Tuesday, August 30, 2011

St. Louis Mercantile Library Bookplate

The primary purpose of a bookplate is to indicate the ownership of the book in which it is located. Bookplates in books in institutional libraries often have the additional purpose of acknowledging the person or fund that purchased the book for the library. The bookplates of the St. Louis Mercantile Library (now incorporated into the University of Missouri - St. Louis Library), in addition to showing ownership, have provided a substantial amount of information about the library and its policies and procedures.  I acquired several older books which had been weeded from the library and each contained a different bookplate. One of these is shown above. The bookplate indicates that the library was organized in 1846 and incorporated in 1847.  It indicates that books can be kept for two weeks with a fine for detention beyond that period of two cents per day. It contains an important notice which tells the library user that damage to the book could result in a fine equal to four times its cost.  Mercantile libraries were membership libraries created in the 19th century to serve merchants and their clerks. The bookplate above indicates that a clerks entrance fee was $2 with an annual subscription fee of $3. Fees for proprietors and others was $5 initially and $5 annually. A life membership could be obtained for $50. Books were evidently given an accession number and this one is number 50,371.  There are some other markings which probably indicate classification and/or shelf location. The bookplate was in a novel published in 1878 titled In Paradise by Paul Heyse.  Bookplates are very collectible and I have a modest collection of institutional library bookplates. You can see some my bookplates HERE. Another St. Louis Mercantile Library Bookplate article.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Library Book Boxes

My library book box
Milwaukee Public Library book boxes

Book boxes in Sweden's library museum 

Hans Krol with book boxes in library museum in Amsterdam
 I try to say no when someone offers or lets me know about a large library artifact in order to keep my basement from  becoming a library museum.  A colleague caught me in a weak moment, however, when he alerted me to a wood library book box that was being offered on Craigslist.  He even offered to pick up the book box, which was located in Sheboygan County, WI, some distance from my home.  The large wooden box is not impressive in the least, but it is a connection to the real library world of the past.  In all probability the book box was used to transport one of Wisconsin's many traveling libraries.  Sturdy boxes such as this one have been used by libraries worldwide in the past to transport books.  Some examples are shown above.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wayne Wiegand's Melvil Dewey Notes

Wayne Wiegand, noted library historian, is making available to an institution or an individual an invaluable library history research resource, the voluminous notes he compiled in researching Irrepressible Reformer (ALA, 1996), his definitive biography of Melvil Dewey. All that is necessary to obtain this resource is to make a modest donation to  the Ed Holley Lecture of the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association.  Wiegand had intended that the note cards be auctioned off at a fundraising event last September at Library History Seminar XII in Madison, WI, but that fell through. As one of the auction coordinators, I took temporary custody of the Dewey notes which are recorded on 4 by 6 inch note cards and housed in sturdy file boxes. Wayne recently retrieved those boxes of notes freeing up much needed space in my basement. Although Wayne is interested in obtaining some funding for one of his favorite causes, he is more interested in assisting a researcher or researchers in advancing their study of Melvil Dewey and/or American librarianship. Wayne feels that a new biography with a different take on Dewey should come out every decade or so. He thinks that with his notes a researcher would be two thirds there on such a biography.  While in my custody I had ample opportunity to explore the Dewey notes, and I can attest to the value of this historical resource. Organized in chronological order the notes follow Dewey through his entire life. Of particular value are Wayne's notes on the Dewey manuscript collection at Columbia University which provide detailed transcriptions.  Since Dewey interacted with a major portion of the library community during his life, anyone studying other aspects of library history during the Dewey era would also benefit from the notes. From my perspective, the notes provide an extraordinary glimpse into the research techniques of one of our most esteemed library history scholars.  They remind me again why I'm content to be a library history buff and not a library history scholar. A very nice article could be written just about Wayne's research approach to the Dewey biography.  A reasonable donation to the Holley Lecture would probably be in the $200 up range (plus shipping costs) with the best offer claiming the prize. Wayne can be contacted at wwiegand@fsu.edu.  Wayne Wiegand recently retired as  F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies, and Professor of American Studies, School of Information Studies, Florida State University. A nice article by Christine Pawley about Wiegand and his career appeared in the Spring 2011 newsletter of the Library History Round Table.


