Category Archives: Rare Books

Pertaining to our rare book collection materials

New Additions ~ Maritime Collections

Another Spring Semester comes to a close here on campus.  This week is the last week of classes, then finals, and the thrill of graduation weekend and summer.  This semester has brought many changes to Rare Books & Special Collections, including the opening of the new Reading Room and Classroom Annex space.  If you haven’t had a chance to see the newly remodeled spaces yet, please drop by the next time you are on campus for a tour!

In addition to new spaces, there have also been many new additions to both the rare book and the manuscript collections in Boatwright Library.  The last blog post talked about the new World War II correspondence collection, but I wanted to share also the wonderful new additions to the maritime and naval collections that have been added this spring.

Three new first editions have been added to the rare book collection, which already houses an impressive set of travel and maritime-related works.  The first new addition is a 1977 2-volume first edition of George Forster’s A Voyage Round the World, In his Britannic Majesty’s Sloop, Resolution, commanded by Capt. James Cook, during the Years 1772, 3, 4, and 5.  This set adds to our materials on both sea-faring voyages and exploration literature by adding another version of Cook’s sailings.

The second new first edition account is a 1779 first edition of A Voyage to New Guinea, and the Moluccas, from Balambangan: including an account of Magindano, Sooloo, and other islands; and illustrated with thirty copperplates. Performed in the Tartar galley, belonging to the Honourable East India company, during the years 1774, 1775, and 1776 to which is added, a Vocabulary of the Magindano Tongue.  This account was written by one of the most experienced ship captains and documents social and cultural life as well as maps, panoramas, coastal charts, genealogy, and a English to Magindano and Papua vocabulary.

The third new addition to the rare book maritime collection is the 1802 first edition travel account of a woman traveler through the Crimea and Black Sea regions.  The book is written in the form of letters by Maria Guthrie, and translated and edited by her husband, Matthew Guthrie.  Her letters document her varied encounters during her travels, including a whirling dervish ceremony and a letter concerning Jews in the Crimean region.

Three new manuscript maritime collections have also been added to the Boatwright Library archival materials.  The largest of the three documents the work of U.S. Naval Commander Horace Elmer, who had an illustrious naval career including heading the department of seamanship at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1883 to 1886.  His last service included organizing and commanding the Mosquito Fleet, including the inner coast defense of the Atlantic and Gulf States during the Spanish-American War.  The archival collection includes journals from his time at the naval academy and a number of ship’s logs which include precise technical sketches including the engines of the U.S.S. Monitor. There are also several scrapbooks including one from his daughter, Edith Elmer Wood, which contains images of family, the Naval Academy, and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Two smaller manuscript items have been added as well. The first item is the journal of Edward Reavely, Quartermaster First Class serving on the U.S.S. Chester in 1917.  As a destroyer, the Chester was active during World War I as an escort between Gibraltar and Britain.  The second item is the private journal of Edward Paul Duffy, a printer on board the U.S. flagship Trenton, written in 1881.  While on board, Duffy printed the twice-monthly Trenton Herald and served as a special correspondent to the Baltimore Sun.  His journal documents his print work, the weather, and trips off the ship as well.

Each of these new additions bring new stories of explorations, travel, and sea voyages just waiting to be discovered.

Half Way There!

It’s June already and the construction is well on it’s way.  The reading room outside the rare book room is taking shape, as is the classroom around the corner.  Also included in this reconfiguring is an office for our new Archivist and Book Arts Studio Coordinator.  But pictures will tell you more than words at this point so here goes!


The entrance to the new reading room.






Reading Room

The bones of the reading room.  There will be tables and display shelves.


Reading Room







Class roomClassroom

And here is the classroom, first looking back toward the rare book room,  then towards the door to the workroom.

And finally the new office.  Office


May not look very exciting right now, but it will add so much to what we can do!  So this fall look for the sign on the new door and come and explore our new Uncommon space!

Big Changes for the Rare Book Room

Boatwright’s Special Collections are growing, but our space is not.  So, beginning on May 2, the Galvin Rare Book Room will close until July 1st, in order to create new spaces for research, reading, and instruction.  The rare book room itself with remain as is, but the ante room will open into the adjoining study room to become a reading and research area. This will allow us to close the rare book room, and add more shelves, making room for our burgeoning collection.

The two study rooms remaining on B1, and adjoining the new reading room, will be redesigned as a classroom with audio-visual equipment.  This will allow us to accommodate larger class sizes, and provide more types of instruction.

