The Pre-1700 Book Census Project:

Undergraduate Student Research Opportunities in a Rare Book Archive (January 2006-September 2008)

Tara Olivero, Special Collections Librarian, & Arnie Sanders, Associate Professor of English

Rare Book Room, Julia Rogers Library, x6347 / Van Meter G57, x6515

     Many books in the Julia Rogers Rare Book Collection are un-catalogued or not in the online catalogue (OLLI).  Some very rare volumes and others with important provenance, owner inscriptions, and other manuscript additions appear in OLLI only as author/title/call number.  Until recently, none was illustrated by a digital image file.  Others are not properly protected for long-term storage and scholarly use.  Until these volumes are properly recorded in a database that makes it easy for scholars to search the collection for research projects, the Rare Book Collection cannot play its proper role in faculty members' and students' research and publication.  Because the Library will move its entire collection to the Athenaeum in the summer of 2009, we must rectify this situation, but time is running out.  Arnold Sanders (English Department) and Tara Olivero (Special Collections Librarian), together with a group of student Archival Assistants,  are conducting a census of this collection.  The students are trained to do hands-on archival preservation, bibliographic description, cataloging and digital imaging of these rare books.  Meticulous record keeping will help us preserve these treasures and make them available to all faculty and student scholars.

Anonymous, A Shrill Cry in the Eares of Cavaliers, Apostates, and Presbyters . . . , 1648

A pamphlet printed days after the execution of King Charles I, defending his trial and the sentence. Though the author remains anonymous, the printer boldly proclaimed his Parliamentary sympathies.

William Winstanley, The Loyall Martyrology . . . , 1665

Brief biographies of King Charles I and other Royalists executed by Parliamentary courts, published after the Restoration of Charles II to make the case for execution of those who sat in judgment of the king and his followers.

John Higgins, A Mirrour for Magistrates, 1574

This edition was one source for Shakespeare's characterization of Cordelia in King Lear, but he rejected this narrative's plot. In a dream vision, its narrator encounters Cordelia's ghost bewailing damnation for the sin of suicide.

John Hardyng, The chronicle of Jhon Hardyng, 1543

John Grafton's continuation of Hardyng's combination of chronicle history of England, the manuscript original of which was a source for Malory's Morte Darthur (1470/1485).

John Hardyng, The chronicle of Jhon Hardyng, 1543

A fifteenth- or sixteenth-century reader's note reflecting interest in the heraldic arms borne by "Merlyn" (Merlin). One of several notes in this reader's hand in the Arthurian section, a sign of continued attempt to find a legitimating English history in Arthur's reign.

Saint Bonaventure, Opuscula sancti Bonauenture, 1495

Collected minor works of Saint Bonaventure (1217-1274), an incanabulum ("cradle-book" from the infancy of printing) donated by John Franklin Goucher.

    First, this census will seek out our oldest known volumes, those published before 1700, seeking especially those known to be in the collection as a result of college's acquisition of over 4,000 volumes in the James Wilson Bright Collection. (1925).  In addition, careful shelf reading will discover other volumes that have not yet been properly catalogued in OLLI.  Other databases (OCLC, ABE, etc.) will be searched to ascertain each book's rarity and current value, and additional research will help establish its scholarly importance.  Books relating to the Bright Collection will be cross linked by an OLLI subject heading.  All books will be described in an online database which also will be available to researchers off-campus via OLLI.  Digital images will record bindings, title pages, sample text pages, and other items of interest.  Special attention will be paid to evidence of ownership, especially by women book owners of Early Modern period.  Each volume's condition will be carefully described, and books needing special will be given protective packaging (phase boxes, slip cases, Mylar sleeves, etc.).  After the pre-1700, books have been completed, we will move on to the books from 1701 to 1800, and to the next two centuries' books when those are completed.  Bright Collection membership will also be recorded to make it possible for scholars studying Professor Bright's work to have access to volumes he has annotated.

        When the Bright Collection first arrived at Goucher in 1925, it was thought to contain between 9,000 and 10,000 volumes, and it probably forms the core of the Rare Books collection.  At the time of the collection's purchase by President Guth, at the suggestion of Professor Kuhl of the English Department, it was believed this collection would make Goucher's library one of the better national research libraries in the nation.  For reasons we cannot now discover, this collection was not kept intact like the Rare Book Collection's Henry and Alberta Hirshheimer Burke Collection of Jane Austen materials.  Our initial discoveries we have made include several extremely rare and important Renaissance editions, "association copies" related to important scholars Bright was acquainted with or interested in, like John Mitchell Kemble (1807-1857), John Payne Collier (1789-1883) and Arthur Napier (1853-1916).  He also collected items containing unique owner's inscriptions and other manuscript additions.  Some of these volumes are not known to be held in any library accessible through OCLC, and others are represented by only one or a few copies in famous collections like the Beinicke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale.

        The census project also offers an unparalleled opportunity for Goucher undergraduates to learn how to do archival research with primary sources of unusual value.  In addition to projects undertaken by students in literature, art history, and other courses, students with demonstrated interest and appropriate skills are being recruited as interns in January and during the summer to keep the project running throughout the year.  We especially hope to recruit

Even if you do not consider yourself "proficient" in any of these fields but really care about them, we offer training and on-the-job practice using methods and tools most students usually do not encounter until graduate school.

        Students who are trained in bibliographic description and archival research can develop important skills which will aid their study of literature from any era.  Students trained in binding and paper conservation can parlay that experience into a career in library conservation work and fine book binding.  Training in digital archival photography and image archive management offer obvious advantages to anyone interested in working with online visual arts.  Some student archival assistants may choose to participate as work-study students, but others will work for credit as Independent Studies in literary research, and perhaps as Senior Honors Theses based on discoveries they may make.  Items already discovered are well within the capacity of advanced students who wished to publish scholarly articles describing and interpreting the finds.  Early volumes discovered in disciplines outside the expertise of the team also can be referred to other faculty who would have the opportunity to publish as a result.  This should lead to increased scholarly productivity in many fields, not just English literature and history.  Adding treasures from the Bright Collection to other Goucher collections like the Henry and Alberta Hirshheimer Burke Collection. of Jane Austen materials, the H.L. and Sara Haardt Mencken Collection, the Passano Collection on Women of the South During the Civil War, and the Brownlee Sands Corrin Collection of American political memorabilia, will increase Goucher's national reputation as an institution with significant research holdings, and this will attract other scholars wishing to work with these rare materials.

Links to Related Web Pages on Bibliographic and Conservational Issues

Oak gall ink and the corrosion of old MSS

Brittle paper and the condition of printed books

James Mitchell Kemble's Research Notebooks (3 vol.)

Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books:  A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology.  Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington (Stanford U.)