One of the perks of working in a university library is that you will regularly encounter some very strange and delightful things. The item that checked that box for me this week was the Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini.
It was pretty obvious why it came in to the lab for repairs. The cover to textblock attachment was way too weak for the size of the book.
The text held a number of surprises, though. This illustrated encyclopedia, written in some imaginary language, contains images of all kinds of crazy stuff. The illustrations cover everything from animals, …
… to fashion, …
… , to elaborate machines and architecture.
It even has some suggestions for activities to occupying your free time.
If you are a fan of mysterious illustrated books, like the Voynich Manuscript or the Rohonc Codex, then Codex Seraphinianus is probably worth a look. Once we’ve had a chance to reattach the case, of course.
This one came to us from Circulation this week. Fido is either anxious because her person went back to work, or is upset because her person is spending too much time on Zoom and not enough time on belly rubs.
Both are half leather volumes. Maybe the leather just tasted good? We may never know.
Finding funny notes or inscriptions in books from the collection is such a delight. Rachel came across one this week in this book of poems that we just had to share.
Readers who are Brontë fans may recognize this as the first work by the sisters to ever go to print. They adopted masculine-sounding pseudonyms to avoid, as Charlotte later wrote, being “looked on with prejudice.” The starting letters of the first names correspond, with Charlotte writing as Currer Bell, Emily as Ellis, and Anne as Acton.
Yesterday was my first day back in the lab since mid-March and it was a bit surreal. The university was still in full operation the last time that I visited the library, so I wasn’t quite sure how it would look these days. Here are a few scenes from my day:
The library building is still closed, it’s clear that a lot of people have been working hard to prepare for a phased reopening. I’m looking forward to working with collection material again – even if it’s just a few days a week.
Just before quarantine we got our new wall-mounted roll storage unit from the carpentry shop.
We have a larger stand-alone roll storage rack where we keep rolls of book cloth and Melinex. But we recently moved the encapsulator and it became clear we needed to move the Melinex storage closer to the new location. The stand-alone rack was too large for that space so Rachel researched wall mounted racks. Nothing “off the shelf” fit the space, so she worked with the carpentry shop on the specifications. The new rack stores two rolls and hangs high enough that one of our height-adjustable tables can be positioned underneath for ease of use.
Here Rachel is showing a chart of the Triboelectric series (right before we all remembered we could just share screeens 🙂 ). It’s nice to be able to connect with colleagues so easily, despite everything that is going on.
Today We Learned: Always read the label before opening a box from the History of Medicine collection. Moving aside the tissue paper packing, we were greeted by this sculpture a little too early this morning. We were not prepared for such a creepy surprise! Made by medical illustrator and sculptor Charlotte Holt in 1961, this hand-painted plaster relief sculpture depicts treatment of fetal skull and clavicle fractures. Holt’s attention to detail is excellent… which makes it all the more disturbing.
It’s so nice when folks come down to the Perkins Library basement to visit the lab, and this week we had quite a few visitors from very different parts of the campus community. Early in the week, around 20 incoming freshman came to learn about the conservation program as part of Project Search, a program designed as an introduction to undergraduate research at Duke. Then this morning, we were visited by a tour offered through the Duke Alumni Association.
It’s always a pleasure to share our work with Duke students (both current and former), because they are just so personable and naturally curious about the process of conservation and the library materials we have to show. Thanks for dropping by!