Friday, February 03, 2017

Visiting rare book collections

While traveling, I always try to visit different libraries and see their rare and special collections.  This week wile in Miami, I stopped in to see a former rare book student. She took me to the special collections at Florida International University. They have a fine collection of 17th century books about Spain and the Spanish in the New World. Most of all, the have A fine collection of books about early Florida.

Donated by a local business man, many of the books are bound in vellum or leather. All the paper is rag, of course, and all printed in the hand-press period. Magnificent!

For students, visiting special and rare collections means they can touch, feel,examine and explore rare books. It is an opportunity to learn what rag paper feels like, to see signature marks, and understand first hand how books are constructed. You can see how signatures go together and what catchwords rwally do, which is help the reader read continuously as pages are turned. Those catchwords also help the printer and binder get the pages into the correct order.

As we continue to examine books, we will see many examples of printing. Alas these conventions are lacking in perfect bound, modern printed books, and of course books.