Author Archives: bahdea

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.

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

Newly Processed Collection: USDA Northwest Cannery Survey Collection, 1914-1915

Post contributed by Rachel Lilley, SCARC Public Services Assistant

MSS Cannery_Eugene plant labels and Outline 9 and 10_Box 1 Folder 7_Page_1

In 1911, the 26th legislative assembly created the office of the Oregon State Immigration Agent, appropriating $20,000 for immigration advertising work, and an additional $5,000 for statistical research and collection work to be done by the Oregon Statistical Bureau (OSB). John Andrew Bexell, Dean of Oregon Agricultural College’s Department of Commerce, was chosen to direct the work of the OSB, and little surprise. In 1913, as part of an effort by the National Department of Agriculture (NDA) to develop a program of “moveable agricultural schools” to “further the scientific education of adults with very little scholastic learning,” the Office of Experiment Stations had tapped Bexell to develop a course on bookkeeping (The Barometer, May 30, 1913). Bexell’s course would include: a series of fifteen to twenty-five lectures, with accompanying readings and questions; a set of practicums or exercises; a complete list of equipment, materials, and published reference works needed to “properly present the subject;” and a list of pedagogical methods that would serve as suggestions for the teacher of the course.

Under Bexell’s direction, the initial mandate of the Oregon Statistical Bureau was the completion of a general survey of statewide agricultural operations in order to “determine the opportunities in each locality for new settlers and, if possible, to find some of the difficulties in agricultural development.” Though the OSB was not funded to continue its work after completing the survey, the resulting publication, The Oregon Farmer: What He has Accomplished in Every Part of the State, not only set a precedent for subsequent agricultural surveys, but provided the groundwork for the standardization of cannery operations in the state.

Each survey in the USDA Northwest Cannery Survey Collection (MSS Cannery) is comprised of between one and fourteen “outlines,” or reports, and each outline presents the same information for each cannery. Some of the more significant are Outline 1, and Outlines 9 and 10, which deal with cannery and association history, and each cannery’s labor force, respectively. Outline 1 typically includes information about the establishment of the growers’ association and a list of its founders; a cannery plant floorplan, and inventory of machinery; and lists of the types of product canned per season, how much product was canned, and the cost per can. Of special significance, however, are Outlines 9 and 10. These two outlines, often presented together as one report, not only document the use of female labor in canneries, but illustrate just how heavily canneries relied on female workers, and the types of work women did.

MSS Cannery_Corvallis plant Outline 3, plant map and procedures_Box 1 Folder 4_Page_1

A typical cannery season lasted a little over four months. On average, the surveyed canneries employed between thirteen and forty-eight women, with most hiring more women during the peak of the season. The Eugene cannery, for example, hired on as many as a hundred additional female workers during the height of the season. Female cannery workers filled positions preparing fruit (e.g. washing, hulling, or stemming), canning fruit, or labelling cans (a task often reserved for a small cadre of hired “girls”). Almost every plant that took part in the survey also lists among its staff a “Forewoman” or “Forelady,” who was tasked with managing the day-to-day work of female employees. Most Forewomen were paid a daily rate between $1.25 and $2.00. Notably, the “Forelady” at the Corvallis plant was paid $75 a month for her seasonal work (June 1 to November 1), the same as the Warehouseman and Receiving Clerk, and five dollars more than the Fireman.

Most women, however, could expect to be paid, on average, between ten and fifteen cents per hour. Three canneries – Eugene, Forest Grove, and Woodburn – specifically mention paying by the piece, in addition to hourly rates.

MSS Cannery_Forest Grove plant labor_Box 2 Folder 2

At the Forest Grove plant, hulling strawberries paid fifteen to twenty-five cents for each twenty-five-pound crate; canning strawberries paid one and a half cents per nineteen-can tray. Stemming cherries paid twelve to twelve and a half cents for each finished forty-five-pound box; canning cherries, however, only paid one cent per twelve-can tray. With the addition of piece rates, the Forest Grove cannery was the one surveyed location at which women could, theoretically, earn as much as men per hour (men were not offered per piece rates at the Forest Grove plant).

