Manuscripts Miscellany: Buxton, Iowa

Black and white photograph showing a broad, open area with many houses set in plots of land.

Looking S.E. from Water Tower, Buxton, Ia. From the Dorothy Schwieder Papers, RS 13/12/54, box 20, folder 21.

The coal-mining town of Buxton, Iowa has captured the imagination of many people throughout the state and beyond. Buxton was a company town owned by the Consolidated Coal Company to house the miners and other employees working the nearby coal mines or supporting the miners. Built in 1900, its heydey lasted for about 15 years, until the nearby mines were exhausted. By 1905, 55% of the population was Black. Company-owned housing was given to employees on a first-come, first-served basis, so that the town was largely integrated. As Buxton grew, it developed suburbs, and some of these were segregated, such as the primarily white East Swede Town and West Swede Town. Churches were also segregated, but schools and many social activities were integrated.

Black and white photograph of schoolchildren lined up in five rows in front of a school building. At the back is a teacher. The children are both male and female. A large portion are black, while the rest are white. The teacher is female and may be black.

Buxton schoolchildren, undated. From the Dorothy Schwieder papers, RS 13/12/54, box 20, folder 21.

Buxton was also unique among coal company towns in that many individuals, and not just the coal company, owned businesses; many of these were owned by Black individuals. Interviews with many of its former Black residents reveal that they considered the town a Black utopia. Rachelle Chase, in her book Lost Buxton, writes,

“But to understand this label of utopia is to view it in the context of the African American residents’ experience.

“Buxton was started a mere 35 years after the end of slavery. Numerous African Americans interviewed stated that their parents or grandparents had been slaves, repeatedly sharing stores of their life of slavery. And those who had not been slaves still experienced extreme racism.

“They came from that to Buxton–a place where they could go anywhere they wanted, live any way they wanted, eat or shop where they wanted, and have the freedom they wanted.”

Black and white portrait of a Black man wearing a suit jacket, vest, shirt and bow tie. Photogaph is in an oval frame.

Portrait of George Woodson, a prominent lawyer in Buxton and later the founder of the Iowa Negro Bar and National Bar Association. From the Dorothy Schwieder papers, RS 13/12/54, box 20, folder 21.

Dorothy Schweider was a white ISU professor in the department of History, who, along with her husband Elmer Schweider, ISU professor of Family Environment, and ISU professor of Sociology Joseph Hruba, conducted a large-scale research project on Buxton in 1980, interviewing many former residents about their experiences living in Buxton. They asked them a variety of questions about the mining and businesses in the town, schools, social life, family life, and race relations.

Below are some passages from interview transcripts that are part of the Dorothy Schwieder papers (RS 13/12/54): [Note: some passages use dated language to describe people of color.]

From an interview with Jeanette Adams, a Black resident, about Swede Town (Q are the questions by interviewers Joe Hraba and Elmer Schweider; A are answers from Adams):

From the Dorothy Schwieder Papers, RS 13/12/54, box 12, folder 8.

Q. We discovered something yesterday, that we talked about, or Gus talked about East Swede Town and West Swede Town.

A. Oh, yes, I used to ….

Q. [Why] did they call it Swede Town, were there an awful lot of Swedes?

A. Oh, yes, there were a lot of Swedes. Yes, they had their own church and everything. Yes, it was quite their own town. Course they had to go down to the company store; I guess to deal. But they had their own little churches, their own little settlement. […]

Q. Well, let me talk a little more about that. Here’s Buxton with the company store, now is there a place called East and West Swede Town where most of the Swedes lived, and then another place where many of the Blacks lived? Or Italians, or was there a kind of segregation?

A. No, no, no, no segregation. The Swedes just had their own way up there cause they wanted to. But Buxton had no, ah, no colored and white. There were more colored [than] there were white. I think the population was higher for colored there than it was for white.

Later, Adams described black and white neighbors socializing together:

Dorothy Schwieder Papers, RS 13/12/54, box 12, folder 8.

Q. (S) Were you ever, did you ever have white people come visit you in your home?

[…]

A. Oh, my yes. We had neighbors that we just loved like little sisters and brothers.

Q. And then you went in some of the white homes, back and forth, you mixed socially with that, no problem.

A. Oh yes, indeed, we mixed socially. …

Another former Buxton resident, Lester Beamon, describes the experience of Black people in towns other than Buxton, including the Ku Klux Klan and sunset laws. Heydock was the town that the Consolidated Coal Company moved on to after the Buxton mines were depleted.

Dorothy Schwieder Papers, RS 13/12/54, box 12, folder 9.

Dorothy Schwieder Papers, RS 13/12/54, box 12, folder 9.

Q. Did you ever hear any stories about the Ku Klux Klan being active in…?

A. They were supposed to have been active right there in Heydock.

Q. Really?

A. Yeah.

Q. Did you ever have any direct experiences with that…?

A. Well, no, I wouldn’t just say so, but they said they were active right there in Heydock.

Q. Who told you this?

A. Oh, just hear the older people talk, you know.

Q. Anything else about the treatment… Ah, obviously Black people could go into Albia and these other towns and shop.

A. Yeah.

Q. But did they have like what were know as sunset laws in those days that Black people couldn’t be there after dark? Remember anything like that?