Wayne Wiegand has indicated that Columbia University Libraries will be acquiring his Melvil Dewey notes.  This is a great match since Melvil Dewey's papers are also located there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mechanics Institute of San Francisco Cover

Last week I attended the stamp show of the American Philatelic Society in Columbus, Ohio. The APS annual show is the largest stamp show in the United States, and it provided me with a great opportunity to expand my collection of postal librariana.  Finding items in my collecting specialty is a challenge, but it is made easier by a number of stamp dealers who keep their eye out for postal items related to libraries. The last stamp dealer that I visited at the show assured me that he didn't have any library covers (envelopes), but I've learned never to take no for an answer. In the first box of covers that I looked through I came across a real treasure. Although it was a little pricey, I had to have it for my collection. The cover is what is referred to as an "all over advertising cover" from the Mechanics Institute of San Francisco.  The very attractive cover included an order form for a book signed by the Librarian for the Institute. It was dated April 23, 1877.  The cover is addressed to F. O. Vaille and H. A. Clark in Cambridge, MA.  Although the name of the book being ordered is not on the order form, I know that it was for The Harvard Book which was authored by Vaille and Clark and published in 1875.  I know this because I have come across another postal item related to The Harvard Book previously, and wrote a blog post about it. The Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco is one of those 19th century membership libraries that has survived to the present day (overcoming the San Francisco earthquake of 1906). It has a good history of the library on its website.  My philatelic exhibit of postal librariana titled "America's Public Libraries and Their Forerunners" includes a component on mechanics' libraries and this cover will make a great addition to the exhibit.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Charles Coffin Jewett, Pivotal Figure in American Librarianship

Michael H. Harris, writing in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978), had this to say about Charles Coffin Jewett (1816-1868) concerning his tenure as a librarian: "Charles Coffin Jewett was the pivotal figure in American librarianship.  He was the first man to hold a full-time post as an academic librarian, the first librarian of what very nearly became the national library of the United States, the president of the first formal conference of librarians, and the first superintendent of the country's premier nineteenth century public library."  August 12 was the 195th anniversary of Jewett's birth. Jewett became librarian of Brown University in 1841 and was responsible for the landmark Catalogue of the Brown University Library in 1843 which provided for both alphabetical descriptive entries and subject entries. In 1847 Jewett was appointed librarian of the newly established Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian had been established by a bequest from British scientist James Smithson for "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men".  The vision for the Smithsonian of Smithsonian's first secretary, Joseph Henry, differed markedly from that of Jewett who among others felt the Smithsonian should be a national library. This disagreement led to Jewett's dismissal in 1855. Jewett was then hired by the Boston Public Library as a cataloger. He became the library's first superintendent in 1858.  In 1853 Jewett was actively involved in the first conference of librarians in the United States and was elected president of the conference. Jewett died as the result of an attack of apoplexy while at work in 1868 at the age of 52.  The iconic Smithsonian building known as the "Castle" was designed to include a library and reading room. In 1866 the Smithsonian's library collection was moved to the Library of Congress and became known as the "Smithsonian Deposit".  Ironically, this was one of the actions that helped propel the Library of Congress into becoming a true national library for the United States.  The Smithsonian Institution, of course, now has its own system of libraries to support its many museums. For a history of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries click HERE. Note: This year is the 165th anniversary of the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian has been commemorated on three United States Postage stamps.

Monday, August 8, 2011

WWI Poster Stamps

The collecting of poster stamps was a well established hobby by the time World War I came about so it is not surprising that a set of these stamps was used to promote the United War Work Campaign which took place November 11-18, 1918. These miniature posters, like their larger counterparts, were used to advertise products and to promote causes. The United War Work Campaign was a coordinated effort to raise funds for the seven private "welfare" agencies, including the American Library Association's Library War Service, that supported our armed forces during and after World War I.  The goal of the campaign was to raise $170 million, but $205 million was actually raised. ALA received $3.8 million as its share of the campaign. The  stamp in the set of poster stamps that featured ALA was based on a full sized poster illustrated by John E. Sheridan. I have Sheridan's full sized "Hey Fellows" poster in my personal collection.  The Tutt Library of Colorado College has the Sheridan poster and other ALA WWI posters displayed on its website. Stamp collectors include poster stamps in a category that they call "Cinderellas" or pseudo postage stamps.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chinese Postal Card Used As Catalog Card

