Exhibits in 2013
Woodland Pattern Broadsides:
Thirty Years of Poets Reading
October 18, 2013 – March 7, 2014
An exhibit in conjunction with the acquisition by the Department of Special Collections of the Woodland Pattern Book Center archives from its founding in 1979 through 2012. Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee has been a community mainstay and a cultural venue for American and international poets, writers, and artists for more than three decades.
On display were selections from the archives, including correspondence and thirty years’ worth of literary broadsides specially printed for readings at Woodland Pattern.
A lively event on February 13, 2014 celebrated the acquisition. It featured a discussion with Woodland Pattern Book Center founders Anne Kingsbury & Karl Gartung and literary program director Chuck Stebleton.
July 24 – October 4, 2013
The long, warm days of summer, and the shorter but still sunny days of early fall, afforded a good opportunity to display works on the sun from Special Collections and University Archives. Illustrations of the sun, defined in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Edinburgh, 1771) as “an immense globe of fire,” abound among our holdings of early astronomy books; and sun-baked metaphors illuminate many a work of fiction or memory. The sun's rays are seen to measure the day, as they once measured the extent of empire, and titles on display from Special Collections recorded both. On a campus graced with a dairy barn, we are reminded to make hay while the sun shines; and scientists and engineers here have long studied the sun's power, as shown by materials from University Archives on exhibit. We are grateful to Meridith Beck Sayre and Clare Moran for all their work as guest co-curators for this exhibit.
Shown above: detail from a lively diagram depicting a pre-Copernican, geocentric theory of eclipses. From [Sacrobosco,] Annotationi sopra la sferette, a 16th-century manuscript in Special Collections, call number MS 83. More images from this manuscript are available in a small online exhibit “Sacrobosco and his Commentators,” related to campus teaching in history of science.
A Library Exhibit About Paper
April 15 through June 2013
This exhibit, co-curated by Tracy Honn and Lyn Korenic, illustrated the history, production, and use of paper. The title Text Support is an acknowledgment of the inseparable and essential role paper has played in the history of printing. Without paper there is no physical book. As we discuss the future of the book, reconsideration of paper is timely.
The exhibit in Special Collections focused on the history of handmade and commercial paper and Wisconsin-related industry. Text Support, a multi-library exhibit, also included display cases at the Kohler Art Library, focusing on handmade paper with Wisconsin roots, and the Silver Buckle Press display cases on the 2nd floor of Memorial Library, featuring examples of paper engineering.
For details about events held in conjunction with the exhibit, see the calendar of the Friends of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.
Exhibits in 2012
Parts and Wholes
An exhibit in conjunction with the conference “What is an Individual? Where Philosophy, History and Biology Coincide”
December 10, 2012 – March 29, 2013
What is a part? What is a whole? How are issues of hierarchy, time, and relationship conveyed or at issue in print? This exhibit — presented in conjunction with the workshop, “What is an Individual? Where Philosophy, History, and Biology Coincide” — explored part/whole relationships in the sciences and print culture, drawing upon a wide variety of collections around campus. Works from Special Collections, Silver Buckle Press, and the Ebling Library Historical Collections, alongside materials from the Zoological Museum and the Insect Research Collection, highlighted questions of individuality and individuation. “Colonial” organisms and composite forms, print serials and metamorphosing creatures figured among the examples of ambiguous individuals included in the exhibit.
Co-curated by Lynn Nyhart, Professor of History of Science; Judith Kaplan, recent Ph.D. from the History of Science Department; and Robin Rider, Curator of Special Collections. Exhibit installation by Judith Kaplan and Cindy Lundey, M.L.S.
The larger project enjoyed generous support from the Anonymous Fund, the Department of the History of Science, the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
For more about the exhibit and a lively gallery talk delivered by Judith Kaplan on March 8, see the Special Collections blog.
Diversions in the Victorian Age
September 26 – November 30, 2012
Although Queen Victoria is famously credited with the arch comment “We are not amused,” her subjects found diversion and amusement in a wide array of activities, many fostered by new and growing networks of publishing, communication, and transportation. This exhibit, co-curated by Susan Barribeau and Robin Rider, explored varieties of diversions in the Victorian age, drawing upon the holdings of the Department of Special Collections and Memorial Library to illustrate pastimes enjoyed by those of high social standing, members of the middle class, and the less fortunate in British society during Victoria's long reign. Topics included angling, the Crystal Palace exhibition, dancing (as in the rambunctious polka illustrated above), holidays, horsemanship, natural history, pets, performances of all sorts, rambles, satire, singing, sport, and armchair travel.
Expanding the Home Circle:
An exhibit of artists books paired with illustrated books
from the Cairns Collection of American Women Writers
Exhibit dates: June 18 – September 14, 2012
Created and curated by Art Department alumna Rachel Melis. Since spending the summer of 2007 as a Friends of the UW-Madison Libraries Grant-in-Aid scholar, Ms. Melis has been engraving and letterpress-printing contemporary versions of texts by 19th-century women authors — focusing on those who sought to expand the domestic sphere in response to what they witnessed on the American frontier. This exhibit paired 19th-century illustrations and caricatures of women and nature with Melis’ surreal combinations of women and birds.
The exhibit drew upon authors well represented in the Cairns Collection, including Lydia Maria Child, Abby Morton Diaz, Eliza Farnham, Margaret Fuller, Caroline Kirkland, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frances Elizabeth Willard (as shown here, learning to ride a bicycle), among many others. Exhibit cases also explore such themes as women's worth and work, heading West, poetry, and matters of freedom and of prejudice.
Visitors to Special Collections have the opportunity to examine a copy of Melis’ new book, Unsexed & Unsphered, Volume 1: A Chapter from A New Home—Who’ll Follow & An Essay from A Book for the Home Circle by Mrs. Caroline Kirkland with a Preface by the Artist Ms. Rachel L. Melis (Saint Joseph, MN: The Greenleaf Line, 2012), featuring letterpress-printed type and copper engravings. This title is a gift to Special Collections from Melis.
The handsome poster, which combines a portrait from a Cairns Collection volume with one of Melis’ drawings, was the work of Tracy Honn at the Silver Buckle Press, and featured a variety of typefaces and typographical ornaments typical of the 19th century and drawn from the holdings of the Press.
See the UW-Madison news release about the exhibit and Special Collections.
Big Books in Special Collections
February through May 2012
This exhibit showcased large books in Special Collections, ranging from botany to exploration, from antiquities to dictionaries. These books -- large, thick, and sometimes both -- often contain elaborate illustrations, some of which are hand-colored. The biggest of the books on display was one of the volumes of Audubon's double elephant folio Birds of America.
Exhibits in 2011
Jesuits and the Construction of Knowledge, 1540–1773
October 2011 through February 3, 2012
As missionaries, scholars, teachers, authors, and members of learned academies, members of the Society of Jesus exerted great influence on the world of early modern European learning. Though such activities attracted critique both thoughtful and scurrilous, the wide scope of Jesuit contributions to scholarship in fields from astronomy to zoology, from history to linguistics, invites re-examination. This exhibit, drawing on extensive holdings in Special Collections of illustrated works by Jesuit authors, explored their role in the construction of knowledge from the establishment of the Society of Jesus in 1540 through its papal suppression in 1773. The books on display featured intriguing illustrations ranging from scientific diagrams and maps to natural history illustrations and ethnographic representations. A checklist is available.
The exhibit, a collaboration undertaken by Florence Hsia, James Lattis, Robin Rider, and Meridith Beck Sayre, complemented a digital humanities project underway in the Libraries aimed at constructing a searchable database of early modern Jesuit iconography pertaining to scholarship and travel. A prototype of the image database is available; we welcome your comments.
The exhibit also provided a focus point for the Mellon workshop on science and print culture in fall semester 2011, organized by Prof. Hsia through the UW-Madison Center for the Humanities, including a well-attended concert, “Kircher’s Rome: Music in the 17th-century Collegio Romano,” as performed in Special Collections by Eliza’s Toyes on December 1, 2011. The program reflected vocal and instrumental music one might have heard in the Society of Jesus’ college in 17th-century Rome. The polymath Athanasius Kircher, professor of mathematics at the Collegio Romano, mentioned these composers in his Musurgia universalis (1650), a monumental encyclopedia of musical history, theory, and practice.
This program was part of the A.W. Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshops in the Humanities, sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at UW-Madison with support from the A.W. Mellon Foundation. Co-sponsored by the School of Music, UW-Madison.
Reflections of Anglo-Saxon England
Mid-July through September 2011
This exhibit in Special Collections explored the history, artifacts, and myths of Anglo-Saxon England and their many political and cultural uses. Featuring printed books from the 16th century through the present, the exhibit complemented the biennial conference of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists — a conference photo-gallery suggests lively attention to contents of the exhibit. Books on display highlighted reflections of (and on) Anglo-Saxon England, including renderings of language of the period, depictions of archaeological finds, chronicles of the Christianization of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and accounts — whether sober or fanciful — of custom, dress, and battle. An illustrated checklist is available.