A. I’ve heard, my mother and them said someplace, now I don’t remember where its at, but someplace they had a sign that said …let me get it straight now. “Read and run,” or maybe “don’t let the sun go down on you” or something lie that. I don’t know where that was at. I really don’t know.

Oliver Burkett lived in Buxton before his family moved to Waterloo. He seemed to experience culture shock on leaving Buxton:

Dorothy Schwieder Papers, RS 13/12/54, box 12, folder 13.

Q. In your classes there was about a third of the kids were white kids, Oliver something like that?

A. A third was white, huh huh.

Q. I know we talked about this but let me ask you again this. How did black and white kids get along together at school?

A. Real well. There wasn’t a lot of friction at all. When I come here [to Waterloo] it was just like going to a foreign country.

Q. Really, tell me about it.

A. Like I say, the black was dominant there, I mean in population and we come here. I went to Grant School, it’s right up here on Mobile Street and many times I was the only black one in my room. Yeah, see that’s been 51 years ago and there wasn’t very many black people here.

The Dorothy Schwieder papers contain many more interviews of former Buxton residents, along with other research notes from her Buxton project.  More information on Buxton can be found in a number of publications, websites, as well as collections held at the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Selected Bibliography

In Iowa State University Library:

Chase, Rachelle. Creating the Black Utopia of Buxton, Iowa. HISTORY Press, 2019.

–. Lost Buxton. Arcadia Publishing, 2017.

Dickey, LeeAnn. Before Buxton: the Muchakinock Years, 1874-1900. PBL Ltd., 2014.

Dorothy Schwieder Papers, RS 13/12/54, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives.

Gradwohl, David M., and Osborn, Nancy M. Exploring Buried Buxton: Archaeology of an Abandoned Iowa Coal Mining Town with a Large Black Population. Iowa State University Press, 1984.

Schwieder, Dorothy, et al. Buxton: Work and Racial Equality in a Coal Mining Community. Iowa State University Press, 1987.

–. Buxton: A Black Utopia in the Heartland. University of Iowa Press, 2003.

Websites:

“Buxton: A Lost Utopia.” Primary Source Sets, State Historical Society of Iowa. https://iowaculture.gov/history/education/educator-resources/primary-source-sets/buxton-lost-utopia

“The Great Buxton.” Iowa Pathways, Iowa PBS. http://www.iowapbs.org/iowapathways/mypath/great-buxton

Smith, Eric A. “Buxton, Iowa (1895-1927).” Black Past, January 29, 2007. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/buxton-iowa-1895-1927/


Rare Book Highlights: new purchase by William Morris

Page on left hows a black and white print of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eve is seated on a fallen log with a fur wrapped around her lower abdomen and long hair somewhat covering her naked breasts. At her feat are two young children, one with its arms wrapped around her leg. Adam is standing, bending over to push a spade into the ground. Printed text at the bottom reads, "When Adam Delved and Eve Span Who was then the Gentleman. There is an intricate black and white printed border around the image on the left page and the text on the right page. Both borders have design sof leaves, and the righth one includes bunches of grapes.

Frontispiece and first page of William Morris’s “A Dream of John Ball; and, A King’s Lesson.”

Just look at that frontispiece! Is that classic William Morris, or what? The book featured here is among our newest additions to the rare books collection.

William Morris was a Victorian British designer, craftsman, and author, known for his wallpaper and textile design and associated with the Arts & Crafts Movement. You may be familiar with his famous quote:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

In rare book circles, he is known as the founder of the Kelmscott Press and the designer of the famous Kelmscott Chaucer.

William Morris believed in the importance of manual labor and skilled craftsmanship. In the wake of mechanization during the Industrial Revolution, he made sure that his own decorative arts company performed impeccable handwork in crafts that he first made sure to master himself. In 1891 at the age of 56, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press to produce books that were a pleasure to look at and to read. Following his principles of skilled craftsmanship and handiwork, he learned the skills of hand printing, type design, and paper making. Taking inspiration from the type of the famed 15th century type designer Nicholas Jensen, who created one of the earliest Roman typefaces, he designed three typefaces for use by the press–Golden, Troy, and Chaucer–that were clear, readable, and beautiful. He also designed ornamental letters and borders. You can see that the ornamental borders in the image above look very similar to Morris’ wallpaper and textile designs (see examples here).

The book we purchased is William Morris’s A Dream of John Ball; and A King’s Lesson (1892). It includes two of Morris’s own writings. The illustration for the frontispiece was designed by Morris’ friend, longtime business partner, and Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. See more pictures of this book below:

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The founding of the Kelmscott Press marks the begininng of the private press movement that flourished around the turn of the 20th century, in which private individuals set up presses that were focused on producing high-quality handmade books emphasizing the book as a work of art and generally without a strong profit motive. Other famous private presses include the Doves Press and the Ashendene Press.


Rare Book Highlights: A Sophisticated Copy of “On the Origin of the Species”

During a class visit to Special Collections last week, the professor brought something to my attention that I had not noticed before. Our supposedly first edition of Charles Darwin’s famous On the Origin of the Species, which he had requested for his class, was a sophisticated copy.

Sophisticated. That’s good, right? It means that the book is refined, polished, cultured, right? Wrong. In this case, the definition of sophisticated relates to the origins of the word, pointing to the ancient Greek Sophists, or teachers that specialized in the subjects of philosophy and rhetoric. Plato criticized Sophists for teaching deceptive reasoning and rhetorical skills to those seeking political office. You might think of the term spin doctor today. Well, a sophisticated book is ‘spinning’ the truth of its own origins, in a way, since it refers to a doctored book, or one that is deceptively altered. In this case, the title page from a first edition has been bound at the front of the text of a second edition.

This wasn’t a new discovery–it was noted in the catalog entry for this copy, so it was likely known from the time the library purchased it. This was just new information for me; something I hadn’t noticed before. The catalog doesn’t actually use the word “sophisticated,” but what it describes fits the definition of “sophisticated” to a T. What it actually says is this: “Composite copy having t.-p. and half-title of 1st ed., 1859, and text of 2d ed., 1860.

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What does it really mean, though, to add the title page from one edition onto the text of a different edition? Let’s start by defining what an edition is. An edition refers to the entire set of copies printed from one setting of type. After printing up the first edition of a book, it may or may not sell well. If the book does sell well, a printer may want to print more copies to sell. During the handpress period, this would most likely mean that he would have to set all the pages of type again. Below are images showing what it looks like to set lines of type using a composing stick (left), and a fully set page of type (right):

Chances are, in setting them by hand, the new set of pages will not exactly match the original set: words may end up on different pages, typos from the original edition may have been corrected, while new typos may have been introduced. But the changes can be so small that, unless you know just what to look for, it can be very easy to be taken in by a misleading title page.

In the case of the Origin of the Species, I wondered what those differences were the gave away the fact that we had a sophisticated copy. Since we don’t have an actual first edition copy to compare it to, I went searching online. I found Darwin Online, which, among other things, provides scans of the major early editions of Darwin’s writings. It also gives publication history of his major works. In the essay for On the Origin of the Species, it lists a number of textual differences between the first and the second editions. I will focus on one of them to illustrate how we can see that the text of our copy is, in fact, a second edition.

Page 20, line 11 of the first edition has a typo in the word “species,” misspelling it as “speceies.”

Page of text from book, with a red circle around the misspelled word s-p-e-c-e-i-e-s.

Misspelled word “speceies” from the first edition.

Page 20 of our copy looks completely different. As you can see, the typesetting turned out differently. In this edition, that same word doesn’t appear until line 14. And here it is spelled correctly.

Page of text with the same word circled in red, but appears lower on the page.

The same instance of “species” is spelled correctly in the second edition.

Why would anyone sophisticate a book? There are a couple of main reasons. One reason is profit. First editions have a special allure, which tends to make them in high demand by collectors. High demand = high selling price. Perhaps an unscrupulous bookseller had a second edition that wasn’t moving off the shop shelves as quickly as they would have liked. Perhaps they also came across a poor condition first edition that wouldn’t make as much money as one in fine condition. Well, perhaps that bookseller removed the title page from the first edition and bound it into the second edition copy. Caveat emptor*, as the saying goes.

Another reason for sophisticating a book is in order to achieve a “perfect,” or complete volume. The “perfecting” of books was a fashion among 18th and 19th century book collectors. Books deteriorate with use, and with highly used books, it is not uncommon for pages to become worn, torn, or removed entirely. In order to achieve a perfect volume, some collectors would cannibalize pages from another copy and bind them into their own copy. To read more about this practice, see this blog post from the Folger Shakespeare Library about the practice of sophisticating the First Folio. In the case of the Darwin that we have been examining here, it seems clear to me that this instance of sophistication was likely for the purpose of profit.

*So I won’t be accused of defamation of my fellow book lovers working in the book trade, I want to clarify that modern booksellers associations have adopted codes of ethics meant to establish trust in the antiquarian marketplace by laying out standard expectations for ethical business behavior. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America in their Code of Ethics and Standards, for example, specifies in point 3 that “An Association member shall be responsible for the accurate description of all material offered for sale. All significant defects, restorations, and sophistications should be clearly noted and made known to those to whom the material is offered or sold. Unless both parties agree otherwise, a full cash refund shall be made available to the purchaser of any misrepresented material” (my emphasis added). So, a bookseller knowing her business should have identified and described any sophisticated copies as such. But even the experts can sometimes miss a clue! So, it never hurts to do your own research if you are purchasing book.

