciplinary conversation around Fuller’s visions and their modern evolutions and parallels.

Bioshphère d’Environnement Canada, by abdallah, CC BY 2.0
R. Buckminster Fuller developed and popularized the geodesic dome in North American architecture.

Though the restrictions in place due to COVID will impair our progress for some time, we hope to make the collection available to researchers as soon as possible. We are delighted to be the steward of this fine collection, and look forward to many years of making it accessible to researchers at OSU and in the global community of scholars.

Additional Resources

Wikipedia: R. Buckminster Fuller
Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers

Foodie Friday: Cream of Peanut Butter Soup

Back in the school cafeteria of my Carter/Reagan-era childhood, soup was usually not on the list of offerings, unlike standards like wiener wraps, carrot “coins”, and those iconic cartons of milk. According to the 1936 Oregon State College Extension Bulletin, The School Lunch, soups and stews played a much bigger role in the past, however. Among the 15 soup recipes featured in this 32-page publication was one that deeply intrigued me: cream of peanut butter soup. So I set forth to give it a go!


Cream of Peanut Butter Soup

  • ½ cup of peanut butter
  • 2 ½ medium onions
  • ½ pint of boiling water  
  • 1 quart of milk 
  • ¼  cup of flour 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 
  • ½ teaspoon of celery salt 
  1. Peel the onions and cut up into small pieces. 
  2. Add peanut butter and boiling water to onions, stir until blended and boil 15 minutes. 
  3. Heat the milk and add the thickening made from the flour and a little cold water. 
  4. Mix the salts together and add to the milk. 
  5. Combine peanut butter mixture with milk, scald and serve.

Featured in “The School Lunch,” November 1936. Oregon State College Extension Bulletin # 492 (Home Economics Series), which can be found online here.


First off, I was a little concerned over possible onion overload, so I adjusted the recipe to 1 chopped large onion. The ratio of milk to peanut butter also seemed a little skewed and the flavor that resulted was definitely not peanut dominant. It tasted like a subtle creamy soup with a hint of peanut and an oniony crunch. By itself, it tasted decent, but was sort of underwhelming. I thought of the soup’s potential as something else: “what else could I put in this?” and “can I use this as a sauce?” The concoction did taste better after a few hours of sitting around. I’m glad I satisfied my curiosity about this strange recipe and plan to re-purpose the leftover soup for a more exciting dish this weekend!