On Sunday we hosted representatives from two regional bibliophile groups–the American Printing History Association, New England Chapter (APHA NE) and the American Book Collectors of Children’s Books (ABC’s)–and printed a keepsake for them to take back to their members. From left to right, Phil Weimerskirch (APHA), Alice Beckwith (APHA), John Renjilian (APHA/ABC), Caroline Hardy (ABC), and Nancy Rossi (Trinity guest and new member of APHA). Along with a tour of the stacks, we presented an array of fine press books from our impressive collection, as well as some of our “high spots,” like the first edition of the King James Bible (1611), which is open on the table.
The keepsake was printed at Hartford Prints!, our new best friend for letterpress things, and features the Watkinson logo bearing one of the basic tenets of our field, “Book openeth book.”
We have been thrilled to see a steady stream of folks from the Country Day School Headmaster’s Association conference, hosted at Trinity between June 18-21. Over 40 of the ca. 150 participants have found their way to the Watkinson (some ditched a session), and many have expressed delight and interest in our exhibition. Here are some of the comments from our guestbook:
“Some things endure–fewer rules are better!”
“Thank you for putting it together–lots to read and think about.”
“This is fabulous!”
“Enlightening & delightful exhibit!”
“The Fish Hawk may be said to be of mild disposition. Not only do these birds live in perfect harmony together, but they even allow other birds of very different character to approach so near to them as to build their nests of the very materials of which the outer parts of their own are constructed. I have never observed a Fish Hawk chasing any other birds whatever. So pacific and timorous is it, that, rather than encounter a foe but little more powerful than itself, it abandons its prey to the White-headed Eagle, which, net to man, is its greatest enemy . . .
The Fish Hawk differs from all birds of prey in another important particular, which is, that it never attempts to secure its prey in the air, although its rapidity of flight might induce an observer to suppose it perfectly able to do so. I have spent weeks on the Gulf of Mexico, where these birds are numerous, and have observed them sailing and plunging into the water, at a time when numerous shoals of flying-fish were emerging from the sea to evade the pursuit of the dolphins. Yet the Fish Hawk never attempted to pursue any of them while above the surface, but would plunge after one of them or a bonita-fish, after they had resumed their usual mode of swimming near the surface.”
–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 415-16 [excerpted].
Here’s a great example of what you can find just browsing. Looking for a patron at what we had on chemistry, I came across a four-volume set of manuscript notes (possibly by a professional copyist) with the title-page “Lectures on Chemistry by Joseph Black, M.D., Edinburgh 1786-7.” It seems that we have a fair copy of Black’s lecture notes, taken by William P. Maxwell, one of his students. Apparently many copies of manuscript notes on Black’s lectures, taken by his students, were in circulation at the time–some of which were better than others. According to one source:
“Joseph Black (1728-1799) was Professor of Chemistry at the Universities of Glasgow (1756-66) and Edinburgh (1766-99). Immediately after his death, his executors decided to publish his lectures from his manuscript notes. This step was taken as they were informed that publication was proposed from notes taken by his students . . . The best of these was considered so unworthy of Black that the executors wished to prevent the inadequate impression of his knowledge and talents which such a publication would make.”
John Robinson, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh and a former student of Black, was chosen to compile and edit the lectures, which were published in 1803. We have in the Watkinson the first American edition (Philadelphia, 1807), which (interestingly) contains a list of 138 named subscribers, who ordered 528 copies, all told (the largest order by far was from Birch & Small, 200 copies). Another factoid of interest is that this copy was formerly owned by George Brinley, Jr. (1817-1875), the great Americana collector, who was a founding Trustee and second President of the Watkinson Library (75 years before it came to Trinity College). Brinley gave this set to Trinity in 1842.
It might be a fascinating project for a student to compare our copy of the lecture notes with the published version, as a book history project.
“Joseph Black’s Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry” Isis 25:2 (Sept. 1936), 372-90
Staffer Henry Arneth picked up a working portable Victrola last weekend while antiquing in Vermont. We will feature it in the fall exhibition celebrating the gift of the Rubenstein collection of musical recordings.
Click here for a short video of the player in action: