Doodles Everlasting

1602 doodles in black ink of birds, knights, and squares. Pembroke and Mary Talbot are written out in old quill lettering.
Doodles in 1602 Chaucer volume

Going through the Special Collections and University Archives rare vault with Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist Amy Bishop, we pulled out a very old volume of Chaucer from 1602. Turning way to the back, we found a whole amazing page splashed with the art of two friends (one Mary Talbot), who either bored or inspired by Chaucer, had drawn a ton of amazing doodles on the back!

Take a look at the birds, knights, and faces. . .what has changed about your daydreams compared to then? When you’re drooling onto your calculus notebook. . .what do you scribble in the lines around your saliva? Take a look at this page also.

More drawings in black ink of helmeted knights with feathers protruding out of their helmets.
Doodles in 1602 Chaucer volume

These feathered hats and knight-like styles have faded away since Mary Talbot doodled in the back of Chaucer. And if anything, it’s a beautiful lesson in impermanence. Many masterpieces since 1602 have gotten swallowed into time and destroyed, but these doodles live on.

Way back when Mary Talbot first drew these in England, could anyone have guessed they would be in Ames, Iowa over 420 years later?

Floating in the Blue of Love: Marc Chagall’s Lithographs

Solemn blue atmosphere in the city of Nice, with two lovers in the foreground embracing. Lots of people mill about. Bouquets of flowers in the clouds.
Carnaval of Flowers, Chagall

“When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who knows what color is,” Picasso famously said.

Floating our eyes over blue and rose visions of fiddlers, lovers, goats, trumpets, and angels, there is a somber, silent dream of love in Chagall. It’a a belief in the best of humanity. Together, let’s all stare at a Chagall painting. Go ahead, pick one.

“My painting represents not the dream of one people, but of all humanity,”

However, as we stare into Chagall (though not Carnaval of Flowers), we sometimes see Chagall’s alchemy isn’t roses — smoke lifts from the canvases, emotional shrapnel from experiencing the bloodiest period of human history. Processing these terrors, we see the underlying solemnity and horror of living, of war and differences.

Keep staring.

And as you keep staring, the fear and war at the edges relaxes, as lovers soar locked in each others arms to infinity. Love in moments can be simple. It can be love.

And as you stare at a Chagall painting, like the ones in the Lithographs book in Special Collections and University Archives, the complex doubt of living exhales into love’s pure moment.

Rose tinted fantasy of lovers flying up from a city to the sky. A hazy city in the distance is reflected off water.
The Song of Songs, Chagall
Pale green fantasy of two lovers floating sideways over buildings in red. A horse-like face watches. Blue and orange buildings sit below.
Romeo and Juliet, Chagall

A Grand Tour Around the SCUA Reading Room

General view of the SCUA Reading Room with green chairs and tables, bookshelves and a bright window vies.
The SCUA Reading Room

Hello! Welcome to a tour of the SCUA Reading Room on the 4th floor of Parks! You’ve just stepped foot into maybe the most peaceful room of Iowa State’s library. Isn’t the bright full daylight coming in from the big windows nice?

Glass constructed front desk of the SCUA Reading Room. Has a little red Cy mascot plush!
The Reading Room Front Desk

First stop is the front desk! Here you’ll meet one of our friendly archivists to help you with any materials you want to look at. While you get your materials, you can put your spine-killing backpack in the lockers and take a seat in the comfy table chairs.

Now here’s a secret. . .

When you sit dow in SCUA, you don’t just get to look at awesome old manuscripts and rare books. . .up here is the best view in Parks Library! Right now in the beautiful last of winter, it’s a peaceful spot to look at the 23 CyRide clocking by, the Campanile in the distance, and students walking to class.

Downward view outside the SCUA Reading Room window. Students walking to class on a snowy day with Cyride driving past.
One of the views from the SCUA Reading Room

What better feeling than delicate old paper in your fingers and beautiful Iowa State view? Take a few minutes up here for the best part of your day.

View of the Hub as well as the Campanile n the distance on a snowy day with a pale blue sky and bare trees.
View from the SCUA Reading Room

Hokusai Hypnosis: The Iowa State Archive Print Books


Yes, yes, you’ve seen this. . .

The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Iconic clawlike blue wave towers over fishermen in reed boats.
From Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji, available here

Widely acclaimed as Japan’s greatest artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) is one of the most varied masters in world art, finishing over 30,000 paintings, sketches, drawings, and woodblock prints in his enormous career. Most people have seen Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, but it’s only the surface of Hokusai’s work. Has any other artist ever painted so much of the world?

So how does Iowa State link to Hokusai?

Come up to the SCUA to spend time with one of the most delicate and beautiful books you can see anywhere. Iowa State’s vintage copy of Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji isn’t just a gorgeous art book — it’s hypnotic. Opening the book, quickly you’ll find yourself floating into skies, waterfalls, waves, forests, and mountains. Hokusai is able to hypnotize you with simplicity: an orange horizon, a frothing claw wave, or Fuji’s silent wonder. I spent a peaceful morning flipping through the old pages of Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji, sunlight falling on my shoulders, enjoying the mesmerizing scenery. For the rest of the day, I felt as gentle and vast as the sky in this work:

Hokusai painting of fisherman with Mt. Fuji bathed by an orange/purple glow.
From Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji, available here

Want to leave Iowa on a frigid winter morning and instead gaze spell-bound at Mt. Fuji? A trip to SCUA on Parks Library’s 4th floor is the ticket to your mental oasis.


Vintage cover of Selections from Hokusai's Views of Mt. Fuji. Deep gray with ukiyo-e print of a barrel maker and Mt. Fuji in the distant background.
Selections from Hokusai’s Views of Mt. Fuji, Available here


Dark romantic silhouettes kissing under the Campanile in 1954.
The Campanile Kiss, 1954

What is the most ROMANTIC Iowa State tradition?

Furthermore, what’s an AWESOME last minute Valentine’s Date idea at Iowa State?

For that, you have to go to Iowa State’s most romantic place. . .

One of the most famous traditions of Iowa State, “Campaniling” is kissing under the Campanile at the stroke of midnight. Many know (& some have experienced!) the legendary Campanile Kiss.  At its height, up to 2,000 Iowa Staters would go “Campaniling” before Homecoming, bringing a host of breath mints, Chapstick, and lipstick to celebrate.

Funny enough, such an iconic Iowa State tradition started out. . .rebelliously—

“The tradition of ‘Campaniling’ began back when there used to be a curfew in the residence halls, said former Alumni Association assistant director David Critchlow to Iowa State Daily in 2000, “The women had to sneak out of the residence halls to meet their significant other under the Campanile to kiss and get back before they got caught.”

Scandalous! However, now without a curfew to escape, this could be your next Valentine’s Day tradition.

After all, what could be more romantic than the ISU campus icon, with the faint yellow lights of Curtiss and Beardshear in the distance, and a once-in-a-lifetime historic kiss under the Campanile’s fifty silver bells?

Bright 1954 morning embrace under the Campanile with a classic car.
Campanile Romance, 1954



#FlashbackFriday – Postcards

Today I took a look at the Iowa State University Archives Postcard Collection. I’ve been wanting to check out this collection for a while and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint. There were hundreds of postcards in just this box and at least six boxes in the collection. Here are a few of my favorites from box one.

I look forward to exploring more of this collection in the future! Materials from Box 1 of the ISU Archives Postcard Collection.

%d bloggers like this: