Dog Days

Student with puppy drinking from a cup

Student with puppy

We are definitely in the “dog days of summer” right now, so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some “dog days” on Davidson’s campus.  Staff members, professors, and students have all enjoyed having dog pals on campus!

Freshmen class in 1889 with "class dog"

Freshmen class in 1889 with “class dog”

Two students in front of Chambers pet a white dog.

Two students in front of Chambers pet a white dog.

Prof. Gordon Michalson with his dog in 1977.

Prof. Gordon Michalson with his dog in 1977.

ROTC cadets on the lawn of Old Chambers with a dog.

ROTC cadets on the lawn of Old Chambers with a dog.

Three students in 1984 study with dog pals.

Three students in 1984 study with dog pals.

19th century students, class of 1890, pos with their dog.

19th century students, class of 1890, pose with their dog.

John SYme lounges with Oscar.

John Syme lounges with Oscar.

Commencement...complete with dog.

Commencement…complete with dog!






Rare Book School and Bruce Rogers

I’m just back from a great week in Charlottesville, VA at Rare Book School.  Founded in 1983 at Columbia University, it moved to UVA in 1992.  Not just for librarians, Rare Book School offers week long classes at UVA during the months of June and July to those interested in all aspects of “rare books”…classes which are taught by experts in their fields.  Initially dealing primarily with books and manuscripts, classes have expanded to include all areas of the history of written, printed, and digital materials.  Students include librarians, dealers in antiquarian books, book collectors, conservators, teachers, and students (professional or avocational).  Classes are small (usually about 12 students) so students really get to know each other and work closely together for the week.  Entry is competitive, so I was excited to be accepted this year to “The History of 19th and 20th Century Typography and Printing.”

The course was taught by Katherine Ruffin, Book Arts Program Director at Wellesley College, and John Kristensen, owner of the Firefly Press in Boston.  I was in class with students from Virginia, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Missouri, and Vancouver, BC, including librarians, students, professors, and a member of the RBS staff.  We talked about the evolution of “books,” and “printing,” from clay tablets through letterpress printing to the electronic book, but concentrated on 19th and 20th century letterpress printing with handset foundry type, to monotype and linotype machine set type.  We looked at examples of typefaces and printing styles of famous printers and presses from the collections of the Rare Book School and the Special Collections at UVA’s Small Library  We were also able to set type ourselves (harder than it looked!) and print a joint class effort broadside to take home.  On Friday, each class member made a presentation on a particular type face…one of personal interest.

First page of The Centaur

First page of The Centaur

I chose Centaur type, designed by Bruce Rogers.  I have a particular interest in his design since we have a large collection of materials of Bruce Rogers (numbering around 200), given to Davidson by a friend of the typographer, Dr. Harold Marvin, Davidson class of 1914.

Rare Book School is a great professional opportunity for learning, meeting colleagues in the field, and having a great deal of fun!

College Library times 4

Did you know that the E.H. Little Library is not the first building to house the college’s library collections?

In fact, there were three before it.

"Old Chambers"

“Old Chambers”

The first physical space to house the book collections of the college, was in the Library Hall in “Old Chambers,” the building which burned in 1921 and was replaced with “New Chambers,” the building on campus today.  The first building to be built on campus as a library was the Carnegie Library, completed in 1910.

Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library

In 1941, the second library building opened, the Hugh A. and Jane Grey Memorial Library.

Grey Library

Grey Library

And, our present library building, the E.H. Little Library, was completed in 1974.

E.H. Little Library

E.H. Little Library

That doesn’t mean that the former library buildings are no longer here.  Carnegie is now the Carnegie Guest House, and Grey became the student union for a time and is now the Sloan Music Center.

If you’re around, come by the library after the new year and see the display in the Rare Book Room with pictures of the libraries and some of the books from the original collections.

9th Annual “Ghost in the Library” Halloween Celebration

Guest Blogger: Niara Webb, Class of 2020

Last night’s  9th Annual Ghosts in the Library event was a smashing success! A record number of Davidsonians poured into the Rare Book Room to hear spooky stories by (LED) candlelight.

