GarciaGarcía, Gregorio.  Origen de los Indios de el Nueuo Mundo, e Indias Occidentales. (Madrid, 1729).

Nowhere is the general confusion and genuine indecision of the sixteenth and early seventeenth-century theorists of Indian origins more pronounced than in this work—the first book published exclusively on the issue [this is the 2nd edition, it was first published in 1607].  García spent nine years in Peru, beginning in the late 1590s.  In order to discover as best he could what the origin of the Indians was, García evaluated what he read, what he was told by both Spaniards and Indians, and what he had seen.  The two fundamental assumptions upon which he based his book were that all men and women descended from Adam and Eve, and after the Deluge from Noah (who divided the world giving Asia to Shem, Egypt and Africa to Ham, and Europe to Japheth).  He believed that the peoples of the Americas came to the New World from one of the three parts of the known world. García examined in detail all the opinions regarding origins current in Europe at the time–derived from the Carthaginians; the lost Jewish tribes; that Peru was the Ophir of Solomon. The “libro ultimo” contains native accounts of their origins, describing the tribes of Mexico and Peru, derived from a manuscript of Juan de Vetanzos (a companion of Pizarro). He rejected none of the origin theories, but accepted them all collectively—that is, in his view, the ancestors of Native Americans came to the New World from different parts of the known world, at different times, and in different ways.

See the Watkison’s copy.

new england primer0002The New England primer.  (Providence: John Waterman, 1775).

The New England Primer stands at the forefront of early American schoolbooks.  The first mention of it occurs in the register of London Stationers in 1683, under the title The New England Primer, or, Milk for Babes. One of its predecessors in England was The Protestant Tutor, which, like its successor, contained the alphabet, the syllabarium, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, and the picture of the burning of the Protestant martyr John Rogers.  The earliest surviving primer produced in America was printed in Boston, 1727—by which time it was a staple product of the colonial printer.  The print shop run by Benjamin Franklin and his partner David Hall printed over 37,000 copies between 1749 and 1766, and only one copy has survived.  It has been estimated that from 1680-1830 six to eight million copies were produced (only about 1,500 survive).  Portraits of English kings (e.g., George II and III) were replaced eventually by famous Americans (e.g., John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and George Washington).  Around 1790 the primers were secularized, and little boys and girls ceased to be promised salvation or threatened with eternal fire; girls were instead warned that “pert Miss Prat-a-pace” was to have no treats unless she turned into “pretty miss prudence,” and that good boys would be rewarded with “credit and reputation,” whereas bad ones would live in beggary.

We have dozens of examples of the NEP, and thousands of other early American schoolbooks in our Barnard Collection.


Introducing our Fall Creative Fellows!

   Posted by: rring   in Creative Fellowships

MinotHenry Minot ’17 is from Fairfield, CT, majoring in Classics, and is the Music Director of WRTC, Trinity College’s radio station, and the House Manger of the Mill, the campus arts collective. Henry’s project will be to create an “archive” of 18th-century Revolutionary War-era documents (like a series of letters, and a map) centered around a fictional man in Connecticut who is attempting to raise a militia company for the war effort.


Stefan KramerStefan Kramer (IDP) is a History major who works in the IT industry and has experience and schooling in film-making. Stefan will create a short film (working title, “What the Font?!”) which will feature various fonts as characters in a short, humorous narrative, each with its own voice and characteristics–using our excellent book history collections.


The DEADLINE for applications for a spring Fellowship is December 1st!


Rare Book School Day 5

   Posted by: rring   in book history

IMG_2920From “Lower Tibet” (the floor underneath RBS where its collections and other things are kept), to the top of Special Collections (a bit of Michael is visible here, ascending the stairwell) we roamed and ruminated!

After the morning gathering (donuts today) of all 5 classes, we split off for ours into Lower Tibet to examine a teaching collection RBS has assembled over the years of artifacts. This included binding leathers, parchment samples, packets of various sorts of ephemera (for teaching typography, illustration methods, paper, etc.), plates of steel and copper, a lithography stone, electrotype and stereotype plates, and many other items. A booklet sourcing a bunch of this material was given to us, and will be of great use to me in building such a collection at Trinity (we already have a huge head start).

