Anonymous Copybook

Our new intern, Alondra Morillon, wrote a blog post. Please enjoy!

As a new intern, I wanted to do some poking around in the special collections to acquaint myself with the Fondren Library. In my search, I stumbled across a “copybook,”  which are books intended for others to copy the handwriting that was inside. This little book happened to be full of sermons, letters and fables that were all handwritten in cursive.

Open book displaying cursive writing

The book’s contents were listed at the very beginning, which were also listed in the Fondren Library finding aid page. The sections titled, “Useful and Wholesome Reflections” and “Useful and Amusing Conversations” were what caught my eye initially, but after reading through, the section on “Reflections on Voltaire’s Semiramis” was the most entertaining.

Table of contents in cursive

This little book broke in half when I handled it— the pages were also brittle and falling apart, but the handwriting was still clear and legible. Though, how anyone is expected to copy down this type of cursive is a feat in itself! I wonder if this book was intended for children or for adults. Depending on the subject matter, I’m inclined to believe it was intended for adults or teenagers. 

Showing brittle pages

Shepherd School of Music digitization project

Shepherd School rehearsal

As many of you know, in 2016 the Shepherd School of Music found analog audio and video recordings which had never been digitized. Fondren Library staff in Digital Scholarship Services, the Woodson Research Center, Cataloging and Metadata Services, Reference, and Access Services joined in a project to digitize thousands of past performances by the students and faculty of the Shepherd School. As of June 30th, 2022, the digitization of all content converted from analog formats (printed performance programs, cassette tapes, reel to reel tapes, and CDs) was completed and files were uploaded to the Rice Digital Scholarship archive.

Over 4,200 more audio performances, given from 1974 through 2015, are now available for users to stream. We acknowledge the generous support from Fondren Library, the Woodson Research Center, the Friends of Fondren Library, and the Rice Historical Society, which made this possible.

We hope you enjoy a little Debussy from a 2012 performance by Makiko Hirata, who received her Doctor of Musical Arts from the Shepherd School in 2012:

MAKIKO HIRATA Piano PAINTING IN SOUND DEBUSSY VS. MUSSORGSKY Sunday, September 16, 2012 3:00 p.m. Lillian H. Duncan Recital Hall. The concert begins with Debussy’s Arabesque and Clair de lune.

Bling Rings

Image is of four gold rings displayed in a clear suspension box. Rings are: 
2003 NCAA World Series Championship ring
1996 Champions Forever ring
1997 WAC (Western Athletic Conference) Champions NCAA College World Series ring
1994 Football Southwest Conference Champions - (Rice were co-champions)

The Woodson Research Center recently received 4 rings that belonged to former Rice President Dr. Malcolm Gillis honoring athletic achievements during his tenure:

1996 SWC Champions Forever ring
1997 WAC Champions NCAA College World Series ring
2003 NCAA World Series Championship ring
1994 SWC Football Champions ring – (Rice were co-champions)

Our thanks to Dr. Gillis’s widow, Elizabeth Gillis, for sending us these wonderful additions to our collections. Mrs. Gillis is also the inspiration for the most prestigious prize given to university staff each year, the Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service . The award is presented to staff who demonstrate exemplary commitment and service to the university, just as Elizabeth Gillis did during her years of service to Rice.

Color photograph of Dr. Malcolm Gillis, president of Rice University, in the dugout area of Reckling Park baseball field, speaking with members of the Rice Owls baseball team. Gillis is wearing dark glasses, a white, short-sleeved shirt with black collar and a white and black baseball cap. and A trio of players are sitting on the edge of the dugout facing him, with other players and spectators standing in the background. The bleachers, filled with spectators, are visible in the distance.
“Dr. Malcolm Gillis with members of Rice University Baseball team.” (2003) Rice University:

The Rice Institute’s Other Location

The Scientia Institute recently hosted a “Betterment of the World” lecture given by Fay Yarbrough and Caleb McDaniel. They showed the connections between Houston’s Black Fourth Ward community and the early Board of Trustees, who attempted to force people to sell their land. It’s important historical work that was made possible by some of our materials.