MSS Cannery_Forest Grove plant labor_Box 2 Folder 1

In contrast, the surveyed canneries hired, on average, between nine and fifteen men during the season, not including those hired for managerial or administrative positions. Men filled the managerial and administrative posts in cannery plants, working as plant Managers, Bookkeepers, Receiving Clerks, and “Processors.” These posts were typically salaried, and paid on a weekly or monthly basis; the full time Eugene plant manager was paid $166 per month for a year-round (the average was closer to $65 per month, or $2.50 per day). Men were also hired on as Engineers, Machinists, Firemen, and Warehousemen, and worked the can-capping machine, the conveyor belts, and the boilers. Men who worked these blue collar positions were paid hourly rates between twenty and twenty-five cents per hour; younger “boys,” who were sometimes hired as runners or helpers, were hired at an average rate of twelve cents an hour.

MSS Cannery_Eugene plant labels and Outline 9 and 10_Box 1 Folder 7_Page_3

Historically speaking, the division of labor likely made quite a bit of sense to contemporary plant managers. Women would have been the primary canners in most family units and therefore would have been the logical choice for preparing and canning produce. The fact that women could be hired at half the rate of pay as men would have further contributed to their desirability as employees. Yet, both the men hired as Engineers and Machinists, and the women hired as Preparers and Canners, were completing skilled tasks. The work would have been physically rigorous, and though none of the canneries reported the number of hours worked per day, the days would have likely been long, as a federally-mandated eight-hour work day was still several decades from being standard (the Fair Labor Standards Act wasn’t signed into law until 1937). Though not reflected in their pay, the intricate, skilled, and often physical work of women in canneries was as valuable as that of men.

Occasionally, surveys are accompanied by correspondence containing suggestions on operational efficiency and modernization from Certified Public Accountant, and survey Man-in-the-Field, J. W. Boies. For example, to the Benton County Growers’ Association in Corvallis, Boies suggested implementation of “simple, labor saving methods under a practical, but concise, cost system,” including the purchase of a “modern Cash Book, columnized Sales Book, [and] a modern Labor Saving method of distributing payroll.” All such prescriptive correspondence was also copied to the survey’s Auditing Committee, of which J. A. Bexell was also a member. It could be argued that these efforts toward the “modernization” and standardization of cannery operations would later allow the relief canneries operated during the Great Depression to operate more efficiently, thus better serving economically suffering families. Relief canneries distilled full-scale cannery operations down to their essence – boiler, capper, processers – and both the division of labor and ratio of labor that had worked best at the cannery plant is evidenced also at the relief canneries.

The USDA Northwest Cannery Survey Collection would support wide a range of research topics, including the marketing of Oregon agricultural products, history of women and labor, and Oregon industry, and would be complimented by a number of additional collections. The Experiment Station Communications Films and Horticulture Department Photographs contain images that document machinery and methods used in canning produce (e.g. strawberry capper-stemmers and field harvesters). Of special note are the images of soldiers acting as additional labor in canneries in both the Extension Bulletin Illustrations Photograph Collection and the Extension and Experiment Station Communications Photograph Collection. The Extension and Experiment Station Communications Photograph Collections also documents the use of Mexican migrant farm labor.  The Food Science and Technology Department Photographs additionally document relief cannery work done during the Great Depression.

Announcing the 4th Annual OSU Book Collecting Contest!

The OSU Valley Library is proud to announce the fourth year of our sponsored Book Collecting Contest!

Generously sponsored by the Himes & Duniway Society, a group of book collecting enthusiasts in Oregon, this contest is intended:

  • to encourage students in the collection and enjoyment of their own personal libraries,
  • to aid students in developing an appreciation for the special qualities of printed or illustrated works, and
  • to encourage students to read, research, and preserve these works for pleasure and scholarship.

The collection can focus on any subject, and the contest is open to all full-time students.

Prizes:

Three prizes will be awarded to student winners:

1st prize: $1,000
2nd prize: $500
3rd prize: $250

Prizes are generously funded by the Himes & Duniway Society.

APPLICATIONS ARE DUE Friday, March 10, 2017 by 5:00 PM.