IMG_2921In the afternoon we discussed The Peddlar Lady of Gushing Cross, an “animated book” by Moving Tales, which published it, as well as the WordPlay Shakespeare (an “enhanced e-book” by the New Book Press. We had a rather animated (so to speak) discussion about what was a book, and the concept of “loss and gain” when it comes to the ways in which the culture “chooses” to go in one direction or another (like, say, to embrace the novel, or the e-book, or the online newspaper). It generated a lot of potential in terms of how to inform my own class discussions.

During lunch, I am proud to say, we gave the first “class gift” during Michael’s 5-year tenure (we will be listed as “H-90 2014” under the “Very Good Friend” strata of giving next year). This was an idea of mine to give a little to RBS as a class, and to challenge other classes to do the same! Michael thanked us nicely in his closing remarks, and it only increased the sense of community we shared (and perhaps it helped to spur the very long lines for RBS merchandise). Time to pack up and drive back to Hartford!


Rare Book School Day 4

   Posted by: rring   in book history

IMG_2914Shown here is a snapshot of my little area and a few things we discussed today–of particular interest is the plastic “tackle box” full of samples of type, leading, linotype, wood type, ornaments, a monotype sheet, and other THINGS related to printing history. To construct a kit like this for students is fairly easy, and I plan to put at least two kits together for the Watkinson this fall.

We have spent a fair amount of time throughout our discussions moving back and forth, as it were, between what constitutes (or should) our most global pedagogical goals in terms of book history, and the ways in which we can effect those goals “on the ground.” How we teach, and what we teach, and our imagined outcomes, will of course depend on many factors.

It is the (good) goal of the course  to provide, say, a member of the faculty teaching early modern European intellectual history on the one hand, and a library staffer who must present a one-off session to an English literature class on the other, a set of approaches and resources to employ with sufficient flexibility to meet most goals, and to, as effectively as possible given those goals, answer the questions, “what do we see?” [and therefore] “what do we know?” [and therefore] “now that we know this, what can we say?”IMG_2915

The week has been fairly intense, but RBS is always fun BECAUSE of this intensity. If you bring 100+ book folk, who are all highly intelligent and very quirky in their own ways,  together in an enclosed space for any amount of time, lots of great things happen. As it is the last week of this RBS session, the staff is getting a little wild around the eyes–hence the need for comic relief, provided here my Michael as he attempts to “wrangle” a library “snake.”

Much of today was a rapid-fire list of books, articles, etc. to use for various purposes that were not in our online “workbook,” and a discussion of the merits of each of them took some time. Then we were in special collections to look and talk about more potential pairings of material, which can happen virtually as well as physically (for those without the luxury of large collections).IMG_2919 I am happy to say that the Watkinson lacks nothing in terms of its ability to support any sort of book history teaching that Trinity will ever likely need or want to do–at least in terms of the West, from the 12th century to the present!


Rare Book School Day 3

   Posted by: rring   in book history

IMG_2913Three sights have greeted me every morning so far: a rather imperial statue of the explorer George Rogers Clark (across the street from my hotel), the rising sun striking the face of special collections, and a line of librarians entering the Alderman Library when they open the doors at 8:00am (to the tune of chapel bells tolling the hour).

We began the morning with an exercise. Each of us was given a 17thC book and told to examine it for form (i.e., what is there?) and function (i.e., what does it do?). Since I was not able to present my observations in class, because we often raise more questions than can be answered in the time allotted, I will do so here.  My book was actually two works bound together (a sammelband) both published in 1630. Each imprint (which were duodecimos–gatherings of 12 leaves), was signed on the first five leaves of each gathering. However, within each imprint were multiple title-pages, which suggests that these were reprints of previously issued works, because the pagination was continuous throughout.

