Independence Day

We recently welcomed Lauren DuBois as the Copy Cataloger for the Dr. Gilbert M. Cuthbertson Collection. She is working to organize the book collection donated to Fondren Library by the longtime Rice political science professor who passed away in 2019.

“Dr. Gilbert Cuthbertson in his office, Rice University.” (2005) Rice University:

An example from his collection came across my desk this week to review. It’s a copy of Atlas to Marshall’s Life of Washington. Published by James Chrissy in Philadelphia, circa 1832, it contains 10 maps on folded leaves, illustrating Revolutionary War battles and campaigns.

Title page from Atlas to Marshall’s Life of Washington

The atlas is a companion to the multi-volume biography written by Chief Justice John Marshall begun in 1799 following Washington’s death. Marshall was granted by Washington’s surviving family full access to all of his records, papers, and personal archives.

Plan of New York Island and part of Long Island showing the position of the American & British Armies before, at, and after the engagement on the Heights, August 27, 1776.

The Woodson Research Center will be closed Thursday-Friday, July 1-2, 2021 in observance of Independence Day. Happy 4th!

International Fairy Day

I’m offering up a fairy drawing from George Cruikshank from Thomas Keightley‘s Fairy Mythology.

Etching by George Cruikshank showing a man with fairies underfoot.

The fairies look like a pretty fun bunch.

Sadly, I can’t find a name for this etching or what it might be describing. If you know more about fairy lore, please chime in.

This book is also lovely as a book.

Spine of book
Decorated fore edge

Bonus, it’s got an odd book plate.

Book plate

Okjökull, August 2019 funeral posters

Image of book opened up to reveal posters, stamp, stamp pad, and informational booklet.

We recently received an artist book created to commemorate the funeral for the melting of the Icelandic glacier Okjökull. The book consists of a series of 200 posters dated from 2019 until 2219, an ink pad, a stamp, and some explanatory materials. The creators envisioned that owners of the book each year would stamp and display that year’s poster as a way to remember the glacier and other glaciers that are melting. This would take place for the next 200 years ending with the death of the last glacier, Vatnajökull. The hope is that through our actions we could stop the melting of the Icelandic glaciers, and thus would no longer have to stamp and display the posters.

Close-up of stamp

Melanie Mowinski and Joseph Ostraff created the book. They were inspired to create the posters after participating in the installation of a plaque that recognized the death of Okjökull, which was orchestrated with Rice professors Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer.

Image of 2085 poster
Image of 2138 poster

We are honored to have a copy of this very rare book.

Upcoming Red Book Panel

Congregates standing outside of Mt. Pillar Baptist Church on 601 Hemphill Street.

A couple of years ago we featured The Red Book of Houston in a post. That post began a series of events that will conclude with an unveiling of an ArcGIS Story Map at a panel featuring local/regional historians on Wednesday the 28th.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar school, 928 Clark Street

You can read more about the project in this article from Rice’s Katharine Shilcutt. There will be more press this weekend (fingers crossed) from Joy Sewing of the Houston Chronicle and an interview on KUHF’s Houston Matters on Monday.

To find the final story map on the 28th, visit our online exhibit.

P. H. McCullogh and O. B. McCullogh

If you’d like to attend the Zoom panel, you can sign up here.

Honor and Influence

Title page
The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements (1863)

One of our newest book acquisitions is this copy of The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements, a groundbreaking volume of biographies of 57 black men and women across history. Issued in 1863, the same year as the first volume, this revised and expanded edition was written by William Wells Brown. Brown was a prominent African-American abolitionist, novelist, and historian.

Writing and publishing The Black Man during the Civil War, Brown writes about his contemporaries acknowledging they were living in momentous times and to single out black men and women too long ignored or belittled: those “who by their own genius, capacity and intellectual development, surmounted the many obstacles which slavery and prejudice have thrown in their way, and raised themselves to positions of honor and influence.”

To the advocates and friends of Negro Freedom and Equality, wherever found, this volume is respectfully dedicated by the author.

This first “revised and enlarged edition,” second edition overall, contains four biographies not present in the same year’s 288-page first edition: artisan Joseph Carter; Union scout James Lawson; Union Captain Joseph Howard of the Second Louisiana Native Guards who fought the racism of Northern Union officers to command his black soldiers in battle, and Union Captain Andre Callioux, now recognized as “the first black warrior-hero of the Civil War, an officer in the first black regiment to be officially mustered into the United States Army and the first to participate in a significant battle. Both in life and in death, he did much to inspire, embolden and unify people of African descent in New Orleans” (New York Times). Also featuring Brown’s revised Memoir, along with rear leaf containing “Opinions of the Press,” containing praise from Frederick Douglass’ Monthly, the Liberator, and other key sources—not present in the first edition.

Table of contents
Table of Contents

Oscar Wilde Update

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about a book on our shelves containing the signature of Oscar Wilde. Below is an image of it.

Cover of Poem's by Oscar Wilde

For an event, we displayed the book and let students look at this awesome piece of history. Well, Oscar suffered some damage. The image below is before the injury, but shows its fragile state.

Shows fragility of binding.

Thankfully, our amazing restoration company, Octávaye was able to rescue poor Oscar. He’s now refreshed and as good as new.

Book box
Book in opened book box
Show the book repair

The damage is undone.

Online Exhibit Refresh

Capture of the H. M. Sloop El Vincego, digitally altered with color
Image from our British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars exhibit

Head on over to the page on our blog labeled “Online Exhibits and Story Maps” to find a host of refreshed online exhibits and some new ones, too.

