If you remember back a few weeks ago, we had re-discovered a collection of books by William Watson. We figured out why his book became dispersed. Warning it’s a bit technical. In the online library catalog, some of our onsite rare books can be identified by location as WRC – [name of collection]. When Watson lived on the shelves in the Woodson, the collection was safe and a distinct unit both physically on the shelves and in the catalog.
But…Watson moved offsite to the Library Service Center. When that happened, the location designation changed to LSC-WRC and that’s it. With the location change, what tethered the collection together (proximity and the Watson location name) fell apart. There’s only one other rare book collection that lives offsite and that one has a special note that ties the collection together.
Lauren DuBois, trusty cataloger, is now ordering the books by title (There are multiple editions for each title.) and making the requisite changes in the catalog as well as providing more descriptive updates. For example, Watson wrote two poems (published elsewhere) into the first couple of pages one of the books.
The Watson books, which now formally go by the title the James Wade Rockwell collection of William Watson poetry, will become a complete collection again (not lost) with a proper title including the donor’s name.
Last week we encountered a big mystery at the Woodson. After trying to make this rare book page look pretty with non-pixelated tiles, we realized there were only three books in the William Watson rare books collection. Usually, our rare book collections contain more than three books, more like 100 or more. The books themselves didn’t make sense, one is by Watson, one by John Dunne, and one by Thomas Otway.
We realized that we couldn’t even find this mystery collection in the Woodson, where the vast majority of our named rare book collections lived. What was going on?
We realized that we do have the William Watson papers, purchased in 1972, which is a rather small collection of items from the poet. We looked in the control folder (where we keep information about purchasing, etc.) and discovered that there was a rare book catalog which contained a list of Watson books with checkmarks and other notations next to them. Typically, our named rare book collections are named for the donor and not for the writer(s) covered in the grouping. There was a bookplate in the folder, which provided a name for the potential donor of the books, James Wade Rockwell via the Rockwell Fund.
There are a bunch of Watson books offsite, but would they have been part of the original Watson collection? We had to order them to find out.
We selected one title, Excursions in Criticism: Being Some Prose Recreations Of A Rhymer (1893), as well as ordered the Watson book that was already part of his collection entitled The Hope of the World and Other Poems (1898), and the John Dunne book.
Let’s start with Excursions.
While the book is not fancy, it contains three bookplates, including the Rockwell tucked into the back pages. In the rare books, we place paper ID slips with call numbers. The slip included the name Watson on it, which would be typical of a rare book collection.
The Hope of the World, listed as part of the Watson book collection, contains an inscription from Watson to the meteorologist Rollo Russell. It also had a Rockwell bookplate.
The Dunne book had nothing to link it to Watson like the ID slip or a bookplate. It did have a bookplate demarcating that it had some from Edgar Odell Lovett’s library. Looks like this might need to be removed from the Watson collection.
For our next steps, we are going to continue ordering the rest of the Watson books from offsite and inspect them to see if they belong in the Watson rare book collection. There might also be supplemental materials, too. I’ll write with another update when or if we learn more.
If you’re wondering why this happened, most likely information was lost when the info moved from the card catalog to a library information system (computer program) or during data migrations to new library information systems.
Last week, we stumbled upon this catalog for Raid the Icebox I: a 1969-1970 exhibit featuring items selected by Andy Warhol from the storage vaults of the Museum of Art at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Warhol was invited to curate the exhibition by Dominique and Jean de Menil, founders of the Institute of the Arts and the Media Center at Rice. The exhibition opened here and then traveled to The Isaac Delgado Museum in New Orleans, finally ending in Providence at RISD.
Between the pages of Doc’s copy of the catalog, we found: 1) Andy Warhol’s signature on the title page (!) 2) One Raid the Icebox I exhibit tag published by the Institute for the Arts at Rice 3) Two small postcards announcing the exhibition dates and hours here on campus 4) One large postcard inviting Doc C to attend the exhibit preview 5) One Winter 1969 newsletter addressed to Doc C, detailing the new art center and community response to the new Institute space and Raid the Icebox I exhibit at Rice
Postcards, newsletter, tag, and signature found within the exhibit catalog
Like all of our rare books in the collection, this catalog and accompanying items will be available for viewing only in the reading room at the Woodson Research Center. Just reach out to one of our archivists to schedule an appointment.
You can learn more about this special exhibit on the RISD website here and find a related essay about Warhol’s art at BEST Products’ Indeterminate Façade store here. Happy reading!
We are delighted that Danny Samuels, Professor in the Practice, Rice School of Architecture, brought more Elinor Evans art education materials for her archives this week. Here’s a sneak peek at the kinds of items he brought. These works were created by freshmen taught by Elinor Evans, the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture, 1964-1965, in the Rice School of Architecture. They were featured in an exhibition, and the original wall labels are included in these images.
We’ve spent the past year combing through thousands of books generously donated to us by Dr. Gilbert Cuthbertson. Read our previous blog post here. And we’re excited to let you know that some of his rare and unusual books are now available for viewing.
Click the icon with three dots […] at the top and select Collection Discovery. Then select the Woodson Research Center tile to view the special book collections.
Click the Cuthbertson tile to browse the Gilbert Morris Cuthbertson Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts. If you find an available book you’d like to view in person, just contact one of our staff to schedule a visit to the WRC Reading Room.
Keep your eyes peeled for new books from Doc’s collection added every day!
Celebrating freedom this July makes us think of our neighbor Mexico, who began the process of abolition in 1818 while still part of the Spanish empire. The printed broadside pictured is the declaration of April 5, 1837, in which the Mexican Congress “abolished without exception all slavery in all the Republic.” (They also provided compensation for enslavers’ losses on a case-by-case basis: with the exception of settlers in Texas, who had seceded and later joined the United States as an enslaving state.)