Horses in the RBR

From the Diderot Encyclopedie

From the Diderot Encyclopedie

For years I was afraid of these large…beautiful, but large…animals.  But since my husband got me interested in watching the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes races a couple of years ago, and I’ve now visited some of these thoroughbreds “up close and personal” in Lexington, KY, I’ve come to appreciate their grace, beauty, and amazing talent.  Since I’m looking forward to an October trip to “horse country”, I thought I’d see how horses are portrayed in some of our RBR volumes.  Some are images; some are stories and poems.
Take a look!

England, my England, and other stories / D. H. Lawrence.  New York: T. Seltzer, 1922. 1st edition.

Table of Contents

England my England
Table of Contents

Beasts and Saints; woodcuts by Robert Gibbings.  London: Constable, 1934.  (Stories of beasts and saints from the end of the fourth to the end of the twelfth century, translated from the original Latin.)

Book of Days

Book of Days

The Book of Days of Llewelyn Powys: thoughts from his philosophy / selected by John Wallis.  With 12 etchings by Elizabeth Corsellis.  London: Golden Cockerel Press, 1937. (Limited to 300 copies printed on Batchelor hand-made paper with a special watermark designed by the artist.)

Editor’s Choice / Alfred Dashiell.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1934. 1st edition. (This was the first time that William Faulkner’s story, Spotted Horses, appeared in book form.)

Emblematum Libellus / Andrea Alciata.  Lvgdvni: Jacobus Modernus, 1544. (With woodcut emblems.)

Emblematum Libellus Woodcut

Emblematum Libellus

Romance of Tristan and Iseult

Romance of Tristan and Iseult

Romance of Tristan and Iseult.  Drawn from the best French sources and re-told by J. Bedier.  Illustrated by Robert Engles.  Translated into English by H. Belloc.  London: George Allen, 1903.  (Limited edition of 300 copies.)

The Five Nations / Rudyard Kipling.  London: Methuen, 1903.  1st edition. (Contains the short story, White Horses.)

Five Nations "The White Horses"

Five Nations
“White Horses”

Gauchos of the Pampas and their horses / W. H. Hudson and R. B. Cunninghame Graham; Foreword by J. Frank Dobie. 

In the Clearing / Robert Frost.  New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1962.  (Includes the poem, The Draft Horse.)

A Summer of Scanning, Editing, Uploading, and Researching

This week’s post is written by Vera Shulman ’15, a student assistant at Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library. She wrote this entry on August 22, 2014.

This summer I worked as a library information desk assistant. My days were split between staffing the desk, shifting the Library of Congress stacks in the basement, and completing various tasks in the  Archives & Special Collections. My archives duties ranged from perusing local newspapers for filing (in which I was immersed in the excitement and ultimate disappointment of 2008’s college basketball championship) to transcribing oral interviews. I re-housed and filed massive decades-old maps (with help from student coworker Ellyson) and skimmed through Davidson’s 1914-1919 yearbooks and weekly newspapers for references to WWI.

Senior student profiles in the 1915 Quips and Cranks.

Senior student profiles in the 1915 Quips and Cranks.

The latter task interested me thoroughly due to the very polite and dry humor. By modern standards, though, a slim but noticeable portion of that writing was insensitive to concerns with race and gender. During that time, Davidson College became preoccupied with supporting the national war effort with Liberty Loans and stamps and by training students in the freshly formed Student Army Training Corps (which following the war, turned into our current ROTC).

Page from the 1918 Quips and Cranks.

Page from the 1918 Quips and Cranks.

My favorite tasks, though, were the ones that played to my strengths in visual media. I had a whole set of these responsibilities that all boil down to scanning, editing, and uploading an image for use on the archives website. I processed Davidson’s 2010, 2011, and 2012 yearbooks (called Quips and Cranks); dozens of recent school newspapers (named The Davidsonian), and old editions of July-born author’s works.

Covers of the 2010, 2011, and 2012 editions of Quips and Cranks.

Covers of the 2010, 2011, and 2012 editions of Quips and Cranks, available in the Davidson College Digital Repository.

Because the yearbooks are recent, working with Quips and Cranks allowed me to reminisce about friends and events (and grimace in the case of ex-boyfriends) and better associate formerly unknown peers’ faces with their names. The editing required for the yearbook scanning is very similar to the photo editing I do for leisure, so I actively enjoyed cropping and re-angling those pages. I didn’t form a solid connection with The Davidsonian because I used a closed scanner which didn’t allow me to browse as I scanned.

Trail of a bookworm.

Trail of a bookworm.