As sad as it is to lose the wonder of walking through the rare book room shelves and handling their treasures, this new arrangement will allow us to accept and house more collections.  It will also enhance what we are able to offer our students and professors.  So, keep watching this space for the unveiling of the new face of the Galvin Rare Book Room.

The Capitol Disaster

On Wednesday April 27, 1870, 62 people were killed and 251 were wounded in a tragedy reported across the nation. The floors of the court room and clerk’s office of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, located in the Capitol building, collapsed taking a crowd of about 350 men with it to the floor 25 feet below.

In an effort to create more space in the crowded capitol building, a floor was erected over the hall where the House of Delegates met. It was in this second floor that the court of appeals was held. In doing this the architect, instead of inserting the floor-beams in the walls, rested them upon a slight ledge, or offset, projecting about four inches from the wall.  This frail ledge was made to support timbers measuring two feet by ten inches, assisted by a row of pillars in the hall below.  This was probably sufficient for ordinary use, but a few years previous to the disaster, in order to improve the appearance of the Hall of Delegates, the pillars were removed. Despite a definite concavity of the floor the space continued in use.capitol

So on the fateful day in April, a highly contested Richmond Mayoralty Case was to be heard. A large audience was packed into the courtroom to hear the proceedings. Only one judge was in his seat and the bells had just struck 11:00. Suddenly, a large girder broke in half, the floor sagged loosening the supports on the ledge and it all plunged down carrying everyone with it. The Fire Department and numerous volunteers spent hours digging through the debris and carrying the dead and wounded out under the trees for recognition and treatment. On the day following the catastrophe many of the dead were buried and businesses were closed.

If you would like to learn more about this, The Capitol Disaster (Special Collections F234.R5 C61) by the Hon. George L. Christian, a survivor, is full of first hand information.

The Heavy Hands Of Mice and Men

Many factors go into making a book rare and/or valuable.  The book’s age, how many copies still exist, who owned it, and so on.  One very common criterion is whether or not the book is a “First Edition”, the first printing of the book.  Well, it is possible to narrow this down even more.  You can have a “first printing” of a book, and a “first state” of the book.

miceA first printing is pretty obvious.  It is the first printing of the book.  But a particularly popular book may have many printings.  A first state printing, means that at some time during this first printing, a change was made somewhere in the book–an error corrected, something omitted added, and so on.

Such was the case with John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.  During the first printing of this controversial classic, a line describing Lennie was changed in the first chapter.  It originally read “His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely and only moved because the heavy hands were pendula.”  Whether it was the obscure word or questionable spelling, it was decided to mice2remove the last nine words and reset the page.  There is also a problem with a page number later that was fixed. However 2, 500 uncorrected pages had already run through and were subsequently bound and sold; the first state of the first printing.

When rare book dealers talk about Of Mice and Men, they are quick to note whether their copy contains the “pendula” line and the dot between the two eights on page 88.  It adds considerably to the value and scarcity of the book.  The copy in the Galvin Rare Book Room is a first state printing in excellent condition, part of the Mark Lutz Collection.  Lennie would be so proud.

The True Story of an Episode in a Short Life

Katherine Anne Porter was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. Her 1962 novel Ship of Fools sold more copies than any other novel that year, but her short stories are what she received the most acclaim for.

Long before all of this, she wrote A Christmas Story, “the true story of an episode in the short life of my niece, Mary Alice…” who died at 5 and a half years old. The story covers the last day Porter spent with her niece, right before Christmas.Porter

It begins with Mary Alice asking her aunt why they celebrated Christmas. Porter explains with a combination of Biblical and folk stories and records the child’s precocious reactions. When they buy a gift for Mary Alice’s mother, she says she will “say” it is from Santa.
“You don’t believe in Santa anymore?”…..”No, I don’t,” she said….”but
please don’t tell my mother, for she still does.”

The Galvin Rare Book Room has a lovely copy of this story, illustrated by Ben Shahn, and signed by both Miss Porter and Shahn. (PS3531.O752 C5 1967) Come take a look.

A Christmas Hymn

Richard Wilbur is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987,

Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur


and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989. He uses everyday experiences to illuminate his large body of work. He also wrote the lyrics for several songs in Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 musical “Candide,” including “Glitter and Be Gay” and “Make Our Garden Grow.”

Also in the 50’s, composer Richard Winslow asked his friend, Wilbur, to write a hymn to be performed at a Wesleyan University Christmas concert. The result was “A Christmas Hymn” or “A stable-lamp is lighted.” Using a line from the New Testament book of Luke, he included the repeated line “And every stone shall cry.” In an interview, Wilbur said, “If you write a hymn and are serious about it, you have no business filling in with maverick notions of your own. A hymn has to be perfectly orthodox…It is a great challenge.”

He obviously met that challenge for since its publication, the hymn has been adopted by the Episcopal, Lutheran and other churches. It was also included in the University’s 43rd Annual Service of Lessons and Carols on December 7. Sung by the Women’s Chorale, the hauntingly beautiful melody was the perfect accompaniment to Wilbur’s stirring words.

wilbur2There is a copy of The Poems of Richard Wilbur in the Rare Book Room, “inscribed with pleasure for the Boatwright Memorial Library” by the author. It includes “A Christmas Hymn” and many other wonderful poems. Come take a look.

November Boughs

Walt Whitman at 70.

Walt Whitman at 70.

Walt Whitman suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed in 1873. By 1888, he was very frail and in ill health. He continued to work on his most famous work, Leaves of Grass, publishing his “complete” version in 1891.

But in 1888, having had another physical setback, he was working on a new collection of prose and poetry called November Boughs. The volume was published that same year with the publisher securing the rights to print further copies in 1888, 1889, and 1890, for a royalty fee of 12 cents per copy sold.

Of the one hundred and forty pages, there is a long preface called “A Backward Glance O’er Traveled Roads,” a combination of two articles Whitman had published in 1884 and 1887. It contains a retrospective on his literary theories and practices. He also admits that he was not accepted in his lifetime, but that he hopes for future recognition.whitman2

“Sands at Seventy” is a collection of approximately 60 short poems. And while they lack the fire and music of his early work, he included these poems in his final Leaves of Grass, noting their enviable self-knowledge.

The collected prose pieces summarize many of Whitman’s themes and concerns. Central is his passion for democracy and the strength and importance of the common man. He even holds forth on William Shakespeare, taking the stand that “only one of the ‘wolfish earls’ so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works—works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.”

There is much more included in these 140 pages. The Rare Book Room’s copy was a gift in memory of Dr. Roger Millhiser, and published in 1888. Come by and take a look.

Designing Romeo and Juliet

Oliver Messel

Oliver Messel

In 1936, MGM created a lavish production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet starring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard. To design the sets and costumes, the studio called on English artist and premier stage designer Oliver Messel.  He was well down for his masks for Diaghilev’s ballet, and for several revues and musicals in London, and Tony award winning designs for Broadway.  He worked on several movies, other than Romeo and Juliet, earning an Academy Award Nomination for Suddenly Last Summer in 1959.

Dust jacket design.

Dust jacket design.

After the film came out, the New York times selected it as one of the “Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.”  Later in 1936, a book containing the complete play was published, illustrated with Messel’s costume and set designs.  The Galvin Rare Book Room has a copy signed by Mr. Messel. (Part of the Mark Lutz  Collection.) There are gorgeously drawn costume designs, and ethereal set designs, many in color, right alongside the bard’s lovely poetry.  Worth stopping by to take a look.


The Real Haunts of Virginia

vghostsIt wouldn’t be October without a few ghosts and ghouls creeping around, and various “haunted houses” popping up in shopping malls to frighten us. Not surprisingly, Virginia claims quite a few legitimately haunted houses, and woods, according to Marguerite du Pont Lee. In her book, Virginia Ghosts (Galvin Rare Book Room F 227 .L48), she relates eye witness accounts such as the ghost of Aquia Church, in Stafford County.  A woman was murdered in the church, sometime in the early 1800’s, and her body was hidden in the belfry. Her ghost has been reported by many, walking the aisles of the church at midnight.

On Leigh Street in Downtown Richmond, stands the Hawes homestead. Many reports tell of a small lady dressed in gray gliding along the second floor hall only to disappear through a closed

Aquia Church, Stafford County.

Aquia Church, Stafford County.

door. And Matthews County contains the Old House haunted woods where from as early as 1798 there have been reports of the ghosts of pirates, murdered royalists, and officers and men of British General Cornwallis’s army, seen roaming through the trees.

Mrs. Lee signed her book, dedicating it to the Marion Garnett Ryland Virginiana Collection in 1932. Underneath her inscription she wrote:

            Spirits from brighter stars draw near

            When camps are lit, and fires burn clear.

            With gentle touch, and loving look

            Bless them for me, my little book.

Come down to the Rare Book Room and take a look and Virginia Ghosts, and some of our other chilling reads. If you dare.