From left to right: Shelby Cline ’20, Dr. Andrew Leslie, Lee Kromer ’21 and Cameron Rankin ’21

Dr. Andrew Leslie of the Communications Department, who also happens to have been a professional storyteller for 20 years, started off the night. He told the tale of The Old Man and Tailypo, a story from North American folklore of an old hermit who is terrorized by a mysterious creature whose hunt for his missing tail leads to the old hermit. Next up was Lee Kromer ’21, who told an original tale of a man who was followed across continents by a murderer escaped from a Gulag prison camp. Shelby Cline ’20, recalled an experience with a mysterious supernatural being during a dark, early morning rowing practice. Cameron Rankin ’21 read the listeners a classic New England tale of a haunted house in which the owner had been buried beneath the hearth. Finally, Dr. Leslie shared one more story and the winner of the six-word horror story was announced: Hannah Lieberman ’18!

Hannah wrote, “But the paper was due… yesterday!!!” A Davidson-themed scary story to round off the evening.

Guests who survived the night of spooky tales were thanked with bags full of chocolates, Halloween candies, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Thank you to all who attended and we wish you a very happy Halloween! 

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables

Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s second novel was published in April 1851 and followed his very successful first novel, The Scarlet Letter.    Begun in August 1850, The House of the Seven Gables was published to mixed reviews, but was well received by the public.  His Gothic tale of the Pyncheon family and the haunting of their house was inspired by an actual gabled house in Salem, Massachusetts which was owned by one of Hawthorne’s cousins, and by ancestors who had been involved in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

House of the Seven Gables Cover

House of the Seven Gables Cover

It has been adapted for movies, TV, and short stories.  And, in 2000, the Manhattan School of Music premiered an opera based on the novel.

We are fortunate to have in our Rare Book Room collection an 1851 printing of the novel, presented to the library by Mrs. Richard H. Brooks.

As we move nearer to Halloween, consider reading a copy of this classic tale!

House of the Seven Gables title page

House of the Seven Gables

And for more ghostly tales…

Come to the Rare Book Room at 8:00 PM on Tuesday October 24 for our 9th annual “Ghosts in the Library” storytelling event.  Complete with treats, but no tricks!

Affordances of the Codex

The first class session in the Rare Book Room this term was for DIG 220: Electronic Literature with Dr. Mark Sample and his students.  Electronic literature?  In the Rare Book Room?  Yes, because one of the interesting things to do as we look at using/reading/researching texts online, is to compare that to how we’d use the same text in a physical space.  So, we looked at the “Affordances of the Codex,” or to put it another way, the attributes of the physical book.  What do we do differently; how do we interact differently; what do we see in a different way when we use physical books?

The five affordances we attributed to physical books were:

  • Books are simultaneously sequential and random access.

For example, we can look at a dictionary and read from A to Z, or we can find the definition of a particular word.  We can look at a book of short stories and read the first story through to the last, or we can choose a story to read.

The cover of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"

Short Stories

  • Books are volumetric objects.

They have size and shape.  They “contain” the information in a three dimensional way.  Or, the shape may be representative of the contents.  The book “Snake Poems,” by Margaret Atwood literally unfolds like an accordion or “snake.”  “Gulliver’s Travels” text of his visit to the land of the giants is huge; the text of his visit to the Lilliputians is tiny.

  • Books are finite (bounded information spaces).

Single titles may be bound in one or more volumes; multiple titles may be bound together; single titles bound in one volume may be divided into parts.

  • Books offer a comparative visual space.

Books may be printed on the “front” side (the recto) of a leaf, but not on the “back” side (the verso.)  Notes, glosses, or translations may be on pages opposite the text itself.Page in SanscritPage in English stating, "An Indian Love-Lament from the Sanskrit of the Chautapanchasike"

  • Books are writable as well as readable.

