News and updates on acquisitions, holdings, and activities of Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries
A recent acquisition for the Book Arts Collection, Papiers dominotés…, is a 350 full page color work devoted to illustrations of decorated papers originally published in the 18th century and used for the covers of books to protect them before their delivery to the bookbinder. There are numerous examples of this practice in Special Collections, primarily in the French Monarchy Collection.
Every year we are able to add several titles to the Veterinary Medicine Historical Collection, and this year is no exception. The challenge is finding titles that we do not already own. Thanks to funding from the JoAnne Weil memorial Fund, among this year’s purchases is a rare early Indiana farriery book, The Western Farrier which is held only by two other libraries. As with many early American farrier books, this copy shows extensive use, but the contents are valuable for their description of the veterinary art of the American frontier in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Richard Lawrence’s An Inquiry in to the Structure and Animal Oeconomy of the Horse http://catalog.lib.msu.edu/record=b9300190~S23a is the rare, first edition in original condition from the family library of the celebrated engineer James Watt. It provides the basics of the veterinary art , but it is the charming illustrations based on the author’s own drawings that leaves the longest impression.
The Catalogue of Farriers’ Prescriptions. Sixty Five Recipes in Plain Language for Plain Men is a rare manual stitched in original yellow wrappers explaining the signs of disease in horses and prescriptions for their cures. It is held by only two other libraries in the world.
The Horseman’s Friend: or Pocket Counsellor , published in Gettysburg in 1868, explains cures for 88 horse ailments, including corns and slobbering, along with recipes for destroying roaches.
Adding to our already strong holdings in the early study of rabies is A Review of the Subject of Canine Madness wWriting from Norfolk, Virginia, the author dedicates his essay, presenting “physical observations which do not appear to me to have ever before made,” to Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and former Surgeon General to the Continental Army.
Thanks to generous support of the Patricia Anderson Endowment, we have acquired several examples of children’s shape books
for Special Collections. Popular around the turn of the 19th century, shape books were cut into a specific shapes to reflect the content of the book. Two of the most important publishers of these charming books were Raphael Tuck & Sons in London and McLoughlin Brothers in New York. Die cutting books to produce shapes is still popular today for all kinds of publications, including children’s books, cookbooks, and art books, but the beauty and craftsmanship of the earlier shape books have never been duplicated.
Over the past several decades Special Collections has acquired a number of illuminated manuscript facsimiles. Thanks to funding provided by the MSU Class of 1994 Library Endowment Fund, a recent addition to our holdings in this area is Das Schwarze Stundenbuch [The Black Hours], which is a full color reproduction of the Black Hours in the Pierpont Morgan Library. The original was produced in Bruges in 1475 probably for a member of the Burgundian nobility. It gains its name from being one of the few surviving books of hours with all the vellum leaves stained black, the result of immersion in an iron copper solution to obtain the black coloring before it was painted. This immersion made the vellum brittle, which explains why only a few survive to this day. Fortunately, visitors to Special Collections have the opportunity to see not quite the real thing, but a volume very close to it.
Special Collections is fortunate to hold an extensive collection of books that are distinguished more by their covers than their content. Recently two books were acquired specifically for their bindings. The first is a fine Cosway style binding by the famous English binder Bayntun (Riviere). Characteristic of the Cosway style there is a miniature oval portrait on ivory under glass of Shelley on the front cover of volume one, and on the front cover of volume two has the gilt signature of Shelley surrounded by a floral arrangement.
The second title is a late seventeenth century Book of Common Prayer , which is an example of a Restoration binding in the style of the Queen’s Binders. It is bound in a contemporary full red goatskin, elaborate all over gilt design within a gilt floral border. Both covers, interestingly enough, show the original scoring by the binder, in quarters, used to position the various tools.
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