The old editions of July-born author’s works are beautiful. The pages were thick and a few grazed on by literal book worms. Some of the covers were marbled in a way that seemed similar to a technique I’d used in primary school for my own book covers. Some illustrations were cartoon, in some the strokes were sparse, and others were both intricate and realistic.

My Final Week as a Student Assistant

This week’s post is written by Emma Kenney ’15, a student assistant at Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library. She wrote this entry on August 22, 2014.

While working at the E. H. Little library for the summer, I had the opportunity to be involved in a variety of projects and departments. I was able to interact with patrons while working at the circulation desk, get further acquainted with the Library of Congress cataloging system while participating in a large shifting project, and, most relevant to this blog, I was lucky enough to be able to spend part of my time in the Archives & Special Collections.

The projects I worked on varied from week to week, so I will refrain from describing every task I performed. Instead, I will summarize my archival activity during my last week at the library as a student employee.

Throughout most of the summer, I have spent my allotted time in Archives working to digitize course syllabi so that these documents could be made available online. Having finally succeeded in un-stapling, scanning, re-stapling, saving .jpegs to a new folder, combining images into a single .pdf, and moving all .pdf’s to a separate folder every last syllabus in my box, I was finally ready to put these syllabi where they belonged: in an online database, where they could one day be accessed by anyone on campus who needs them. While I had been pleased and excited to see my stack labeled ‘finished’ grow steadily, it was even more enjoyable to see that the time and effort I had spent digitizing these documents had made it possible to change the accessibility of these syllabi. This how I spent my shift on my last Monday, working to upload and enter the metadata for as many syllabi as I could.

The following day I was given a list of items by the Archives staff. With new student orientation beginning and the start of classes around the corner, I was asked to locate and pull certain volumes from the Rare Book Room so that they could be put on display for the perusal of our new students. This list included, among other items, ancient cuneiform tablets, volumes of Diderot’s Encyclopedie, and an incunabula entitled Life of St. Thomas a Becket. This list lasted me through the next few days, and each item I pulled was fascinating and beautiful in its own way.

Life of St. Thomas a Becket, printed in Paris in 1495, and one of only six known copies in the world.

Life of St. Thomas a Becket, printed in Paris in 1495 – one of only six known copies in the world!

The incunable was lovely, and somewhat disconcerting. Given the age of the text (its printing date is listed as 1495), I was concerned that handling the volume would cause it to crumble and become ruined, and was therefore very wary of touching it, let alone moving it from its location on the shelf. But upon further inspection, the craftsmanship proved to be remarkable. I could see where the leaves had been sewn into the spine, and the thickness of the vellum encouraged me to be comfortable perusing the text.  It is a beautiful volume, and one I was very glad to have been able to see and handle.

On the topic of beautiful volumes, Diderot’s Encyclopedie certainly outshines most texts I’ve interacted with. These first editions are lovely and quite sizable, dating to between 1751 and 1788. The encyclopedia volumes are paired with planche volumes, which are full of incredibly intricate printed illustrations. It is clear that the amount of effort that must have gone into engraving each plate was sizable, and the resulting prints are breathtaking.

Illustration of a porcupine from Diderot's Encyclopedie.

Illustration of a porcupine from Diderot’s Encyclopedie.

As an Anthropology major, I was intrigued the most by the cuneiform tablets. Dating as far back as about 2350 B.C. with provenances located in the ancient Mesopotamian area, these artifacts are intricately carved and fascinating. While I have no way of understanding the exact meanings of the characters, simply being able to handle and examine these artifacts was such an educational experience. Short summaries of the inscriptions are available for each tablet for those who are interested in knowing roughly what has been recorded on the tablets, but a simple English translation could not compete with the beauty and intricacy of the carvings. Photographs could not do these tablets (nor any of the rare books) any justice, and these carved stones provided a fascinating comparison to the forms of writing that I interact with on a regular basis.

One of the Babylonian cuneiforms in Davidson's Special Collections.

One of the Babylonian cuneiforms in Davidson’s Special Collections, pulled for use in Dr. Mark Sample’s DIG 350: History and Future of the Book class visit.

This final week in the Archives, between the culmination of my syllabus project and the explorations of the Rare Book Room, has been one ‘for the books.’ While all of the projects I have worked on have challenged and intrigued me in different ways, I would have to say that the projects of this final week have been the most exciting for me, providing a perfect end to a fantastic summer position.​

A Summer of Scripts ‘N Pranks

This week’s post is written by Ellyson Glance ’16, a student assistant at Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library.