If you’d like to learn more, the lecture is now available online.

VHS Digitization

When we have smaller VHS digitization jobs (a collection with 10 or fewer tapes), we can digitize them in-house. We use our laptop, VHS/CD combo player, RCA cable, and a program called Power Director. The output is a mpg video file that we convert to an mp4 using Handbrake.

Laptop in the process of recording sitting atop a DVD/VHS combo

Right now, I’m digitizing a live performance of The Mighty Orq playing at the Artery on January 4, 2008. The video is from the Houston Blues Society records, which are almost fully processed and ready for research.

Carping about “Soldiers’ Pay”

While looking for something completely different, I ran across this letter from Larry McMurtry. He’s worried about a set of first editions that he had donated to the library and that they are not getting the care they deserve. He asks for them to be moved to the rare book room, which was the Kyle Morrow Room. The head librarian’s response is that there isn’t room, but it does seem like Hardin Craig, Jr. did do something.

Page 1 of letter. The letter is summed up in the text of the blog post.
Page 2 of letter. The letter is summed up in the text of the blog post. Letter is signed by Larry McMurtry

Although the slip cover is damaged, this is most likely the first edition that McMurtry referred to. Based on this image via AbeBooks, our cover has faded over the years. McMurtry’s book has some wear and tear, but we’re keeping it safe now.

Cover of Soldier's Pay. Arch design is purple with fading along the edges. The bottom of the paper cover is bent and torn.

Huxley and Evolution

As archivists, one of our tasks is reference, not just in-person in the reading room but via email. Over the last several years, we’ve been working with Alison Bashford. She did archival research in the various Huxley collections pre-Covid. While she was finalizing her manuscript, An Intimate History of Evolution: The Story of the Huxley Family, we, more specifically our former processing archivist Gabby Parker, assisted with scanning and reference checking. Amanda Focke assisted in permissions for images for the Huxley papers.

Although this work sometimes flies under the radar, Alison Bashford was kind enough to thank Amanda and Gabby in the acknowledgements. In addition, the gift book Bashford sent will be added to the Huxley rare book collection.

We’re happy that our work could in a small way contribute to greater scholarship.

Spooky Andreas Gryphius

Spine of book with vellum cover

Because of another issue, which might eventually make it into a blog post, I discovered this frightfully weird book Freuden- und Trauer-Spiele auch Oden und Sonnette. I can’t tell you what it’s about other than it’s German and written by Andreas Gryphius.

Cover page with German title

It does have a delightfully spooky and very perplexing frontispiece.

Frontispiece with a woman holding a piece of paper with the author's name and the title of the book, a winged man holding a torch, a cherub crying, and a skeleton on one knee toasting them.
What is going on here?

Because notations are always fascinating, inside the front cover is an outline of some sort.

Handwritten notes in German

Blues Society Newsletters

Within the boxes of the Houston Blues Society records is a snapshot of the world of regional U.S. blues and music-related newsletters.

15 Blues newsletters on a table

This grouping of newsletters mainly hails from the mid-to-late 1990s. They offer a glimpse into how the medium fulfilled a need to spread information about performances and engage with small audiences in the years before its generation of readers fully embraced email, message boards, and/or websites. It’s also interesting how many different types of blues societies exist/ed and how many of them loved the name “Blues News.”

The Houston Blues Society records will be fully processed in the couple of weeks.

Rice vs. University of Houston

Tomorrow we play our city rivals UH in the annual Bayou Bucket Classic. Let’s look back at our previous clashes.

Rice players holding the trophy
Winning the trophy in 1993
Rice player #44 running towards the defense while being protected by #42
Future NFL player Earl Cooper on the move against UH, 1979

If you feel like watching games of yore, here’s a highlight film featuring Arkansas, Baylor, and UH from 1987.

Your ears aren’t deceiving you. There is no sound.