I have been working a lot lately with our LibraryThing catalog, which now holds the records for more than 1900 of our books, and is still growing.  Below are some quick snapshots of some of the more interesting things I’ve founded written or attached to some of the newest entries.

Old Virginia and her Neighbours, a history in two volumes published in 1897 (old, after all, is always a relative term).

Inside both volumes, there are mostly removed marks from the previous library to own them, and memorials to Edw. S. Munford, Jr., William Ball Munford, and Micajah Henry Clark, all of whole died in “The World War.”  A different bookplate appears to have been glued in over the their names and later removed.

Our copy of Arctic Cruise of the Revenue Steamer Corwin1881: Notes and Observations started its life as a gift with “Compliments of E. W. Clark, Chief Revenue Marine,” according to the slip of paper glued (somewhat crookedly) into its binding.  Both the compliments and the bookplate of the previous library have left their marks on the facing pages.

Finally, our copy of Aboriginal Rock Shelters and Other Archaeological Notes of Wyoming Valley and Vicinity also set of into the world with compliments, in this case from author Max Schrabisch.

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Other People’s Books, Part II

One of the recent additions to the VMNH Library collection is a copy of Part III of Monographs of the Diptera of North America.  (Part I was featured in this blog’s last post.)  It has collected an amazing set of inscriptions and bookplates as it traveled its route to our library.

The book was published in 1873.  This particular copy seems to have been rebound early in its existence, upgrading (as it were) from the paper cover to one of leather and cloth.  The spine has been damaged, which shows the paper used as the binding edge for this transition, which is the table of contents from the March 1875 issue of Harper’s Magazine. (The words Witt Clinton, Outlaw, Miss, Angel, Arcadia, Pernello, Hamlet, and Easy Chair can all be read, and match the list of articles for that issue.)

This copy was a gift from Baron R. Osten-Sachen, who translated it out of German into English and who would be credited as the preparer of Part IV, to a Mr. E. Burgess.  When the book was rebound, Osten-Sachen’s dedication (“with the sincere regards of”) and signature were cut out of the original cover and pasted to the first page behind the flyleaf.

Mr. E. Burgess has, in turn, written his name across the flyleaf.  The E is for “Edward.”  At the time this book was published, Edward Burgess was the secretary of the Boston Society of Natural History.   He would later become a professor of entomolgy at Harvard before a reversal in family fortunes in 1883 would send him into a new career.

That new career would see him design three yachts that won the America’s Cup in the 1880’s.  It would also be the career his son W. Starling Burgess followed him into. 

During the course of his career as a yacht designer, W. Starling Burgess would form a partnership with a yacht broker named Boyd Donaldson.  In addition to collecting W. Starling Burgess’s design drawings and donating them to the Mystic Seaport Museum, Mr. Donaldson would also wind up with Edward Burgess’s copy of Part III of Monographs of the Diptera of North America, as it is his bookplate that is just inside the book’s cover.

Finally, the flyleaf gives us one more piece of information about this book.  In the upper right corner, above Edward Burgress’s name, we find that someone, at some unknown point, sold this book and copy of Part IV (which has since been separated from it) for $10.00.

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Books in a Time of War

One hundred fifty years ago this month, the first shots of the American Civil War were fired in Charleston, South Carolina.

And one hundred forty-nine years ago this month, Part One of the Monographs of the Diptera of North America was published in the Union Capitol, Washington, D.C., by the Smithsonian.  

Diptera are flies.

The work had been accepted for publication almost a year earlier, in July of 1861, the same month the first battle of Manassas (or Bull Run) took place.   It was published the same month as the Battle of Shiloh. 

In 1942, the Geological Society of France published Maurice Leriche’s Contribution à l’étude des faunes ichthyologiques marines des terrains tertiaires de la plaine cotière atlantique et du centre des États-Unis; le synchronisme des formations tertiaires des deux cotés de l’Atlantique.  (Roughtly translated, Contribution to the study of marine ichthyological fauna of the tertiary rocks of the Atlantic coastal plain and central United States; the synchronism of the tertiary formations on both sides of the Atlantic.)

They published it in Paris, a city that was, at the time, occupied by the Germans.

In some ways, it’s quite remarkable that anyone was publishing works on fossil fish from the United States in occupied Paris.

And in other ways, it’s not. 

Science doesn’t stop, even when there’s a war on, and even when the topic being researched is not directly related to the war.  Discoveries are still made, and publications are still produced to share those discoveries.

The seventh edition of Dana’s System of Mineralogy, was published by John Wiley and Sons in 1944.  Like many books published during World War II in the United States, it included the disclaimer that it had been “manufactured in accordance with the recommendations of the War Production Board in the interest of the conservation of paper and other important war materials.” 

And while concessions in the manner of publication may have been necessary, the important thing is that it was still published, even with a war on.  It was published, and purchased, and used, before eventually making its way to the VMNH Library some sixty-three years later.  Where it can be still used by people making discoveries today.

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The Col. Howard A. MacCord Collection

Over the past twenty years, the VMNH Library has owed much of the growth of its collection to the kind support of donors.  Of particular note is Colonel Howard A. MacCord.  Col. MacCord, who was the first State Archeologist of Virginia, and who over his long life and career, built up an extensive collection of archaeological reference materials. 

