Tagged: Rare Books

New Acquisition: Didot Miniature Book

Miniature bookSpecial Collections and University Archives has recently acquired an exceptional miniature book: a copy of the 1828 edition of the complete works of Horace printed in a microscopic 2.5pt font designed by the Didot firm.

The French Didot family included several generations of printers, engravers, and master typographers active in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They contributed many major bibliographic innovations including devising a “point” system for measuring type (the didot, by François-Ambroise Didot) and innovating technology within the fields of papermaking, engraving, and founding. The firm also produced many luxurious and beautifully-designed books. Firmin Didot (1764-1836) was the designer of the punches for the elegant Modern Didot typefaces, notable for their extreme contrast in weight and hairline serifs. These designs are well known today through contemporary revivals like Adrian Frutiger’s typeface designed for Linotype (1991) based on Firmin’s original designs.

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New Exhibit | Creative Commonplacing

Detail of commonplace book of children's book author and illustrator Elizabeth Orton Jones.
Detail of Edna St. Vincent Millay quote in commonplace book of children’s book author and illustrator Elizabeth Orton Jones. Elizabeth Orton Jones papers. Coll 200. Box 7. Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

A new exhibit is now on view during the Winter 2018 term in the Paulson Reading Room in Special Collections and University Archives titled Creative Commonplacing: The Facets of Book Love. 

Students of Professor Mai-Lin Cheng’s Fall 2017 course HC421, “Book Love: Or, Reading Commonplaces,” curated this exhibit of commonplace books, diaries, and scrapbooks. The exhibit also highlights other “book love” projects  undertaken by the students during the course, including the results of a bookbinding workshop with Collections Conservator Marilyn Mohr and a handwriting workshop with Manuscripts Librarian Linda Long.

The public is invited to an opening reception in SCUA on 1/18/18, 4-5 p.m.

An introduction to the exhibit from the guidebook written by the student curatorial team follows:

Our class during Fall 2017 was the first of hopefully many future classes on the topic of Book Love, exploring the origins of book writing and what it means to love books and share what we understand of the world. Commonplaces are both a reflection of an author and their greater community, with the practice beginning in the seventeenth century as a type of note-sharing. In this class, we explored what it means to be an author as opposed to a compiler, as the lines are often blurred in commonplace books, as readers created their own personal anthologies, with passages, images, and other artifacts important to them to create a commonplace book.

The commonplace book is an artifact of active reading. In it, the reader becomes writer. The interchangeability of these two modes of relating to texts is, of course, familiar in our contemporary era of cutting-and-pasting, tweeting and retweeting, liking and linking. Exploring the origins of this information-sharing, however, reveals a more exclusive and exclusionary history in authorship and the sharing of information, and through exploring the history of book-making students deepened their awareness of an elitist history of information control. In this class, students experiment with individual methods of expressing “book love” in creating their own print or digital commonplace books, and through reading the same texts each student created their own unique commonplace work.


New Acquisition: De Smet’s Missions de l’Orégon, 1848

A rare uncut edition of Jesuit priest Pierre-Jean De Smet’s Missions de l’Orégon et Voyages dans les Montagnes Rocheuses aux sources de la Columbie, de l’Athabasca et du Sascatshawin, en 1845-1846 (Gand [Ghent]: Vander Schelden, 1848) has been added to the Oregon Collection in Special Collections and University Archives. This collection includes published materials that reflect the history, literature, and life in Oregon and the Oregon Territory. The acquisition of Missions de l’Orégon broadens the De Smet holdings in the Oregon Collection and complements other editions held in the collection including the English-language edition (Oregon Missions) and the Flemish-language edition (Missiën van den Orégon, seen on the right below).

Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801-1873) was born in Belgium and emigrated to the United States in 1821 as a novitiate of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He moved to a Jesuit mission in Florissant, Missouri, near St. Louis, and began to study the languages and cultures of Native Americans. He went on first his mission among the Salish after they sent a deputation to St. Louis. De Smet returned with the messengers travelling west through Montana and Wyoming, also visiting the neighboring Nez Perce nation on this journey. In 1845-1846, De Smet undertook one of his longest missions throughout the Rocky Mountains and the Oregon Territory, including the Columbia and Willamette valleys, where he established schools and missions throughout. After these travels, De Smet published an account of the evangelizing expedition in Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky Mountains in 1845-46 (New York, 1847). The sale of this book, published in three languages, was part of his continued effort to raise money for Jesuit missions in the Northwest. These fundraising labors included many overseas trips to Europe to meet with papal and European state leaders where his translated books might illustrate his mission and impact to European donors. De Smet saw himself as an ally and advocate of the tribes he was in contact with in the West and was aware of the infringements and persecutions of the federal government toward tribal nations writing, “If our Indians become enraged against the whites, it is because the whites have made them suffer for a long time.”

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Library Acquires a Doves Bible Leaf on Vellum

Special Collections and University Archives has recently acquired a printed leaf from a vellum copy of the esteemed Doves Press English Bible.

This leaf from the first book of Chronicles (p. 119-120, vol. II) is an excellent example of the fine presswork and craftsmanship of Arts and Crafts bookmaking, an international art movement that emulated forms and decorations of the past and championed social and economic reform.

Doves Press was founded in 1900 by T. J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, a bookbinder and photo-engraver respectively. The works of the Doves Press and earlier established Doves Bindery were aligned with the overall aim of reviving fine printing and bookmaking of the past. Cobden-Sanderson did not adhere as closely to the Medieval codex model as his famous contemporary, William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. Morris wanted to copy the scribal tradition wherein the two-column design, illumination and rubrication was used. In Cobden-Sanderson’s idealized book, he sought to create a work that elegantly wove typography, printing, and binding together.

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Books as Art: Exploring Rare Zaehnsdorf Bindings

Established circa 1842 by Jospeh Zaehnsdorf, the Zaehnsdorf Bindery operated under the control of the Zaehnsdorf family until 1947, in that time producing some of the finest examples of bookbinding in London. Austria-Hungarin born Joseph Zaehnsdorf worked in binderies in Stuttgart and Vienna, before arriving in London, where he gained a prestigious position with James Mackenzie, Bookbinder to the King. In 1842 Zaehnsdorf opened his own shop, which by the 1860s was regarded as one of the finest in London, alongside the celebrated firm of Robert Riviere.

When Zaehnsdorf passed away in 1886, he left the business to his son, Joseph William, himself an accomplished binder and author of The Art of Bookbinding: A Practical Treatise–a manual of critical importance to students of bookbinding. Jo      seph William elaborated the concerns of the firm to include bookbinding courses and also opened a showroom. The bindery continued to produce spectacular work, and its acclaim only increased under his tenure. Around the turn of the century, the firm was appointed as bookbinders and booksellers to Edward VII and George V.

In 1920, Joseph William retired, leaving his son, Ernest to run the business. Like his father, Ernest also expanded the interests of the firm, this time to include book conservation. In 1947, the business was sold, and passed through a number of hands until 1998 when it was combined with another renowned London bookbinding firm, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, under the umbrella of Shepherds Bookbinders.

UO’s Special Collections has a handful of Zaehnsdorf bindings, representative of the firm’s more austere and refined output. A Dante Treasury and Early British Ballads (both 1903) reside in the Bishop William A. Quayle Book Collection, which includes Quayle’s library of 500 titles illustrating the history of printing and the printed book. John Ashton’s A Righte Merrie Christmasse!!! (1895) is from the Pauline Potter Homer Collection of Beautiful Books, a collection of approximately 1000 volumes demonstrative of various facets of beauty in the printed book. George Eliot’s Felix Holt the Radical (1866) is a recently acquired addition to the University’s general rare book collections.


By Ryan Hildebrand, Authorities and Special Collections Cataloging Librarian