Works Cited

Charles Darwin. On the Origin of the Species By Means of Natural Selection. London: J. Murray, 1859 [ie, 1860]. Call number: QH365 .D259o

John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Manuscripts Miscellany: Native American Task Force of the Rural Coalition

One of our manuscripts collections is the Rural Coalition records (MS-0368), a national alliance of regionally and culturally diverse organizations concerned with rural issues, formed in 1978 to provide a national, unified voice for rural people and their communities. In its early years, the organization began a relationship with representatives from American Indian communities in the United States, leading to the founding of the Native American Task Force (also, variously called the American Indian Task Force by internal documents), one of the five task forces that guided the work of the Rural Coalition in the mid-1980s.

A number of documents in the collection record the steady development and growing momentum from the task force’s beginning as the spark of an idea, through its initial organization and development.

In a letter dated June 3, 1985, Kathryn Waller, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Rural Coalition, outlined the history and beginnings of the task force:

I am writing to you about an exciting development that emerged at our just completed 1985 Annual Meeting of the Rural Coalition. A number of Native American representatives attended the Meeting and met extensively and fruitfully with our leadership. The result is that we have unprecedented opportunity to develop a strong positive relationship between Native Americans and other constituencies in the Rural Coalition. This relationship stands in contrast to the many conflicts between Native Americans and other rural people in the past. [new paragraph] There are a number of steps that need to take place in order to firm up the potential of the budding development. The first steps have already been taken and affirmed by the Rural Coalition Board of Directors on May 22nd. These steps include: (1) the establishment of a Native American Task Force within the Rural Coalition; (2) a commitment from the Board and national staff to assist in furthering the development of the Task Force; and (3) initial provision of fundraising, logistical and staff support to the Task Force.

Selection from a letter from Kathryn Waller to J. Benton Rhoads, June 3, 1985, from Rural Coalition Records, MS-0368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 15, Folder 33.

After the initial meeting between Native individuals and the Rural Coalition leadership, the Native American Task Force held its inaugural meeting a year later, June 12-15, 1986, in Rapid City, South Dakota. The roster of participants includes twenty-four people from twelve states, including people from the Yakima Nation, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Oyate Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, as well as representatives from non-profit organizations and individuals.

A few months after the task force’s first meeting, they issued a “Statement of Principles — Statement of Purpose” document, dated September 1986. This statement consisted of eight points:

  1. We will work to insure a safe environment for our children and future generations;
  2. We are dedicated to the survival of the Indian Nations;
  3. We will stand together to fight for the protection of our land and resources;
  4. It is our intention to uphold and enforce our treaty rights and the inherent rights of Indians;
  5. We will advocate tribal sovereignty;
  6. We will devise many ways and means to educate and inform Indians and non-Indians to the immediate and to the far-reaching concerns of Indian country;
  7. We will work to promote economic self-sufficiency without exploitation for Indian tribes, Indian groups and Indian persons;
  8. We will look to the confirmation of international recognition of Indian nations and Indian inherent rights.

The following year, in October 1987, an official one-page prospectus of the task force outlined specific areas of focus (“Indian Water Quality, Native Lands, Indian Agriculture”) and activities (“lobbying for specific legislation, research and policy analysis, advocating public policy positions, training and technical assistance to selected Native communities and educating non-Indian rural Americans and others on Indian issues”), with a call at the end for more members.

[On Rural Coalition letterhead] American Indian Task Force of the Rural Coalition. [New paragraph] Formed in 1986, the American Indian Task Force is one of five standing task forces of the Rural Coalition, a national alliance of some 140 memberorganizations banded together to advocate policies to benefit rural people. The Task Force currently has projects on Indian Water Quality, Native Lands Indian Agriculture and other program areas. Task Force members and professional staff design and carry out these projects which involve lobbying for specific legislation, research and policy analysis advocating public policy positions, training and technical assistance to selected Native communities and education non-Indian rural Americans and others on Indian issues. [new paragraph] The Task Force currently has 14 members drawn from all segments of Indian communities. Its membership includes elected Tribal officials, Tribal staff, representatives of non-profit organizations, professionals from several fields and people from both newly-recognized and non-federally-recognized Tribes. [new paragraph] Mr. Pat Bellanger (Chippewa) and Mr. Pat Moss (Cherokee) Chair the American Indian Task Force. Ms. Bellanger is also Vice Chair of the Rural Coalition's Board of Directors. Other Coalition Task Forces are Agriculture, Natural Resources, Jobs, Community Development and Military Issues. [new paragraph] The American Indian Task Force is expanding in 1987-88. Those interested in possible Task Force membership or more detailed information should contact George Coling, Rural Coalition, 2001 S Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20009, 202/483-1500. October 1987

One-page prospectus on the American Indian Task Force of the Rural Coalition, October 1987. Rural Coalition Records, MS 368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 24, Folder 30.

Indian Water Quality was one of the initial programs of the Task Force. In May 1988, the task force issued a program report, covering the period from July 1, 1987 – April 20, 1988. The program was funded with a $50,000 grant from the Public Welfare Foundation. The goal of the program is “to improve the environmental health of American Indians living on reservations,” and in order to meet this goal, it outlines specific, measurable objectives. The first of these objectives was “to deliver on-site technical assistance on water quality assessment and program options to tribes and other Native American organizations.” The report spends a considerable amount of space detailing the work on this objective, which revolved around “developing a multi-reservation and single reservation model for delivering technical assistance.” The initial work began with the South Dakota Sioux reservations, including the publication of a study Groundwater Quality for Nine Reservations in South Dakota, followed by the organization of a meeting of the Great Sioux Nation, called the Mni Wiconi Conference held in Rapid City in February 1988, to distribute the information and initiate follow up consultation with individual tribes.

Cover page of a report: Program Report to Public Welfare Foundation, Rural Coalition Indian Water Quality Program, July 1, 1987 - April 30, 1988, May 1988, Contact: George Coling, Co-Director 202/483-1500, Ted Means, Associate Director 605/867-5855"

Cover page of the Program Report on the Rural Coalition Indian Water Quality Program, May 1988. Rural Coalition Records, MS 368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 14, Folder 15.

The Rural Coalition records in our holdings include a large number of subject files in which is collected background information on a number of issues of interest to the task force, including groundwater issues as well as a number of other issues, including Indian airspace, gaming legislation, Native American Fisheries, treaty rights, and economic development, among others.

These Rural Coalition records in our holdings currently end at the year 1990, but these records give insight into a growing area of focus for the organization.

 


Rare Book Highlights: ISU’s oldest book in chemistry

Pulling a book of the shelf. Book is bound in vellum with a leather title label.

Pulling the book off the shelf.

Let’s take another trip back into the rare book stacks to find the library’s oldest book in chemistry. I’m defining chemistry broadly, here, to include the precursor to chemistry, alchemy. Basically, I’m looking at everything we have that falls under the Library of Congress Subclass QD. And, in fact, when we check the shelves, the oldest book in the QD section is Geberi philosophi ac alchimistae, maximi, De alchimia libri tres, or The Three Books on Alchemy by Geber, the Great Philosopher and Alchemist, printed in 1529.

Book's title page has black and white illustration showing a large piece of chemical equipment in the center foreground. In the background are two figures working at a table with different smaller pieces of chemical equipment.

Book’s title page.

Geber is the Latinization of Jabir ibn Hayyan (circa 721–815), thought to have been born near Tus, in modern-day Iran. Around 3,000 works on a wide range of topics, including alchemy, cosmology, numerology, astrology, medicine, and philosophy, are attributed to Jabir. Scholars agree that one man could not have written all of these works on such a wide range of topics. Still, he seems to be an important figure in Arab chemistry, and he is credited with a number of significant contributions to the field, including describing chemical processes such as crystallization and distillation, and discovering aqua regia, a mix of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, which is able to dissolve gold.

 

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The book we are examining today is translated into Latin. It contains three parts: examining the properties of metals, alchemical techniques, and the properties of the planets.

Notes on the flyleaf signed by Edward Stark indicate which works of Jabir, or Geber, are included here, including information on which translations are used. I’m not sure who Edward Stark is, but I presume he was a previous owner. Clearly, he has a large knowledge of the body of work attributed to Geber as well as the various Latin translations of those works. From his notes, it seems that this book is a compilation of incomplete pieces of Geber’s works.

Flyleaf reads: “This Book contains the Summa Perfectionis of Geber. See also Manget I. 519 & Alohemiae Gever Arabis 1545 pp 16-164 & Russell’s Translation 1678 pp 22-238. Pages 56-61 do not seem to belong to Geber at all. Pages 61a-66 contain Geber’s Investigatione perfections nearly the same as that in Alchemiciae Geber Arabis 1545 pp. 1-15. Neither this book nor Manget appear to have teh Liber Formacum. The latter contains Geber’s Testamentum [I p 562]. Edward Stark”

Our individual copy is bound in vellum with paste paper pastedown fly leaves in the front and rear.

Inside cover of book covered in a paper that has large blocks of colors (red, blue, gold, and black) that have been sponged onto the surface of the paper.

Pastepaper was used on the inside of the cover.

This may not have been the original binding, since you can see that the tops of the pages have been trimmed. See the image where the words at the very top of the page are almost entirely cut off? It should read, “Tertius,” indicating the third part in the book.

View of an open book. At the top of the right page, you can see only the bottom portion of letters forming the word "Tertius." The tops of the letters have been trimmed off.

Top edge of pages have been trimmed in a rebinding.

This book has been very well used, with underlinings and marginal markings appearing throughout the book. There is no indicating, unfortunately, as to who the early owner may have been. At any rate, this early reader certainly found many things of interest in the text!

Page of text. Several lines across teh page have been underlined in pen.

A well-underlined text.

Sources:

ISU’s oldest book in chemistry

Jabir ibn Hayyan. Geberi philosophi ac alchimistae, maximi, De alchimia libri tres. Johannis Grieninger, 1529. Call number: QD25 .J113g

Jabir ibn Hayyan

Amr, Samir S. and Abdelghani Tbakhi. “Jabir ibn Hayyan.” Annals of Saudi Medicine, vol. 27, no. 1 (Jan-Feb 2007): 52-53. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6077026/

Marshall, Vicki. “Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan.” 175 Faces of Chemistry: Celebrating Diversity in Science, Royal Society of Chemistry, published June 2014.  http://www.rsc.org/diversity/175-faces/all-faces/abu-musa-jabir-ibn-hayyan/

Newman, William R. “Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, updated August 3, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Abu-Musa-Jabir-ibn-Hayyan

“The Three Books on Alchemy by Geber, the Great Philosopher and Alchemist.” World Digital Library, updated April 3, 2018. https://www.wdl.org/en/item/10675/


Manuscripts Miscellany: Old-time Campaign Photograph

In this season of political campaigning, especially here in Iowa, my attention was caught recently by a photograph I came across while looking through the Walter M. Rosene papers, MS-0589. Rosene was a birder, and most of his photographs are of birds, nests, and landscapes through which he traveled to go bird watching. So, I was surprised to see a photograph of a politician, addressing a crowd from the back of a train car:

Kansas Governor Alf Landon won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1936. He was running against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been in office for one term at this point. Roosevelt won with a landslide victory. But before that, Governor Landon made a campaign stop in Boone, Iowa, speaking from the platform of a train car. He was engaging in a whistle stop campaign, making brief speeches at a number of small towns along a train route. Judging by the crowd of people in the photograph, Iowans were as engaged in politics in the 1930s as they are today.


Caster’s jerks and knocking up the balls: Adventures in hand-press bookmaking

Me in a printer’s hat.

The first week in June, I had the privilege of attending the Book History Workshop (BHW) at Texas A&M University, where a group of twenty workshop participants and six instructors created a facsimile edition of an 18th century publication–setting the type, imposing the pages, pulling the press, and folding and binding the gatherings into pamphlets–in addition to experimenting with other aspects of book production, such as typecasting, making and decorating paper, and creating woodcut and wood engraved illustrations. These pursuits were all in the name of empirical bibliography, a term coined by Todd Samuelson and Christopher Morrow, instructors of the BHW, which they define as “an effort to understand the manner in which a book was constructed through immediate physical experience (including the systematic and repeatable process of testing and verification based on historical methodology)” (Samuelson and Morrow 86). We made books, therefore, following appropriate practices and technologies of the hand press period (ca. 1450-1800), in order to develop a deep understanding of book construction that would inform our future work with these books as librarians, curators, and scholars.

Reproduction common press at Texas A&M University.

We did indeed develop a bodily understanding of the process and labor of book production–I went to bed physically exhausted every night! Let me take you through some highlights of the workshop.

Our first full day in the pressroom, we came to tables set up with job cases full of type, equipment for composing and setting type, and an assigned number of lines to set individually:

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Once we had set our individual lines of type, we had to join them together into a page–being careful not to pie the type (spilling the lines we had so carefully composed)!

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Once we had our page locked up in its galley, we printed proof pages to see which corrections were needed.

Page of type surrounded by a metal frame with metal pieces holding the type firmly in place.

Locking up the page in a chase for a galley proof.

Finally, all the pages to be printed on a sheet were imposed on the press bed:

Day 2 began with a new experience: “knocking up the balls”–that is, putting wool into wooden ball stocks and fastening pelt over them with nails. These created padded ink balls that we used to apply ink to the type. One of my classmates joined an instructor in knocking up for this first time:

After knocking up and inking the balls, we had the chance to print the pages–wearing our printer’s hats, of course!

We also had another set of lines we each had to set.

My lines to set for day 2–longer this time!

Day 3, we had a final set of lines to set, and we experimented with two illustration techniques, wood cut and wood engraving. I plan to rush over that, however, to talk more about typecasting, which we did on day 4.

Typecasting first began with making the matrix, or the mold used to cast a single piece of type. You begin with a blank (a piece of metal that will become the matrix), and a punch (another piece of metal that is used to make the impression in the blank). Punchcutting is an entire craft unto itself, and the thought of the skill and fine touch needed to make punches blows my mind. We were given punches that we hammered into blanks, after which we filed them down to make sure the impression was centered on the matrix.

Once we had our matrices made, we were ready for typecasting. The matrix is put into an adjustable mold that is held closed with a spring. Then comes the part I was a little bit scared about–molten metal is poured into the mold, while the caster makes a “caster’s jerk.” This is an upward, jerking motion that forces the molten metal all the way into the letter form of the mold. I had some trepidation about handling molten metal, but with safety goggles and gloves, it was all pretty safe. See me below looking a liiiiiittle unsure about this whole process.

Amy getting ready to typecast. Not feeling too sure about this whole idea. Photo credit: Jo Collier.

The metal begins to solidify almost instantly, and it does not take long to cool. What comes out of the mold is a piece of type with an extra piece of metal, called a jet, attached. You break off the jet, plane off any ragged edges, and file the piece of type to type-height. And there you have it! A piece of type!

The end result of our week of labor? A 22-page facsimile pamphlet of Thomas Paine’s Thoughts on the Peace, from an edition published London in 1791. It is printed in three gatherings, or groups of folded leaves. The gatherings are sewn into a blue paper wrapper (paper made during the papermaking part of the workshop) meant to mimic the type of cheap paper wrapper that printers would frequently sell their books in. These paper wrappers were not meant to last. They were a means to hold together the gatherings of a book until the purchaser could take them to a binder to put a more permanent covering on them. In this case, though, I’m planning keep the blue paper wrapper. I’m proud of our work!

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Work Cited

Samuelson, Todd, and Christopher L. Morrow. “Empirical Bibliography: A Decade of Book History at Texas A&M.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 109, no. 1, 2015, pp. 83-109.


Early print features: navigating an errata list

 Last week, I highlighted our oldest book in veterinary medicine. I cut this section from that post for length, but thought it would be of interest to readers who may want to learn more about errata lists in early printed books.

During the printing process, the people that set the type, known as compositors, would occasionally make mistakes–as would anyone who had to set type in mirror-image! If these mistakes were not caught before the sheets were printed, printers would often include lists of errors, errata lists, so that readers could correct the text themselves. Here is an example of a corrected error:

Midway down the page, handwritten in the margin is "+ pugnabis"

Marginal correction made to the text.

Pictured below is the errata list from Jean Ruel’s Veterinariae medicinae libri II, printd by Simon de Colines in Paris in 1530. He has titled his list, Erratorum Recognitio, or recognized errors:

First line reads (in Latin): Repone pro purgabis, pugnabis. folio 2 pagina 2 versu 23.

List of printing errors included by the printer in the back of the book.

Let’s take a look at how a reader understood this section. The first listed error reads, “Repone pro purgabis, pugnabis. folio 2 pagina 2 versu 23,” or, Replace for purgabis, pugnabis. Leaf 2, page 2, row 23. The word “leaf” in this instruction brings me to an aside about the difference between foliation vs. pagination. Foliation means that the leaves in a book are numbered; in other words, if you open a book, the page on the right will have a number, but not the page on the left. Pagination means that every page is numbered. This is what we are used to seeing in books today. Early books, however, were often foliated, which is the case here:

Book opening illustrating foliation. The page on the right is numbered “2.” The page on the left has no number.

So, looking again at the instruction, “Leaf 2, page 2, row 23,” leaf 2 refers to the 2nd leaf of the text, the one that has a number “2” in the upper right corner. Then it indicates, “page 2.” Page 1 would be the side of the leaf that has the number on it, or the right side of the page when the book is held open. Page 2 is the other side of the leaf. Sometimes this is referred to as recto and verso, in which verso refers to the reverse side of the leaf. So here, after finding leaf 2, the reader turns the page for page 2 of that particular leaf.

The next item in the instruction is the row number, row 23 here. Starting from the top line of text on the page, count down the number of lines until you reach row 23. This count will include the line for the chapter heading seen on the page. (Confusingly it does not include the running head at the very top of the page that gives the book’s title.)

Numbers added to the rows on the page. (click for larger image)

So, to recap: for this error, the reader turns to folio 2, turns over the page, and counts down 23 lines. There we find the error, “purgabis.” The reader has marked the word with a small cross, and in the margin given the correct word, pugnabis. This reader petered out after several corrections. After trying the process out on the page pictured here, you may understand why.

A "+" above the word "purgabis" printed in the text to match the handwritten correction "+pugnabis" in the margin.

Close up of marginal correction.


Rare Book Highlights: ISU’s oldest book in veterinary medicine

Iowa State University has the oldest veterinary college at a state school in the United States, founded in 1879. It is fitting, therefore, to examine the University Library’s oldest book in veterinary medicine, Jean Ruel’s Veterinariae medicinae libri II, published in Paris in 1530.

Title page of book includes large, black-and-white line illustration showing a bearded man wearing 16th century European clothing on a horse. In the background is a castle, some smaller houses, a herd of horses or other animal. Behind these are woods and a sky with clouds and a group of three flying birds.

Title page of Veterinariae Medicinae Libri II by Jean Ruel, 1530.

The work’s title page credits Jean Ruel as the work’s “interpreter,” and indeed, the text is a compilation of ancient Greek texts on veterinary medicine, translated into Latin. Ruel, born in 1474, was a French physician and botanist, and in 1509 he became physician to King Francis I, who commissioned the work. Ruel taught himself Greek and Latin, and he published a number of compilations or translations of classical scientific texts. He is best known for authoring his own treatise on botany, De natura stirpium, published six years after the veterinary medical work.

Authors are listed in Latin: Apsyrtus, Hierocles, Theomnestus, Pelagonius, Anatolius, Tiberius, Eumelus, Archedemus, Hippocrates, Aemilius Hispanus, Litorius Beneuentanus, Himerius, Africanus, Didyms. Diophanes, Pamphilus, Mago Carthaginensis.

Greek authors included in Ruel’s compilation.

The work was published by Simon de Colines (c. 1480-1546), a Parisian printer and one of the first of the French Renaissance. Colines was connected to the famous Estienne printing family and likely worked under Henri Estienne. When Estienne died in 1520, he took over his print shop until Estienne’s son Robert took it over in 1526. At that point, Colines had set up his own print shop and printed works for the University of Paris. He printed a number of prominent scientific texts, including Charles Estienne’s De dissection partium corporis humani libris tres (1545), and Ruel’s later publication De natura stirpium (1536).

