Tennis Day

Because we love little known “holidays,” today is Tennis Day. While some of you might celebrate by playing the sport, for others, we can let the real athletes do it.

Alberto Carrera reaching high with his racket to hit a ball
Rice University tennis player Alberto Carrera, Class of 1971
Tennis player running toward the ball to hit underhanded
Rice University tennis player reaching for a shot

Or just watch them pose for a group photo.

Women probably from the 1920s in conservative tennis outfits holding rackets. Two rows are seated and one row is standing behind.
Rice Institute women’s tennis team

Busy Around These Parts

New things abound or are in the works with the Woodson right now.

We’re migrating our digital footprint to a new platform. That means all of our materials that currently reside at will have a new home in May. That means we are building out a new website and moving all of our materials over. We are swimming in spreadsheets.

Spreadsheet containing metadata

The new star wheel printing press has also arrived in parts at the Woodson. For info on the press, please see this lovely video for more information. After it is put together, it will live up front near our front door.

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

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.