Peter Pauper Press: Highlighting the Gifts of James and Nancy Dast
Mid-March 2011 through June 2011
This exhibit drew on extensive holdings in Special Collections of works published by the Peter Pauper Press, gifts to the Library from steadfast friends James and Nancy Dast. In 1928 the Peter Pauper Press began issuing works of prose and poetry — often in small format and always carefully designed — at “prices even a pauper could afford.” The hundreds of titles in the collection range from Abalone to zabaglione to Zen Buddhism, from the ballads of Faithless Sally Brown and Faithless Nelly Gray to the sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning; and the exhibit highlighted the lively color printing, dustjackets and slipcases, and graphic design involved, as well as the broad range of topics, authors, and artists published by the Press.
We were pleased to host a talk by Jim Dast about the Peter Pauper Press collection on May 19, 2011. In her introduction to the talk, Tracy Honn of the Silver Buckle Press described some of the many research purposes to which the collection might be put.
Exhibits in 2010
By Design: Early Printed Books in the Department of Special Collections
From December 13, 2010, through March 4, 2011
Drawing on holdings of 16th-century books in Special Collections, this exhibit explored both the stability and vitality of book design after the first half-century of printing with movable type in the Latin West. Displaying examples from alchemy and armory to theology and travel, from biblical scholarship and birds to prognostication and physicke, the exhibit highlighted strengths in the Albert, Duveen, Fry, Reeder, Tank, and Thordarson collections, among others, and suggested the many ways in which authors, editors, printers, and publishers organized, illustrated, and ornamented texts.
Because early printed books both drew upon manuscript traditions and expanded upon them, "By Design: Early Printed Books in the Department of Special Collections" was intended to complement “Hidden Treasures: Illuminated Manuscripts from Midwestern Collections,” an exhibition curated by Maria Saffiotti Dale in the Chazen Museum of Art.
An ABC of Decorative Trade Bindings
December 13, 2010, through January 31, 2011
A small exhibit in the first floor lobby of Memorial Library highlighted publishers’ bindings (or decorative trade bindings, as some describe them) drawn from the holdings of the Department of Special Collections, where many noteworthy publishers’ bindings are available for readers to consult. All the titles included in the exhibit appear as well in the Web-based resource Publishers’ bindings online, or PBO. The PBO Web site provides high-quality images of front and back covers, spines, and endpapers, along with a comprehensive glossary and guide and many teaching aids. Most of the texts also appear in full digitized form in Google Books, largely through the UW-Madison Libraries’ partnership with Google.
This exhibit was installed in conjunction with Illuminate: Year of the Arts 2010–2011 on campus.
As noted by Louis A. Pitschmann, during the half-century 1870–1920 “virtually all publications intended for the mass-market ... were issued in trade bindings that bore at least some attention to decorative detail. The degree of ornamentation and design varied according to the aesthetic influences of the period or the tastes of the publisher or the bindery, but by the early twentieth century few genres were exempt from some degree of decoration on their bindings, if only in the attention to typographic design and detail devoted to spines and covers.”
We chose our ABC’s according to the first major word in each title. (We had to stretch our definition slightly for the letter X.) Full catalog information can be found in MadCat.
Carey, William. Adventures in Tibet. 1901. G664 C27
Fox, John Jr. Blue-grass and Rhododendron. 1901. F 451 .F79
Hamlen, Georgianna. Chats: Now Talked of This and Then of That. 1885. BQS .H18
McCutcheon, George Barr. The Day of the Dog. 1904. PZ3. M139 Day
Britten, James. European Ferns. 1879-81? A 10528
Carleton, Will. Farm Ballads. 1875. Y C187 FAR
Morrison, Arthur. The Green Diamond. 1908. PZ3 M8348 6
Herrick, Francis Hobart. The Home Life of Wild Birds. 1901. QL 676 H56
Gilder, William Henry. Ice-Pack and Tundra. 1883. G65 G46
Sinclair, May. The Judgment of Eve. 1908. Y S162 J
Whyte-Melville, C.J. Katerfelto: A Story of Exmoor. 1876. PZ3 .W622 Ka [not in PBO]
Maeterlinck, Maurice. The Light Beyond. 1917. B55 .M26
Richards, Laurie. Margaret Montfort. 1898. P27 R392 M
The National Ode. 1877. Y .T21 N
Wiggin, Kate Douglas. The Old Peabody Pew. 1907. PZ3 W64 O1
Morris, H.W. Present Conflict of Science with Religion. 1876. BS M83
Gallienne, Richard le. The Quest of the Golden Girl. 1897. PZ3 .L523 Q3 .2
Merwin, Samuel. The Road-Builders. 1905. Y M558 R
Gibson, William Hamilton. Sharp Eyes. 1892. A 10717
Otis, James. Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks with a Circus. 1881. PZ 7 K124 To 1881
Mason, Walt. Uncle Walt, the Poet Philosopher. 1910. Y M3738 U
Morris, Gouverneur. The Voice in the Rice. 1910. Y M8264 V
Wilcox, Ella Wheeler. A Woman of the World. 1905? BJ 1581 W73
L'Exposition de Paris de 1889. 1889. CA 14069 [not in PBO]
Guerney, Bernard Guilbert. Yama: The Pit. [c1929.] X 54Y K96 W24
Le Queux, William. The Zeppelin Destroyer. [c1916]. PZ 3 L56 Ze
An Exhibit of Astronomical Books 1500–1800
September through December 3, 2010
“Looking Up” explored Special Collections’ considerable holdings of illustrated astronomy books from the late 15th through the 18th century. The exhibit focused on astronomical observations, depictions of the heavens, and the instruments used by astronomers, and contrasted reflections on ancient astronomical authorities and works by luminaries like Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. Sidelights included a scathing critique of Copernican ideas in Alexander Ross’ The new planet no planet, or, The earth no wandring star, except in the wandring heads of Galileans (1646) and and an advertisement (ca. 1768) for a “living orrery made with sixteen School Boys.” A list of titles included in the exhibit is available.
April 15 through August 15, 2010 (extended until September 1)
The exhibit explored various images of hands in the Department's holdings, as well as the profusion of idioms and metaphors involving hands. Items on display ranged from a manuscript in a “fine italic hand” and the “printer’s fist” pointing to something noteworthy in the text, to disembodied hands holding experimental apparatus in early science textbooks and evocative titles like Carson McCuller's Clock without hands. Co-curators were Susan Barribeau, Lynnette Regouby, and Robin Rider. The handsome letterpress poster — featuring printer's fists — was the work of Tracy Honn at the Silver Buckle Press.
Exhibits in 2009
Science Circa 1859: On the Eve of Darwin's On the Origin of Species
November 23, 2009, through March 12, 2010 (extended until April 1)
The exhibit showcased holdings of campus libraries and honors the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s pathbreaking book by exploring the state of science in the decade prior to the publication of On the origin of species on November 24, 1859. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the hard work of a team of guest exhibit curators, all students in History of Science 350 (as taught in fall 2009 by Robin Rider): Maya Aaseby, Rebecca Breuer, Stacey Fields, Max Greenstein, Rachel Haberman, Peter Hudack, Nicholas Jacobson, Robert Hansen, Ben Schneider, Philip Song, Mandy Wojciehowski, Matthew Wykle, and Sarah Zipperle. They cast their net widely in identifying common themes, selecting visually appealing books, and writing thoughtful captions; and the result took full advantage of strong library holdings from across campus. The libraries represented were the Biology Library, Ebling Library, Geology and Geophysics Library, Memorial Library, the libraries' Shelving Facility, Special Collections, University Archives, and Wendt Library.
Exhibit cases curated by the students in History of Science 350 explored such topics as astronomy, botany, chemistry and industry, experiment and popularization, exploration and expeditions, education, fossils, the human sciences, museums and other scientific institutions, science and power, scientific instruments, and taxonomy and classification. Other cases in the exhibit treated the Great Exhibition of 1851, science at the University of Wisconsin in the 1850s, and nature-printing.
Darwin, Wallace, & Huxley
On exhibit outside the reading room in Special Collections through the end of December 2009 were
- our first edition of Charles Darwin's On the origin of species (1859);
- “On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection” by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, from the Journal of the proceedings of the Linnean Society (1858); and
- Thomas Henry Huxley's Evidence as to man's place in nature (1863).
Dogs in Special Collections:
An Exhibit of Books Containing Illustrations of Dogs
May through October 2009
“In shape of dogs and hounds,” wrote Shakespeare, and varied indeed are the representations of dogs. Drawing on a wide variety of works — from books of Shakespeare’s time to little literary magazines of today — this exhibit showcased images of dogs as found in Special Collections: dogs, singular and plural, in a baroque courtyard or Victorian parlor, Arctic camp or western ranch. Some of these dogs played important roles in the narratives in question; others added local color, danced to the busker’s command, served human masters, or stood for Nature’s creations, wild or domesticated. Dogs, of course, figure among the subject matter of natural history; and the strong holdings of Special Collections afforded accounts of the species in general, as well as of an evolving array of breeds. At the same time, incidental appearances of dogs in a variety of spaces, from alchemists’ laboratories to private girls’ schools, spoke to the cultural significance of “hounds, and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs, shoughs, water-rugs, and demi-wolves.” This exhibit invited you to explore the place of dogs in our hearts and in our books.
Holdings about Lapland
April 28 through mid-May 2009
To welcome those attending the conference and preconference for the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study and to showcase strong holdings in Special Collections related to Lapland, the Department mounted a small exhibit, including such titles as
- John Scheffer, The history of Lapland (1674)
- Arthur de Capell Brooke, Winter sketches in Lapland (1827), with large color illustrations
- Frank Hedges Butler, Fifty years of travel by land, water, and air (1920), inscribed by the author “To Orville Wright.”
Special Collections also contains several thousand 18th-century dissertations (mostly from Uppsala and Lund), more than 200 titles in the Linnean Collection, as well as the strengths in science, natural history, and Icelandic publications to be found in the Thordarson Collection.
Religion in Print
January – April 2009
With the invention of movable type, religious institutions were able to produce texts and documents much more quickly and to reach an increasingly literate and diverse audience. Scholars, theologians, clergy, and missionaries alike used this technology to spread ideas and doctrines to far-flung places, in some cases challenging widely held religious beliefs. Drawing on the rich holdings of the Department of Special Collections, the exhibit “Religion in Print” explored aspects of religion in print culture, including religious practice, religion and revolution, cults and new religious movements, prophecy, science and religion, saints and martyrs, and censorship. The exhibit also featured two prints from the Chazen Museum of Art.
The exhibit was the work of a team of guest exhibit curators, all members of the Print Culture Society (PCS) and graduate students in the School of Library and Information Studies. Led by Lisa Muccigrosso, PCS chair, the guest curatorial team also included Sarah Andrews, Sam Boss, Emily Johnson, Cindy Lundey, Kara Blue Miller, David Mindel, Simone Munson, and Katie Riel. The exhibit complemented the “Religion in Print” symposium (April 10, 2009), also organized by the Print Culture Society.
Cartoneras: Book Arts from Latin America
Sample cartonera books on loan from Special Collections were on display in Kohler Art Library through September 30, 2009; others appeared in the Silver Buckle Press exhibit cases on the 2nd floor of Memorial Library and in a larger exhibit in the 1st floor lobby of Memorial Library in fall 2009.
Cartonera books are hand-made from recycled cardboard collected off the streets by cartoneros, or garbage pickers, who sell the cardboard they collect to the cartonera publishers and in some cases participate in the production process of the actual books themselves, which feature hand-painted cardboard covers. The books often contain new literary contributions.
UW-Madison hosted the conference “Cartonera Publishers: Recycling Latin American Bookscapes,” October 8-9, 2009. For more information, see http://www.library.wisc.edu/cartoneras/.
Honoring the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Louis Braille
A small exhibit on the first floor of Memorial Library honored the bicentenary of the birth of Louis Braille, born in 1809 in Coupvray, near Paris, France, and died in 1852 in Paris. The system of printing and writing Louis Braille developed while still in his teens now bears his name and enjoys wide use. The exhibit, on display through mid-September 2009 , explored the Braille system and its variants, alternative systems with embossed type, and other technologies such as large-print books and audiobooks.
The exhibit was sponsored by the Eye Research Institute. We thank Daniel M. Albert, M.D., past chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and currently Emmett A. Humble Distinguished Director of the Eye Research Institute, for suggesting such an exhibit. Several titles from the riches of the Daniel and Eleanor Albert Collection in the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, appeared in this exhibit. The Department of Rare Books & Special Collections in Ebling Library of the Health Sciences also lent works for the exhibit, and we appreciate their cooperation. Other titles on display came from the circulating collections of Memorial Library.
A title list is available.
The image above shows the US Mint Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar (2009), with Louis Braille on the obverse and on the reverse a child reading a book in Braille. The word Braille (in Braille code) is depicted in a tactile representation.
One volume from our four-volume set of Audubon's Birds of America (the double-elephant folio edition in the Thordarson Collection) appeared in the exhibition entitled “Catesby, Audubon, and the Discovery of a New World: Prints of the Flora and Fauna of America” at the Milwaukee Art Museum, December 18, 2008 – March 22, 2009. More »
Exhibits in 2008
The Art of College Humor:
Highlights from the Dobbertin Collection of Campus Humor Magazines
September 22 - mid-January 2009
This exhibit recognized the generosity of John and Barbara Dobbertin, who have assembled and donated to Special Collections an extensive and lively collection of campus humor magazines. The magazines on display, from the Harvard Lampoon to the UW’s own Octopus, are part of what may be the largest collection of college humor magazines in the United States. The collection ranges from the late 19th century to the 21st, and addresses topics both light-hearted and controversial. Some of the humor stands well the test of time, while other jokes and cartoons make today’s readers cringe.