Table of contents in Veterninariae Medicinae, referred to here as an Index.

Today, when we think of nonfiction or scholarly books, we expect to see features that help us navigate these texts, such as tables of contents or indexes. These features did not always exist, however, and Colines made important contributions to the development of these textual structures in early printing. This work includes a table of contents (pictured above), which he labels an “Index.”

Page showing writings on fevers in horses by Greek authors Eumelus, Agathotychus, and Pelagonius.

The text is organized by malady, beginning with fever in horses, and presents texts on that subject by various classical Greek authors. At the end, Ruel has included a glossary of terms.

Ruel has included a glossary of terms.

Binding

The most unique feature of our copy of Veterinariae medicinae is its binding. It is rather inexpertly covered in in three separate pieces of waste manuscript vellum — the spine and the front and back covers. Take a look at the turn-ins (pictured below), or the part of the covering material which is turned over the outer edges of the boards. See how sloppily they are done? A little bit like how I covered my high school text books using an old brown paper grocery bag. A more neatly crafted binding would have mitered corners that come to a point in the corners, rather than this overlapping one, and the turn-ins will usually be neatly covered by the paste-down endpapers.

The waste manuscript material is of interest, too. I plead ignorance of all things manuscript-related, but this does not look to me like a typical medieval manuscript piece. To begin with, I don’t believe this is Latin. It looks like French to me. At least, I clearly see the word “amour” (shown above, circled in red). Is this a love poem? It looks like it could be lines of poetry. It is written in a large hand with a lot of space between lines and fairly wide margins. Do you have a guess what this piece of writing is? Do you recognize the hand, and could you hazard a guess at the time period it was written? If you have any insights please share in the comments section below.

Shows handwritten text in an old handwriting style, written on vellum.

Can you read this? The ink is a bit faded.

Work Cited

Jean Ruel. Veterinariae medicinae libri II. Parisiis: Simonem Colinaeum, 1530. (Call number SF743 H612v)


Manuscripts Miscellany: William Rankin Civil War Letters

This post offers a peek at a new collection. In 2017, Special Collections purchased a collection of letters from William Rankin, a young Iowan from a farming family who appear to have lived in or near Waukon or Dundee in northeast Iowa. Rankin volunteered in the summer of 1864 for the Union Army as a “Hundred Days Man.” The Hundred Days Men were volunteer troops who served for 100 day enlistment periods during the height of the Civil War. They were intended to serve non-combat support roles in order to free up the veteran units for combat. Rankin served as a Corporal in Company F of the 46th Regiment, Iowa Infantry. His regiment was assigned to guard the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, located near Collierville, TN, a town just outside of Memphis.

The collection includes 30 letters addressed to “Folks at home.” He talks about daily life in camp, rumors from the front lines, news about fellow Iowa soldiers, and the area they were stationed in. He was apparently starved for news from home, as each letter ends with a plaintive appeal that his family answer every one of his letters.

In a letter dated “Coliersville Tenn July 6th 1864,” he describes his experience on picket guard on the 4th of July:

…it was my turn to stand on picket guard so all the fourth of July I stood under a big tree in Tennessee and at night I lay behind a log and watched for rebs but nary a reb did I see. About ten o’clock we heard two guns go off on the other side of the picket line, and in a short time the long roll was sounded. The we heard the officers yelling at the men to fall out and form into line. We could hear the colonel’s voice swearing at the men for not getting out quicker and we had (that is the pickets) to lie still. We lay for about an hour and then we heard the boys going back to bed.

In another letter, dated July 12th, he describes the punishment for some men that were caught sleeping while on guard duty:

Every night the officers of the day and guard go to every picket post to see that every thing is all right. It is called the grand rounds. The other night they found six men and a corporal asleep so they have to sleep in the guard house every night & every morning at four o’clock the guards wake them up. The corporal of the squad has to take a board that is fixed like a banner & on it is written “Sleeping Squad.” The guards then take them out of the guard house & march them to the different companies and they have to carry 6 pails of water for each Co. The corporal has to march ahead with his banner and they have to do this for 8 days.

“Sleeping Squad” written in Rankin’s letter dated July 12, 1864.

He also shares news from the front lines. His letter from August 22, 1864 contains this story:

Yesterday Memphis was attacked by about fifteen hundred cavalry. They dashed into the city and captured Gen. Washburn’s headquarters and about five hundred of our boys. They also took a battery. We heard the firing very plainly but could not find out what it meant for some time for the wire was cut on both sides of us. About ten o’clock they got the wire fixed & then we began to get the news. They were chasing them. They had recaptured the battery. Last night they were fighting at White’s Station which is about half way to Memphis from here. We expect them here about tomorrow morning. They will find us ready. We were called out last night about two o’clock and had to stay up till sunrise. We didn’t like it very well. We expect to have the same thing to do tonight.

The entire collection of letters can be read in Special Collections and University Archives: MS-0711, William Rankin Civil War Letters.