Our unique copy of Guide to the Mushrooms

Cole, Emma L. Taylor. Guide to the Mushrooms. C.K. Reed, 1910.

ISU Parks Library Special Collections and Archives has a unique copy of this book: it was “extra-illustrated” by a previous owner. The customization of books has a long and varied history, and was sometimes taken to surprising extremes, with little or no regard for preserving books (even rare or costly ones) as issued. The great libraries of the world have collections of extra-illustrated and “Grangerized” books created by noteworthy and talented persons.

In the case of our Guide to the Mushrooms, the extra illustrations are 117 amateur watercolors of most or all of the mushroom species covered by the book. About 150 additional pages have been glued between the original 206 pages. The extra-illustrator also augmented the text by adding species entries, expanding the indices, and so on.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Here, the extra-illustrator added flair to a previously blank space.


Figure 2

Figure 2. The book’s front paste-down endpaper.

We aren’t completely sure who extra-illustrated this book, but the name, address, and upper-right note appear to be in the same hand, so maybe Mark M. Maycock was the artist. The penciled inscriptions were probably made by a bookseller, perhaps the same one who affixed the little label.

All of these elements are provenance evidence — copy-specific information about a book’s origin, history, and owners. The provenance of rare and/or valuable books is of great importance; in other cases, the information may be of interest to a select few people (family, scholars, librarians, or archivists).

Figure 3

Figure 3. Note the page numbering at top left and right.

The extra-illustrator glued in about 150 pages (about 75 leaves of paper) and wanted them to have numbers, too. His or her solution is evident above (FIG. 3): the sequence is 112, 112-1, 112-2, 113, and so on. If these details seem less than noteworthy, well, perhaps they are in this case. The fine points of most books’ typography, construction, and condition are of little to no concern; but, as with provenance evidence, precise physical description of the most important books is greatly appreciated by scholars and collectors. Their work sometimes relies on it — for example, to determine the authenticity or completeness of a copy, or to establish the correct or definitive version of a text.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Another scan from the book, just for the fun of it.

In-recataloging this book, I took special care to make notes about what makes ISU’s copy unusual. We’ll never find out who is interested in such things if we don’t describe them! Here’s a link to the book in our library catalog. If you want to see ISU’s extra-illustrated copy of Guide to the Mushrooms, visit us at the Parks Library Special Collections and Archives. If you want to see the book as issued, a complete scan is available online.

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