How Do I Enter?
The Application Package should include the following:

  • The application form;
  • The essay, which should be at least two and no more than four pages in 12-point type with lines double-spaced describing how and why the collection was assembled;
  • bibliography of the collection preferably using the MLA Bibliography format with each individual title numbered and annotated. The annotations should reflect the importance of each item to the collection as a whole
  • An annotated wish list of up to five other book titles that you would like to add in the future to complete or enhance your existing collection; and
  • digital images of at least 5 representative items in the collection, with 10 or more images being preferable.

You can submit your application in one of two ways:

1. Email your application package to Anne Bahde at anne.bahde@oregonstate.edu

2. Drop off your application package to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center, 5th floor of Valley Library.

What’s a “Collection?
A collection

  • Consists of items that a student has come to own following a particular interest, or passion, which may be academic or not
  • May consist of all books or a combination of books and other formats. For instance, a collection on a geographical topic may include a map, a collection on a playwright may include a poster or playbill, or a collection about an historical event may include ephemera.
  • Consists of not less than 15 items or more than 30 items of which the majorityshould be books, but related materials such as photographs, illustrations, maps, ephemera, CDs, music scores, posters etc. may be included.
  • Can be on any topic; subjects can be contemporary or historical and may stress bibliographical features such as bindings, printing processes, type, editions, illustrations, etc. Rare books are not expected. Comic books and graphic novels are acceptable; ephemera alone if of historical interest is acceptable; historical–not current–textbooks may be included.

Examples of Previous Winners (2016)

  • Marie Bello, Fisheries and Wildlife: “Drawn to Inquiry: Scientific Illustration and Field Sketching as a Method of Exploring the Natural World
  • 2nd prize: Kelsey Cronin, Biology: “Maps, Trails, and Navigation”
  • 3rd prize: Victoria Drexel, MFA Program in Creative Writing: “Under My Skin: Collecting Sinatra”

How Do I Win?
Criteria for selection:

  • Clearly state the purpose or unified theme of the collection;
  • Explain the extent to which the collection represents the stated purpose;
  • Evidence of creativity in building the collection;
  • Originality, innovation, and uniqueness;
  • Quality of the collector’s essay describing the collection

A team of judges from campus and The Himes & Duniway Society will determine the contest winners.

The Fine Print:

Students are limited to one entry. The student must be a full time student and the sole owner of the collection. The winners may be eligible for entry into The National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest supported by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS) of which The Himes & Duniway Society is a member, the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division (the Library of Congress) with major support from the Jay I. Kislak Foundation. http://hq.abaa.org/books/antiquarian/abaapages/contest

If you have questions about book collecting or this contest, contact Anne Bahde at anne.bahde@oregonstate.edu or 541-737-2083.

Collections at the Center: A New Series for SCARC!


Next week we are excited to begin our new series called Collections at the Center. Each quarter we will be inviting a faculty expert on campus to intimately interact with historical items from our collections, including rare books, archival materials, and manuscripts.  The faculty member will present a brief lecture to contextualize, question, and reflect on these items for a public audience. Attendees will be invited to get “up close and personal” with the materials, looking closer to find new details and new discoveries. We’ll conclude with a discussion between presenter and audience, and together uncover captivating new ways of thinking about the collections in SCARC.

Our first presenter will be Dr. Rebecca Olson, Associate Professor in the Department of English at OSU. Professor Olson will discuss the manicule, the hand-drawn pointing index finger commonly used by readers throughout the early modern period to signify passages of interest in a text. While this mark would seem to adapt the highly social gesture of pointing for personal and solitary book use, it also draws our attention to the way that early modern readers regarded the book itself as a collective social space.

Please join us at 4:00pm on Wednesday, February 10 for our first exciting event in this series!

#Color Our Collections

Museums and libraries around the country are promoting their collections by capitalizing on the current craze for coloring books. Using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections, libraries from the Smithsonian to Oregon Health and Science University are releasing fantastic images to color in. We’ve thrown one together from the Oregon State University Libraries’ rare book collections–download Color Our Collections 2016 and enjoy!