We’re back after an especially long Fall hiatus. Next week I’m going to have quite an interesting update for you, a unique presentation inscription with importance for literary scholars. We’ll also be looking at how a little research can sometimes allow us to reconstruct a nearly complete chain of custody for a rare book, even if we only have a single piece of provenance evidence to go on. I had hoped to have that post ready for you this week, but first there’s a little more work that needs to be done.
In the meantime, it’s time for an update on the current state of MSU’s Special Collections Provenance Project. When I started working with MSU Special Collections staff to develop a system for uncovering and recording the provenance evidence of the books in their vault, I was tasked with writing a handbook for future Special Collections librarians and student employees to use. It’s been an ongoing project in and of itself over the past several months, informed by hands-on experience with a wide range of interesting books, and in turn informing how we investigate provenance moving forward. I’m pleased to report that the manual is about 95% complete, and will likely be published by the library before the month is out!
Here are some sample pages (All images and their textual content © 2013 Andrew Tenopir-Lundeen and/or Michigan State University):
When it’s completed, several copies will reside in Special Collections to aid staff in continuing the provenance work begun earlier this year. I’m pleased with how far the Special Collections Provenance Project has come in such a short time!
If updates on the Provenance Handbook aren’t enough to tide you over until next week’s more substantial update, here are a couple of fun doodles found in books in the Special Collections vault to keep you interested:
This drawing of a partridge (humorously misspelled and then partially corrected by the artist) can be found in MSU’s copy of Machiavels Discovrses from 1636 (XX JC143.M163 1636). Perhaps its creator was a Mr. Partridge himself? Do you think there might be any higher purpose in this doodle, or is it merely the result of boredom? Is there any clue as to a possible date for the drawing? What could we learn based on the handwriting style or the fading ink?
What about this illustration of a woman, found on one of the front endpapers of MSU’s The Vale-royall of England, or, The county palatine of Chester illustrated (XX folio DA670.C6 K5 1656)? Can you say anything about the medium of this drawing? Is there anything we can say about its possible date? Whether or not these drawings give us any useful information about the provenance of these particular volumes, they do illustrate a fairly common feature in book ownership, and they show us that in some sense, people haven’t changed all that much.
See you next week!