In the Rubenstein Library, sometimes we primarily judge books by their covers, be they bejeweled, finely bound, or otherwise interestingly decorated. And sometimes we certainly do not. Case in point: the book below.
The Library wouldn’t acquire most copies of the third edition of Langston Hughes’s Shakespeare in Harlem, especially not a copy without its original dust jacket and rather heavily worn. But this was no ordinary copy. This appears to be Hughes’s own copy of the last edition of this book issued during his lifetime.
Not only that, Hughes made changes to fifteen of its poems, some of them dramatic shifts in the tone, rhythm, length, or meaning of the text.
The copy recently turned up in a sorority house at Lincoln University, from which it was sold at auction and entered the rare book trade. Much about the volume remains to be discovered. The changes that Hughes made in this volume have not been published or incorporated into any of the later editions of Hughes’s collected works or poems.
To celebrate the holiday season this week, we’re highlighting a few of the many wonderful books that the Rubenstein Library has received as gifts over the past year. We are truly grateful for the generosity of our donors. A hearty “Happy holidays” and thanks and to all of those who have contributed to making 2013 a wonderful year for the Rubenstein Library!
Richard Heitzenrater, William Kellon Quick Professor Emeritus of Church History and Wesley Studies in Duke’s Divinity School, donated a number of books in the fields of law, religion, and literature to the Rubenstein Library this year. Among them is an early printing of the Magna Carta and other laws of England, Magna Charta cum Statutis tum Antiquis tum Recentibus, published in 1587 by Richard Tottell, the foremost printer and bookseller of law books in Elizabethan London.
A rare and important book in any condition, the copy donated by Prof. Heitzenrater is particularly notable for its unusual format: the paper is much larger than in typical copies of the book, and the printing confined to one upper corner of each page, as seen on the title page below.
This format allowed for very large margins in which those in the legal professions could record their notes and cite additional or updated statutes. Indeed, this copy contains many early (probably seventeenth-century) handwritten notes and citations throughout the text.
Our thanks to Prof. Heitzenrater for this important document of the Elizabethan era!
We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012. Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week. All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!
Quintilian, Institutiones Oratoriae: This 1482 incunable (or book printed in Europe before 1501) printed in Tarvisio, Italy, is a rare edition of one of the great Renaissance guides to rhetoric. The remarkable copy now at Duke is unique, bearing the extensive handwritten annotations of a 16th-century scholar, Augustino Pistoia (or Agostino da Pistoia). In addition, Pistoia drew two self-portraits at the end of the text, and noted the date on which he finished reading the work: “On the 20th of October [?] 1583 I Augostino Pistoia have read this book by Quintiliano under the teaching of mag. Pompeo Gilante my master/ 1583 1584.”
Edith Ella Baldwin Papers: Born in 1870 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Ms. Baldwin was an artist, craftswoman, and author. Frustrated in her early attempts to publish her writings, Baldwin decided instead to keep one copy of each of her works for posterity, making a binding for each herself. The collection consists of 38 unpublished volumes of stories, novels, poetry, lecture notes, and family history, including a novel about sex education for women, diary excerpts describing her visits with painter Mary Cassatt in 1890s Paris, and copies of letters from her aunt, Ellen Frances Baldwin, dating from 1848 to 1854. Edith Baldwin’s writings tend to cover timeless themes of religion and love, although many compositions feature contemporary issues such as automobiles, labor strikes, and women’s rights. The Baldwin Papers add to the rich body of materials documenting women’s literary expression in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.