We all often take notes, underline, or mark passages in books (our own, of course, not those which we check out from the library!) for our study.  But, some books in the Rare Book Room have recipes on a flyleaf, notes from previous owners regarding their readings of the book, children’s drawings, gift inscriptions and other markings indicating their use.A text titled, "Our Own Second Reader; for the use of Schools and Families"

Some of these affordances may also apply to electronic texts, but some don’t.  How do you see them differently?

Thanks, Dr. Sample and students for a great discussion!

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Frankenstein, cover


“It’s alive! It’s alive”
You probably associate that line with the movie, “Frankenstein.” And, you’d be right. You’d be wrong, however if you think the monster is Frankenstein. That was actually the name of the doctor who created him, and both were born from the imagination of Mary Shelley, who began her book Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus during the summer of 1816 when she was not yet nineteen. Mary (the lover, and later wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley), Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori were spending time in Geneva, and the gloomy, rainy weather often kept them indoors. Among the often occult topics of conversation was galvanism, the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current. One rainy afternoon, Byron suggested that they have a contest to see who could write the best gothic horror story. Mary’s was the only one which was completed. Her story is of a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who experiments with a technique for giving life to non-living matter which ultimately leads to his creation of The Monster. Full of gothic elements, and considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction, it is more than that. It explores themes of goodness and beauty as well. Shelley’s tale was published in London in 1818, but that first edition was published anonymously. Her name did not appear as the author until the second edition was published in France in 1823.
Although when first published Frankenstein did not receive favorable critical reviews, it did gain almost immediate popular success, and the story has been retold in theatrical productions, movies (and movie spoofs) through the years. Although Mary Shelley continued to write, she will always be remembered for Frankenstein.
We have in the Rare Book Room an early copy of the celebrated novel.

Forthcoming book ad for Vanity Fair

Forthcoming book ad for Vanity Fair

Frankenstein back cover of original paper wrappers

Back cover of original paper wrappers

Publisher's list of some of their other works

Publisher’s list of some of their other works

Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary W. Shelley, title page

Title Page

Frankenstein, original preface

Original preface

1831 Bentley edition preface, "Preface to the Last London Edition."

1831 Bentley edition preface

Frankenstein's opening page, "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus Letter I. to Mrs. Saville, England."

Opening pages of the story

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus / by Mrs. Shelley. Boston: Sever, Francis, & Co., 1869. Third American edition. Includes both the original preface, and the preface the author wrote for the 1831 Bentley’s Standard Novel edition (London). Rebound in brown buckram, but retains the original green paper wrappers. Includes original publisher’s ad for “the elegant Cambridge edition” of Vanity Fair.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, title page of first edition, first issue.

The Scarlet Letter, title page of first edition, first issue.

The Scarlet Letter was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of America’s most well-known writers, and was first published in March 1850 by Ticknor Reed and Fields in Boston. In November of 1849, James T. Fields, the junior partner in the firm (Boston’s most eminent) went to Salem to see Hawthorne, came back with an unfinished manuscript and began advertising this new work of Hawthorne’s. The tale of Hester Prynne (the adulteress branded with the scarlet letter A by her Puritan judges,) the Reverend Dimmesdale (father of her child) and Pearl (the child of the ill-fated union) is one with which most of us are familiar, since it’s often “required reading” in high school English classes. If you haven’t read it since high school, however, get it out again. You may find that your reaction to this masterpiece is quite different now.

The Scarlet Letter, title page verso. The table of contents page

The Scarlet Letter, title page verso.

Thanks to Dr. Wilber Fugate, Davidson class of 1934, we have a first edition, first issue of The Scarlet Letter in the Rare Book Room, one of only 2500 copies printed. According to one antique bookseller, Phillip J. Pirages, “this is a volume of firsts: the first edition, first issue of Hawthornes’ first novel, his first publication for Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, and generally recognized as the first major American novel.” There are several points which determine the first issue, including the absence of the preface which Hawthorne added later, and several misprints which were corrected in later issues.

Printing error: reduplicate for repudiate

Printing error:
reduplicate for repudiate

Printing error: mortal for moral

Printing error:
mortal for moral

Printing error: characterss, should only be one 's'

Printing error:

Printing error: tobelieve, there should be a space between "to" and "believe"

Printing error:

Printing error: The number 21 printed at the foot of page 321.