John Dobbertin, an alumnus of the University of Michigan, served as editor of the Michigan Gargoyle — hence his deep appreciation for campus humor magazines and their history.
Some issues of the UW–Madison Octopus and Sphinx in the exhibit, along with printed ephemera about the Octopus, came from the holdings of the University Archives.
We are eager to broaden the coverage of the campus humor magazine collection, and invite additions to the collection from your own piles of college memorabilia, whatever your alma mater.
A complementary exhibit at Kohler Art Library, “College Humor to Italian Tesserae: Celebrating the Centennial of James S. Watrous,” ran through September 30. “Jimmy” Watrous produced cover art for the Octopus in his student days; he later held the title Oskar Hagen Professor of Art History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. A preview exhibit of cover art from campus humor magazines closed September 16, 2008, in Memorial Union. The Union's Web site includes an audio podcast for the Memorial Union exhibit.
For more about “The Art of College Humor” and the Dobbertin Collection, see such stories as
- Jenny Price, “New exhibits show art of college humor, James Watrous,” University of Wisconsin-Madison News
- Jay Rath, “Funny business: Exhibitions celebrate the glory years of humor magazines on college campuses,” in the Wisconsin State Journal
- Doug Moe, “UW-Madison home to famous college pranks,” also in the Wisconsin State Journal
- Scott Bauer, “History of college humor magazines on display,” for the Associated Press
- “The wit and wisdom of campus humor,” in the Friends of the Library Magazine
(Un)Binding Empire: French and Russian Imperial Albums
November 3 – December 1, 2008
On display in Special Collections were two elaborate and encyclopedic visual projects from Napoleonic France and Tsarist Russia demonstrating the scientific scope and ambitious scale of the modern colonial survey:
- Description de l’Egypte, ou, Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Egypte pendant l’expédition de l’Armée française. 2 ed. Paris, 1820 (large albums from the holdings of Special Collections).
- Turkestan Album, 1871-1872 (digital reproductions from the Library of Congress-Prints and Photographs Division, sponsored by the UW-Madison Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia).
Guest exhibit curator Heather Sonntag, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, installed this exhibit in conjunction with Photography and the Technology of Empire and Race, a conference organized by the UW-Madison Visual Culture Center. A companion exhibit in the Kohler Art Library included additional photographs and manuscript volumes from the Department of Special Collections.
Color Enhanced: Use of Color in Scientific Books
June - mid-September 2009
Using inexpensive digital cameras, photo-editing software, and inkjet technology, 21st-century consumers can readily experiment with color printing. Authors, illustrators, printers, and publishers of an earlier age did not have it so easy: they incorporated color into illustrations of science and natural history at considerable cost and with mixed success. The exhibit “Color Enhanced: Use of Color in Scientific Books” explored the results from the 15th through the 20th century, drawing on strong holdings of illustrated books of science and natural history in the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The exhibit looked at the physics of color through works like Newton’s Opticks (1704), famous for the experiment on the composition of white light. Ironically, diagrams of color phenomena used in the Opticks, like most illustrations in early scientific books, were in black and white. Illustrations in color were more likely to appear in books of natural history, usually result of hand-coloring applied to engravings or lithographs; and both amateurs and specialists seemed willing to pay a premium for illustrations that teemed “with Nature’s lively hues.“ The phrase comes from George Dyer’s verses as included in R. J. Thornton’s Temple of Flora, one of the works on exhibit.
Tasks of identification and classification demanded accuracy and consistency, and naturalists and serious collectors struggled with the definition (and reproduction) of color standards against which to measure a valuable mineral or a rare bird. For armchair explorers, the exotic in nature held particular appeal; for readers seeking relief from the gray world of coal-powered industrialization, the brighter the better. Ambitious publishers and authors in the 19th century could offer subscribers a regular dose of color mixed with learning, thanks to less expensive publishing technology and a stable of hand-colorists.
The exhibit also explored the use of color to convey abstract concepts from chemistry to geometry, early manuals for hand coloring, and innovations in color printing. Taking advantage of the riches of the Library’s holdings, multiple copies of hand-colored illustrations were compared side by side, showing inconsistencies in the application of color and the effects of time on specific hues.
This exhibit was designed to complement The Culture of Print in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine, a conference organized by the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America, held September 12-13, 2008, in Madison, Wisconsin.
An online illustrated checklist of the exhibit is in preparation.
February 18 - May 19, 2008
Workbooks — seen as places for inventing, sketching, and reflecting — offer raw and unmediated views of taking notes and shaping information. This exhibit explored the history of workbooks and focuses on the book as an active “site.” It drew on the workbooks and sketchbooks of UW-Madison faculty and staff and other invited artists, complemented by related holdings of the Department of Special Collections. Guest exhibit curator was Derrick Buisch, associate professor of art, UW-Madison. An exhibit at the Kohler Art Library featured other titles that speak to the theme of sketchbooks and workbooks.
An online illustrated checklist of the exhibit is in preparation.
Some of the worksbooks and sketchbooks loaned for the purpose have since traveled to the University of Minnesota, where they appeared in an exhibition entitled WorkBook at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in the Regis Center for Art, on the West Bank campus of the University of Minnesota.
Exhibits in 2007
Stormy WeatherNovember 12, 2007 - February 8, 2008
From Shakespeare's "pelting of this pitiless storm" to Snoopy's "It was a dark and stormy night," storms have driven plots, guided metaphors, afflicted travelers, and attracted scientific popular attention. The exhibit Stormy Weather explored storms and weather, drawing upon a wide range of rare books and manuscripts in literature, humor, history, and science. Highlights included "Raining Cats, Dogs & Pitchforks" by George Cruikshank, English almanacs, Ben Franklin's kite experiment, winters in Lapland and Iceland, violent storms at sea, and, of course, the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. News of the exhibit also landed on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journalfor January 26. A checklist of the exhibit is available.
Guest exhibit curator: Sarah Boxhorn
Under the Medicean Stars: Medici Patronage of Science and Natural History, 1537-1737July 9 - November 2, 2007
In 1610 Galileo Galilei published an account of his discovery of moons orbiting Jupiter. In the hope of gaining financial support, he named these the Medicean Stars after Cosimo II de’ Medici, grand duke of Tuscany. While this may be the best-known instance of Medici patronage of scientific inquiry, it was neither the first nor the last. From the time that Cosimo I became duke of Florence in 1537, members of the Medici family supported the study of nature and inquiry into the workings of the universe.
Using books of science and natural history, often lavishly illustrated, this exhibit traced the financial and intellectual support provided by the grand dukes of Tuscany to members of their courts and to scholars working throughout Italy. Viewed in tandem with the exhibition Natura Morta: Still-Life Paintings and the Medici Collections on display at the Chazen Museum of Art August 25 to October 21, 2007, Under the Medicean Stars highlighted the interests of the Medici in both artistic and scientific endeavors. An online illustrated checklist is available.
Guest exhibit curator: Meghan Doherty
Making Maps, Mapping HistoryMarch 19 - June 29, 2007
An exhibit of original maps of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region from 17th-century drawings concocted from travelers' accounts to 21st-century images captured by satellites. The exhibit featured an illustrated, hand-colored map of North America made in 1670, one of the first maps to show all five Great Lakes.
For more information, see Exhibit traces 300 years of Wisconsin and Great Lakes maps and the Great Lakes Maps Web site.
Celebrating the Cairns Collection: Works by American Women Writers Before 1935December 11, 2006 - March 9, 2007
Highlighted the breadth of topics represented in the Cairns Collection, including fiction, poetry, drama, essays, biographical and autobiographical works, sheet music, travel accounts, devotional works, and advice books. The exhibit also featured titles by women writers on education, natural science, temperance, slavery, and women's rights, as well as manuscripts, handwritten diaries and letters.
Exhibits in 2006
Secrets Reveal'd: Pseudo-science, the Occult and the Paranormal
May through November 2006
from the Holdings of the Department of Special Collections
This exhibit ranged from early printed books of astrology and numerology to recent studies of UFOs, psychic phenomena and alternative cosmologies. It drew heavily on the Robert Schadewald Collection, which features rare printed books, periodicals, printed ephemera and research files assembled in the course of Schadewald's decades-long investigation into aspects of 19th- and 20th-century pseudo-science. The exhibit also took advantage of the strengths of the Duveen Collection of Alchemy and Chemistry.
Lothar Meggendorfer and Movable BooksFeb. 1, 2006 - April 14, 2006
This exhibit highlights color lithographic proof sheets of movable children's books from the Lothar Meggendorfer Collection. Meggendorfer (1847-1925) created more than 100 children's books over the course of his career, many in multiple editions and translations. To set Meggendorfer's "paper engineering" in context, the exhibit also contains books with movable parts from the Renaissance through the 21st century, including treatises on cosmography, geometry, landscape design, and the automobile as well as contemporary artists' books from the Kohler Art Library. Curated by Robin Rider, Curator of Special Collections, and Tracy Honn, Director of the Silver Buckle Press.