IMG_2912The author of these tracts was Nicholas Byfield, a Calvinist who died rather horribly of a gall stone the size of a watermelon (15 x 13 inches) that weighed 3 lbs! The book is quite thick (about 4 inches), and just a little taller–with heavy leather over thick paper boards and the remnants of metal clasps–clearly a book intended to travel. On the back flyleaf was this inscription, or as much as I could make of it:

“1735 Thomas Angell’s Book / God gave him grace therein to look and not but understand / for learning is better than house and land, [unclear] when house and land is spent / [unclear]” Clearly this was a book meant to keep the Christian on his path. There are many marginal notes in various hands, variously legible.

IMG_2911After discussing the ways in which we can use the concept of format (which is the imposition scheme of a book; that is, the relationship of the text block of one printed page to the original sheet which was printed from the forme) to explain how books are put together, we then turned down the side road of discussing the pecia system of manuscript production during the rise of the universities; finally we dug more deeply into the uses and applications of the “workbook” that Michael has provided for our use. This includes many sample syllabi, exercises, diagrams, models, timelines, and tons of other resources to help us construct our own courses and instruction.

As with the two times I have been here before (1999 and 2001), I know that I am making crucial contacts and significantly advancing my knowledge- and resource-base as a curator and for my work as a teacher of book history.


Rare Book School Day 2

   Posted by: rring   in book history

Recall that I am attending RBS in general to enhance the quality of all of my courses, but specifically to develop a course on “The Impact of Print Culture on Connecticut History, 1700-1900” (working title) for our American Studies program, which will be part of its new track, “New England and the Nation.”

IMG_2907We began today with a discussion about the ways in which we can establish clear goals in terms of what our students will take away from our instruction (from one-off presentations, which most librarians do, to semester-long courses, which are generally run by faculty, and everything in between). The absolute essentials of what the students should come away with, in terms of bibliographic literacy, were five in number: format, edition, impression, issue, and state. It is also crucial, we have been convinced, to “follow the money” when it comes to unpacking the rationales and contexts of book production.

It is helpful to have a goal with parameters which can be contracted to one class period, or expanded to multiple ones. We also discussed the pedagogical merits of instructional videos which can be found on YouTube or for sale, on various processes such as papermaking, binding, typecasting, printing on various presses, etc.

One comment that Michael Suarez made about the potential of London fire insurance records viz. book history made me think about looking into similar records in Hartford, with an eye to seeing if printers or booksellers carried such insurance for their equipment and stock. This may be a fruitful angle of inquiry in terms of getting at certain telling types of data. I am hoping there are such records, and the question is, assuming I do find them–what are the ways in which I can incorporate them into my assignments? This idea of thinking all the way around the economic and social aspects of books, as well as their intellectual ones, is a compelling methodology, and I am sure the students will find it so as well. It translates to a more robust self-training on my part, but hey—what else am I in this business for if not to learn about what I love to learn about, and pass that passion and curiosity to others?

IMG_2906 The mid-day session comprised lengthy discussions on illustrative processes and the ways in which they can be approached and taught, depending on our audiences. We decided that the field needs the equivalent of Gaskell’s A New Introduction to Bibliography that covers only the production processes of the 20th century. This would be an incredibly useful tool for teaching, if a one-volume overview could be compiled, perhaps as an anthology, with chapter-length contributions from specialists on each major process used in all aspects of book production during the period.


IMG_2908We ended in special collections again, discussing one special “pair” of books to teach with—the so-called “Nuremburg Chronicle” (Liber Chronicarum, 1493) and its 1497 “pirated” edition.

I am proud to report that not only does the Watkinson have FOUR copies of the Nuremburg Chronicle (two in German, one partially colored but complete, one colored throughout that lacks 9 leaves; and two in Latin, one complete and partially colored, and the other uncolored and lacking 6 leaves). We also have a copy of the “pirated” edition.

We also viewed “A Noble Fragment” (a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible), and discussed the ways in which one might present that leaf to students (we have two such leaves at Trinity—one from the Old Testament, and the other from the New).

It’s a great day when you realize anew the richness of your own collection and its pedagogic potentialities!!


Rare Book School Day 1

   Posted by: rring   in book history

IMG_2894A beautiful start to the week—here’s a picture of what I THOUGHT was Monticello (but is not) atop its mountain, which is visible from the steps of the Alderman Library…still an inspiring sight as we walk into our first full day of class.