Many of our online exhibits previously lived at the same URL We have wanted to move each of the exhibits to a unique URL, but were unable to find the time for it in addition to our other duties. In our remote working environment, nit-picky work like creating unique banners, checking URLs, and updating out of date information became much easier to do.

You’ll find information on Dick Dowling, the Abbie Hoffman Incident, and U.S. Civil War Narratives, along with other exhibits that focus on Rice history, local history, and rare books.

Any new online exhibits and story maps will be added to that page. Have fun!

Searching our Rare Books

In August, searching the library’s catalog completely changed. We moved from an outdated system that the catalogers used to input the library’s holdings that had a hard time with digital formats to a brand new one that has its own quirks, but is definitely a huge step forward.

One major thing that changed was searching our rare books. In the old system, a researcher could do a location search of our different rare book collections. If you don’t know about our many collections, here’s a page with more information.

In the new system, the steps are a bit different, but we now have an amazing video that is a demonstration created and narrated by Susan Garrison the library’s Access Services Manager.

Rice University Fondren Library – Collection Discovery – Woodson Research Center — Watch Video

For the Birds

This week’s blog post is brought to us by Jeanette Sewell, Database and Metadata Management Coordinator.

You’ve probably heard of the Pantone Color Matching System that was invented in the 1960’s, but an enterprising ornithologist also developed his own system in the early 20th century.

Front cover of book

Robert Ridgway was an ornithologist who became the first full-time curator of birds at the United States National Museum in 1880. Ridgway was renowned for his technical illustrations of birds as well as describing for science the most North American species in his lifetime. In 1912 Ridgway published his Color Standards and Color Nomenclature “so that naturalists or others who may have occasion to write or speak of colors may do so with certainty that there need be no question as to what particular tint, shade, or degree of grayness, of any color or hue is meant” (1). This unique book features 1,115 colors, each represented on an individual plate pasted above the color’s name. Each page also features a tissue paper overlay, making it quite fragile. Ridgway included a note of caution that these pages should not be exposed to light “for a longer time than is necessary” in order to protect the pigments (44).

Inside of book

In his prologue, Ridgway mentions other familiar companies, such as Milton Bradley and Prang, but notes that these “fail[ed] to supply a ready or convenient means of identifying and designating the colors” in a scientific classification scheme (2). Thus, he painstakingly noted his detailed processes for identifying and naming the colors in his work. He also included definitions of color terms and charts that show the tone percentages used to construct the plate variances. In 2017, the book was displayed alongside specimens of leaf warblers from the Philippines as part of the Smithsonian’s Color in a New Light exhibit to give viewers a sense of how Ridgway identified his colors in the wild. His books are still referenced by naturalists today, and colors like “Vandyke Brown” and “Forget-me-not Blue” are easily conjured by the imagination thanks to popular paint and crayon variations.

Plate VIII showing colors with names

Fondren Library is lucky enough to have two copies of Ridgway’s text in its collection. Only 500 copies were originally printed, and an original volume is currently listed for sale at $750 on the Abebooks website. Recently, a professor returned one copy and informed the Woodson of the book’s value and rarity. A subsequent search of the catalog revealed the additional copy located in the general stacks. For preservation purposes, one copy now resides at the Woodson while the other will be moved to the Library Service Center. Additionally, the book is available to view electronically via the Internet Archive. Other works by Ridgway are housed at the Library Service Center and on microform as part of the Kelley Center’s government publications collection.

Further reading

A nomenclature of colors for naturalists, and compendium of useful knowledge for ornithologists, by Robert Ridgway (Internet Archive). 

  • This earlier book by Ridgway from 1886 served as the basis for the 1912 work.

The feathery tribe: Robert Ridgway and the modern day study of Birds, by Daniel Lewis. 

  • Available for checkout at Fondren Library.

The Bird-Based Color System that Eventually Became Pantone (Hyperallergic)

Color in a New Light (Smithsonian Libraries)

How Red Is Dragon’s Blood?, by Daniel Lewis (Smithsonian Magazines)
Mushroom without a name (Reflections Texas)

Paul Bunyan Day

June 28th is the day to celebrate big Paul Bunyan. We’ve got an amazing Limited Editions book club version of the stories.

title page: The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan. Now retold by Louis Untermeyer together with illustrations by Everett Gee Jackson. New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1945

First, the book really plays up the idea of wood. There’s a box made of cardboard with a fake wood paper on the outside. Within that, there’s a similar fake wood paper removable cover also made out of cardboard. Then, there’s the actual cover of the book with same wooden print.

Cover and spine of book

Unlike some of the older Limited Editions, this one has beautiful illustrations.

Illustration of baby Paul Bunyan. Text: "He got out of it-picked it up-and waded to shore!"
Illustration of Babe the Blue Ox making the Red River. Text reads: "And that's show the Red River got its name."
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox leaving. Text reads: "I guess there isn't anything more to say."

It’s also signed by the illustrator.

Signature page. Text reads: Fifteen hundred copies of this edition of The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan have been made for the members of The Limited Editions Club. The edition was designed by Richard Ellis and printed by The Aldus Printer in New York. The illustrations were drawn by Everett Gee Jackson and printed by The Dunewald Printing Corporation. This copy is number: 555 and is signed by the illustrator.

One more thing, here are some news items about the Woodson and those connected to our collections.

The creator of our Sugar Land Convict Leasing System collection Reginald Moore and Rice professor Caleb McDaniel gave interviews for a story in The Guardian on the Sugar Land 95.

Here’s the official Rice press release about the new Houston Blues Museum Archive.