Monthly Archives: October 2009

Too fragile to use?

What happens when a student doing a research project needs to use fragile, rare, and valuable materials from our special collections?  Thanks to the magic of digitization, we can provide them with access to these materials without harm to the originals.   Sometimes we need to scan the item ourselves, but frequently Google Books or the Internet Archive has already digitized the book.  In this case, all we need to do is add a link from our online library catalog to the full-text version of the book.   For example, a senior recently requested the use of James Pike’s “The Prostrate State: South Carolina under Negro Government”. When the book was retrieved from the special collections, we noticed that the first twenty or so pages had broken off from the text block. The student looked through the book very carefully, but it became apparent that the book was too fragile for use.  Fortunately, Tim Sprattler, who is in charge of the special collections, was able to find a link at Internet Archive and has added it to the library catalog record.  The result was a happy student, and a book that did not sustain further damage. Here is what the record looks like:

The Smallest Books in the Special Collections

Some of the smallest items in the Archive are currently on display in the lobby of the library.  One of these is a clay tablet with miniature writing dating from 2000 BCE, which was donated in 1930 by Benjamin F. Schlesinger, P. A. Class of 1892.   Also on display is the smallest book printed using moveable type.  The book reproduces a letter from Galileo to a lady friend, and was by C. W. Cannon, P. A. Class of 1904 .  Photos displayed with the book reveal the text inside, because the book is very fragile and cannot be shown open.    Mini Galileo Book005_lgAlso on display is our copy of one of five in a series of “the world’s smallest book.”  An accompanying photo reveals the text of the book, which is The Lord’s Prayer. The book was donated by Dudley L. Vaill, P. A. Class of 1927.  Another version of the Lord’s Prayer was found in the cubby holes of Bertha Bailey’s desk.  The prayer is inscribed within a small circle, in this case a three-cent piece, with the prayer repeated to fill the circle.   Finally, the display features a sermon book belonging to the eldest of the five Samuel Phillips which came to the Archive with the Phillips family papers. He wrote all his sermons in very small handwriting to save paper, and must have had excellent eyesight to be able to read them in the dim light of his church.