Printing error:
The number 21 printed at the foot of page 321.






Our copy has been rebound in quarter red morocco with red linen boards, and uses raised bands, black morocco spine labels, and gilt spine lettering. The inscription on the title page reads “C. G. Atherton to Hon. J. Hurst Jr.” Charles Gordon Atherton was a lawyer and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire from 1843-1849, and from 1852 until his death in 1853. He served as Chairman of the Committee on Printing (Twenty-ninth Congress), the Committee on Roads and Canals (Twenty-ninth Congress), and the Committee on Finance (Thirtieth Congress.)

The Scarlet Letter, cover/binding

The Scarlet Letter binding

Books from the Nonesuch Press

A Nonesuch Press Dust Jacket, green and brown checkard board design

A Nonesuch Press Dust Jacket

I wrote an earlier blog on The Golden Cockerel Press , one of the famous private presses represented in our Rare Book Room.  Another private press which was also noted for its beautiful volumes was the Nonesuch Press.

The press was founded in London in 1922 by Francis Meynell, his wife Vera, and their friend David Garnett, co-owner of a bookshop in Soho.  Nonesuch Press published its first book in May 1923, and from then until the mid-1960s it produced more than 140 books.  Unlike most private presses, Nonesuch used a small hand press to design their books, but then had them printed by commercial printers.  This method allowed the books to be designed with the quality of a fine press, but since they were commercially printed, to be available to a wider audience at lower prices.  Nonesuch editions are prized by collectors, and we have several in our collection thanks to Dr. Harold Marvin, Davidson class of 1914.

Two of the titles in our collection are

Princess of Babylon title page with an illustration of a womans face, her hair transforms into a sort of bush as you ascend upward, there is a hand holding a paper fan as well.

Princess of Babylon

The Princess of Babylon by M. de Voltaire, and Graziella by Alphonse de Lamartine.  The Princess of Babylon was printed in a limited edition of 1500 copies (ours is #106) on Batchelor’s Kelmscott hand-made paper, and bound in vellum backed marbled boards.  It is beautifully illustrated with plates and decorative vignettes by Thomas Lowinsky.


Graziella was also printed in a limited edition consisting of 1600, of which 600 were for sale in the United States.  This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of a young Frenchman’s romance with a Neapolitan fisherman’s daughter.  It was bound in decorated cloth boards and includes 30 illustrations, some in color, by Jacquier.

Graziella title page with an water color looking illustration of a man and a woman



Thanks, Dr. Marvin, for your wonderful gifts to our library!

Marbled Paper

American Military Biography

American Military Biography

When you hear the word “marble” what comes to mind?  Small round glass balls you played with as a child?   The streaks of fat alternating with lean in a rib-eye steak?  Your beautiful variegated stone kitchen counters?  All are accurate.  But what if I told you that the Rare Book Room has several examples of “marbled” paper?  Do you picture paper that has hardened to rock?  Actually, “marbled paper” is given that description because of the appearance of the paper —with streaks and patterns like marble.

It is made by transferring water colors floating on the surface of a gum solution to a piece of paper.  The colors are drawn on the solution with sticks or combs to create patterns such as swirl, splash, and feather.  Colors vary, from dark to light; from the use of many colors to few.

Moby Dick

Moby Dick

The technique was found as early as 118 in Japan, but the Persians are credited with first using it for books.  It was first used for the endpapers of a book, but it is also used for covers and bindings, and was used heavily in Europe and the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It has more limited use currently, but has been revived for special books of limited editions.

Johnson & Queeney

Johnson & Queeney

The Rare Book Room has several examples of this beautiful technique, many currently on display.  So, if you’re in the area, come by the RBR to see some of our beautiful “marbled paper” books.

Le Duc de Nemours

Le Duc de Nemours

Works of Robert Burns

Works of Robert Burns

Mill on the Floss

Mill on the Floss

History of England

History of England