For the bulk of my summer at the library, I found myself in a place to which I had barely ventured, save for the library tour during orientation and the rare instance where a library patron would ask me for directions while I was at the information desk: the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections.

During my time in the archives, I was responsible for various projects and tasks assigned to me by our brilliant and lively archives staff – consisting of Jan Blodgett, Sharon Byrd, and Caitlin Christian-Lamb. Every day I became more and more familiar with the storage, care, and organization of our archives, and never could I have imagined how immense their scope would be. Not only did I get the chance to handle artifacts from both the town and the college, but I also got the chance to actually do some research for the archivists through perusing the archival storage areas. Here in the archives, I could interact with the history of the college I love as well as pass on that information to others via my projects.


One of my earliest, and possibly favorite, projects was the transcription of a lengthy interview with Dr. Charles Dockery, a former French professor at Davidson and the first African-American professor to teach at the college. I was transfixed by his stories and accounts of his time at Davidson as well as his childhood and upbringing, which shaped him into the kind, intellectually curious, and well-spoken man that I heard through my headphones. Aside from being interested solely in the unique and thoughtful subject of the interview, however, I found myself taking a shine to the act of transcribing itself. It appealed to the perfectionist in me, and I embraced the challenge of typing out every single word or utterance within the recording.

Scripts ‘N Pranks

The bulk of my work in archives, however, was in the form of digitization, digitization, digitization! This task, in essence, is scanning, organizing, and cataloging an archival item so that it can be easily accessed on the internet. In my case, I was digitizing the entire archival collection of Scripts ‘N Pranks – a student run joke magazine, spawning from the Davidsonian’s Yowl, and spanning from 1936 to 1965. The editorial staff of the magazine put out approximately four issues a year – though some years, such as the war years, there were fewer – with each issue operating loosely off of a theme demonstrated on the cover.

The magazine itself consisted of humorous poems, short-stories, mini-plays, and cartoons, with the cover of each issue being hand drawn by the Art Director for that year. And, during its run, Scripts ‘N Pranks contained entries from the likes of novelist Vereen Bell and Sam Ryburn, an early editor for whom the Ryburn senior apartment building is named.

The magazines were filled with interesting and thematic student artwork, such as this rendering of celebrities for a political mini-play:

"Christmas Eve in the White House"

“Christmas Eve in the White House.”

But, some of my favorite drawings to look at in the magazine, particularly in earlier years, were the beautiful and richly colored advertisements that the editors would include – though that was, of course, after I got over the initial shock of having a student-run publication appear to be solely funded by cigarette companies.

"After a man's heart... nothing else will do."

“After a man’s heart…”

The majority of these magazines have now been uploaded onto the Davidson College Digital Repository, so that you can peruse, read, and enjoy these marvelous and historical relics yourself.

Welcome to Davidson…and to the Rare Book Room.

Welcome students, faculty and staff—new and returning!

I hope to see many of you in the Rare Book Room (fondly known as the RBR) this year—for tours and presentations, displays, class visits, individual research projects, or just because there’s something in the RBR you’d like to see.

What’s there to see?

Cumming Map Collection Speed map of 1676

Cumming Map Collection
Speed map of 1676

The Cumming Map Collection:  A collection of the Southeastern United States in early maps.  Collected by Dr. William Patterson Cumming, Davidson professor of English, and donated to the E.H. Little Library’s Rare Book Room.

The Robert Burns Collection:  A collection of the works of Scotland’s National Poet.

The Fugate Collection of First Editions:  100 first editions of both European and American titles primarily from the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Fugate First Editions The Hunting of the Snark

Fugate First Editions
The Hunting of the Snark

Golden Cockerel Press Collection:  Fine, limited editions from an early 1920s British private press.

Encyclopédie; ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers: 35 volume French encyclopedia published between 1751 and 1788 in Paris by Denis Diderot, writer and philosopher of the Enlightenment.

Diderot Encyclopedie

Diderot Encyclopedie

First edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost:   The 1668 “Ellis Price” 1st edition, published in London.  Provenance traced by Dr. Richard Cole, Davidson emeritus professor of English.

Patrick Gass Journal

Patrick Gass Journal

The Patrick Gass Journal“:  A first person account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, published in 1807.

Incunabula:  Books printed in the early years of printing…between Gutenberg and 1501.

Works of Seneca Venice, 1492

Works of Seneca
Venice, 1492

Manuscripts:  Books created by hand…before the printing press.

Manuscript Book of Hours

Manuscript Book of Hours



Cuneiforms:  Primarily temple records, bills of sale, and messenger tablets dating from around 2350 BC.

…and more.  See you soon!