Shown here is a volvelle from Peter Apian's Cosmographia (1574), one of the early printed books included in the exhibit.
Exhibits in 2005
More from the Fry Collection: Italian History 1450-1900October 10, 2005-January 13, 2006
"More from the Fry Collection: Italian History 1450-1900" includes manuscripts, printed ephemera and books from the extensive collection assembled by William F. "Jack" Fry, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "It is the microhistory that's interesting," as Fry describes his collecting, "not the big things.
The common life captured in letters, small town government, the bread baker and shoemaker." This exhibit, showcasing aspects of Italian "micro history" before Mussolini's rise to power, complements an earlier exhibit of the Fry Collection titled "Italian Life Under Fascism" (1998), now available online. The current exhibit was organized by Robin Rider and Cindy Lundey of Special Collections with help from Jack Fry and installation assistance from Susan Stravinski of Special Collections.
Birds in BooksJuly 11- September 30, 2005
The much-heralded sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker in spring 2005 prompted this exhibit of "Birds in Books" featuring books with illustrations, most hand-colored, of birds both familiar and exotic, extinct and otherwise. The books on display, largely from the Thordarson Collection in the Department of Special Collections, dated from the 16th through the 20th century and included the Library's magnificent copy of Audubon's Birds of America. The exhibit was curated by Ann Myers of Special Collections and the School of Library and Information Studies.
Shown here is the "Pigeon of Passage" (passenger pigeon, now extinct) from Mark Catesby, The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1754), part of the Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture at http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/DLDecArts/DLDecArtsHome.html.
Paragraphs on TypographyJanuary 20 - June 10, 2005
Inspired by typographer Bruce Rogers' classic treatise Paragraphs on printing, this exhibit featured significant works in the history of typography and book printing with an emphasis on exemplary uses of letterforms. The exhibit drew from Special Collections materials on the history of the book and printing types and pressroom tools from the Silver Buckle Press. The exhibit was co-curated by William Reeder, president of the Friends; Tracy Honn, director of University of Wisconsin-Madison's Silver Buckle Press; and Robin Rider, curator of Special Collections.
Exhibits in 2004
Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of NatureSeptember 1 - October 15, 2004
Developed by the American Library Association and the National Library of Medicine , this traveling exhibit visited 80 libraries across the country by 2005. The display was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Library of Medicine. An exhibit of books and manuscripts from Special Collections supplemented the traveling exhibit throughout the semester, as did a parallel exhibit, "Creating Life at the Ebling Library," which focused on medical issues raised by Mary Shelley's famous novel Frankenstein .
ChivalryJuly 12 - August 31, 2004
Chivalry encompasses both "the knightly system of feudal times" and "the brave, honourable, and courteous character attributed to the ideal knight," according to the Oxford English Dictionary. This exhibit highlighted various forms of chivalry from the medieval period through the twenty-first century with manuscripts, musicals, illustrations, and more. Curated by Kelley Osborne. Held in conjunction with the Eleventh Triennial Congress of The International Courtly Literature Society, July 29 - August 4, 2004.
Layers of Knowledge: Illustrated Books from the Historical Collections, Health Sciences Libraries and Special Collections, Memorial LibraryMarch 17 - June 30, 2004
Layers, especially exposed layers, inform the visual language of discovery in a wide array of subjects. Drawing on the resources of the Historical Collections at the Middleton (now Ebling) Health Sciences Library and the Department of Special Collections in Memorial Library, this exhibit cut across a variety of medical and scientific fields in exploring the depiction of layers in book illustrations. Examples ranged from the Renaissance to the twentieth century, and included printed flaps in anatomical illustrations, representations of geological strata, results of Roentgen rays and nature-printing, and parallel visual metaphors in widely differing subjects.
The exhibit, designed by Micaela Sullivan-Fowler, Curator of the Historical Collections, Ebling Health Sciences Library, and Robin Rider, Curator of Special Collections, Memorial Library, was installed in conjunction with the annual meetings of the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences.
A checklist is available.
Carl Rakosi at the University of Wisconsin-MadisonMarch 29 - April 2, 2004
Carl Rakosi first gained fame as a poet in the 1930s. Rakosi attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned an M.A. in educational psychology. His first book, ironically titled Selected Poems, was published in 1941. Because of his association with the Communist party, Rakosi stopped writing poetry during the height of the McCarthy era and dedicated himself to social work. He would not return to poetry until his retirement in 1965. In 1969 Rakosi returned to Madison as writer-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin. Among Rakosi's many awards was a lifetime achievement award from the National Poetry Foundation.
This exhibit was created in conjunction with Felix: A Series of New Writing, a series devoted to providing an audience for new literary works by young writers.