When the Communists came to power in China after World War II they repurposed some things used by the previous government including this pre-stamped postal card which became a library catalog card. The unknown library which used the catalog card classified its books using the Dewey Decimal System. The 508.1 classification is used for natural history. An interesting piece of postal librariana for my collection.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bradbury Thompson, Library Stamp Designer

Three of my favorite library related postage stamps were designed by the same person, Bradbury Thompson (1911-1995). This year is the 100th anniversary of his birth. Thompson was one of the world's great graphic artists and received numerous awards for his work. He was responsible for designing more than 90 postage stamps himself and influenced many more.  Two of Thompson's library stamps were issued by the United States Postal Service in the same year, 1982. They were the "Library of Congress" stamp and the "America's Libraries" stamp. Initially only one stamp was to be issued but Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin insisted on a more traditional depiction of the Library of Congress on the stamp. Thompson responded with a pair of stamps that are highly compatible in their design.  The third stamp, "A Nation of Readers", was issued in 1984. I have a previous post about the "A Nation of Readers" stamp. I have an extensive collection of "First Day Covers" for all three stamps, and I have created philatelic exhibits for stamp shows which display the covers. Another stamp designed by Thompson that I like is his "Learning Never Ends" stamp which was issued in 1980.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Happy Birthday H. M. UTLEY, Detroit Librarian

Today is the 175th anniversary of the birth of Henry Munson Utley (1836-1917), librarian of the Detroit Public Library (1885-1912), a founder of the Michigan Library Association (1891), and President of the American Library Association (1894-95). Utley was also the first President of the Michigan Library Association (celebrating its 120th anniversary this year) and served in that position continuously from 1891 to 1904. Utley, like many of the librarians of his day, came to his job without the benefit of professional library training. Before accepting his position as librarian of the Detroit Public Library he was a journalist. That did not keep him from transforming the Detroit Public Library into one of America's great public libraries. Innovations which he brought to the library included: adopting the Dewey Decimal Classification (1886); establishing a children's room (1896); opening the library on Sunday (1886); establishing a reference department that served not only Detroit but surrounding communities; introducing electric lights in the reading room (1887); and establishing branch libraries (1900- ). The postal card from my collection which is shown above was mailed on November 21, 1891, the same year the Michigan Library Association was formed. The source of the information in this post is Florence Ray Tucker's article about Utley in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Library Recipes

The July 1895 issue of Library Notes contained a compilation of "Library Recipes" for use by libraries in dealing with common problems which they encountered in their operations. Library Notes, a publication of the Library Bureau edited by Melvil Dewey, was targeted primarily at small libraries and its original sub-title was "Improved Methods and Labor-Savers for Librarians, Readers and Writers".  The library recipes were compiled by Katharine Lucinda Sharp for ALA's Comparative Library Exhibit at the 1893 World Colombian Exposition in Chicago. Sharp later went on to head the library school at the University of Illinois. It's clear from the various recipes provided in the compilation that for small libraries and even some large ones that the 1890s were a DIY world. To deal with those pesky book-worms: "Book-worms are exterminated rapidly and effectually by mixing equal parts of powdered camfor and snuff, and sprinkling the shelves with the mixture every six or eight months."  Or to mix up an effective brew of mucilage: "The best mucilage is made by dissolving a fair grade of gum arabic in a sufficient quantity of water, and adding oil of cloves, or some other essential oil to keep it from molding.  Put four quarts of cold water in an earthen crock or pitcher, add two and one-half pounds of gum arabic; set it on a warm, but not a hot place - a steam radiator is an excellent place - stir the gum very frequently, raising it from the bottom of the crock.  When entirely dissolvd, strain through cheese cloth, and stir in 12 drops of essential oil.  The mucilage will keep perfectly sweet as long as it lasts.  If too thick, add a little water; if too thin, heat it over." Recipes are also included for fusty stains, glues, inks, mending, mildew, paste, and many others. Oh, the life of a librarian.