How does a book make its meaning? All books have intentions on imagined readers, and we can reconstruct many of those intentions from the physical copies left to us.

We began the discussion with samples of Harlequin romance novels, which was delightful to me because I have always been fascinated by the romance genre. It is the most effectively marketed genre in the history of American publishing, to my mind, in great part because it knows its own market with a greater intimacy than say, the publishers of mystery novels or of science fiction (although online marketing and publishing is changing that). The key benefit to my own teaching is that modern books are so much more accessible to undergraduates as a starting point in terms of discussing what sorts of meaning we can decode from physical copies. I am pretty sure the same sort of exercise could be done with young adult novels, with which my students will have more experience.

IMG_2896Starting with what students know, or can easily access, and leading them to apply the same sort of observational analysis to older books, like this giant, gorgeous antiphonal, was the core take-away for me today. That, and the idea of showing books in pairs, to allow the students to “read” one against the other, comparing and contrasting their elements and conjecturing why they are different or similar, rather than asking them to guess at the significance of the aspects of just one book. This was demonstrated to great effect when we were shown a truly exquisite Paris Bible and an even more impressive miniature manuscript Bible.

IMG_2897IMG_2898The composition of the class is a nice mix of 7 librarians, 6 academics, one book designer, and one rare book dealer. The conversations and questions have been excellent, and we seem to be learning a great deal from each other–working through  issues both practical and theoretical.

Lunch for my little group brought almost no book-talk–we discussed parenting! But it was a welcome relief from the intense focus of class, and we went back re-energized. The connections we are forging with each other cannot rest on bibliophilia alone, after all–we don’t live or work in a vacuum.

IMG_2900The evening talk by Nick Basbanes was well-attended, not only by RBS students, but from the community and parts beyond (apparently one devoted fan drove all the way from Pittsburgh to see him and to get a few books signed!). It was humbling to see pictures from his travels in China, where paper was invented, and to know that one family who has been making paper for 600 years has had to close because the children have no interest in continuing the work.  At the culmination of his talk, quite a few of us could not escape dry-eyed from a moving story that involved paper in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy (I will not divulge it here–read the book).

Tomorrow promises new epiphanies and ideas for my teaching, meeting new potential collaborators/allies/connections, and more excellent food!



Day 0.5 of Rare Book School

   Posted by: rring   in book history, Random!

I am taking a week-long intensive course called “Teaching the History of the Book,” for professional development.

basbanesAfter driving 450 miles from Hartford to Charlottesville (and then getting lost in the town because I have no smart phone or GPS), I stagger to the front desk of my hotel and who should I meet coming out of a cab but Nicholas Basbanes—author of the recent book On Paper: The Everything of its Two Thousand-Year-History (Knopf, 2013). I first encountered Nick’s now-famous work on book collecting, A Gentle Madness, in graduate school in the mid-90s, and met him in person in 2002 when he spoke at a book collecting contest I was managing at Brown University. He is one of the featured evening speakers this week.

I stuck out my hand and said, “Nick, you don’t remember me but I use your books in my classes, and I brought my copy of On Paper for you to sign at your talk tomorrow night.” We were both travel-weary, and the rooms were not ready, so we went out for a beer and talked—mostly he talked about a book he has just sold to Knopf about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

At the registration and reception, I saw some old friends and met some new people, and most importantly caught some excellent gossip (a staple of the rare book world). No time to socialize more, since my instructor sent around a link this afternoon to another 1,200 pages of resource material to become familiar with before we begin tomorrow morning at 8:20am!! Welcome to Boot Camp for Bibliophiles!


Farewell feast for AMST 851!

   Posted by: rring   in Classes, Interns, students

IMG_2857Tonight one of my students provided a feast for our last “world of rare books” class: octogenarian Emily Leonard, who made (among other things) the incredibly sinful chocolate chocolate cake in the foreground. It was a grand finale to a truly great group-dynamic this summer–thanks to all of my students (two not shown), and best of luck in your collecting!