Col. MacCord began donating these materials to the library more than twenty years ago, with his contributions providing a significant part of the library’s foundation, and enriching it over the over years with books, journals, and other materials.

We were very honored to learn after his passing in 2008, that Col. MacCord had chosen the VMNH library as the new home for the remainder his personal library.  Col. MacCord’s wife, Betsy, oversaw the transfer of several thousand books, journals, papers, reports, pamphlets, brochures, copies of articles, correspondence, and other items from her husband’s remarkable collection to the VMNH library in 2009 and 2010.

The sorting, processing, and cataloging of these materials has begun.  And while these tasks are far from being done, many of Col. MacCord’s books and journals are now available for researchers at the VMNH Library.    Items added to the shelves in March include:

David G. Anderson, The Woodland Southeast
Peter A. Brannon, Alabama Trade Bead Checklist
Christian F. Feest, The Powhatan Tribes
Gerald B. Fenstermaker, Susquehanna, Iroquois Colored Trade Bead Chart, 1575-1763.
Gerald B. Fenstermaker, Tennessee Colored Bead Charts
Gary L. Fogelman, All about the At’latl
William M. Gardner, Lost Arrowheads & Broken Pottery: Traces of Indians in the Shenandoah Valley
Debra L. Gold, The Bioarchaeology of Virginia Burial Mounds
Carl F. Miller, Appraisal of the Archeological Resources, Buggs Island Reservoir in Mecklenburg, Halifax, Charlotte counties, Virginia; Warren, Vance, and Granville Counties, North Carolina: October 1947
Rodney M. Peck, Indian Projectile Point Types from Virginia and the Carolinas
Peter P. Pratt, Oneida Iroquois Glass Trade Bead Sequence, 1585-1745
Cornelia Bruère Rose, The Indians of Arlington

For more books from the Col. MacCord’s generous donations, please see the tag “MacCord Collection” in our LibraryThing account, and watch for updates.

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Ants, Bees, and Wasps

Our entomology collection includes a book entitled Ants, Bees, and Wasps: A Record of Observations on the Habits of the Social Hymenoptera.  (The sixth edition, published in 1883.)  The book was written by Sir John Lubbock, whose name is then followed by an impressive — if somewhat mystifying, viewed from 130 years and an ocean away — array of abbreviations and acronyms: Bart. M.P. F.R.S D.C.L. LL.D.*

Sir John (who would later become Lord Avebury) was a banker, politician, and naturalist.  In 1911, Encyclopædia Britannica noted, “As an original author and a thoughtful popularizer of natural history and philosophy he had few rivals in his day.”  And in 1882, shortly before the publication of Ants, Bees, and Wasps, noted satire and humor magazine Punch depicted him thus:

The VMNH Library’s copy also includes a rather wonderful bookplate, naming it as the Queen’s Prize, obtained in the examination of the science schools, in May of 1884.

*Baronet, Member of Parliament, Fellow of the Royal Society, Doctor of Civil Law, Doctor of Laws.

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There’s a Book on That

There are a lot of books out there.  The VMNH Library includes about 5500 of them, as well as journals and other periodicals.  That means that if you read a book a day, it would take you just over fifteen years to finish everything currently in our collection, at which point you could start on everything added in those fifteen years.

And that would still be only a fraction of a fraction of the number of books in the world.  (The world’s largest library, the Library of Congress, has more than 33 million books and other printed materials; and they don’t have them all, either.)  So chances are, if there’s a topic you’re interested in, there’s a book on it somewhere. 

Take, for example, barbed wire identification.   We have a book on that: Antique Wire Illustrated: Identify Your Barb Wire: 315 Kinds of Barbed Wire that Fenced the West.

Published in 1978 by Antique Wire Sales, Inc., it features illustrations of more than 300 different barbed wires that were produced in the second half of the nineteenth century.   And while the book appears to have been created with barbed wire collectors in mind, it also provides a useful tool for archaeologists, as the particular type of barbed wire found at an archaeological site can help to determine that site’s date.

To learn more about the books in the VMNH Library collection, please contact us or visit our account at LibraryThing, where you’ll find listings for Antique Wire Illustrated and more than 1200 of our other books.

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Other People’s Books

The vast majority of the books in the VMNH library belonged to someone else’s library (an organization or an individual) before they made their way to us.  They have been the gifts of kind and generous donors, and many of them contain marks of their passage from hand to hand that are a book’s equivalent of the stamps in a passport.

I find them fascinating.  They range from  previous owners’ names scrawled across flyleaves or title pages, to stamped or embossed names from other libraries, to elaborately designed bookplates.  There are occasionally messages or dedications in a book given as a gift, almost all of which raise more questions than they answer.

Case in point: A Textbook of Geology Part I: Physical Geology by Longwell, Knopf, and Flint (we have the 1939 Second Edition) and Part II: Historical Geology by Schuchert and Dunbar (we have the 1945 Fourth Edition).

The first of these contains a bookplate advising that “This book is part of the library of Kemble Widmer” and that “The true university is a collection of books.”  It appears that while he may have considered his collection of books a “true university,” he also attended a more traditional one, for glued onto the flyleaf is folded syllabus for Geology 101, Fall Term 1946-1947, for which this was the assigned textbook.


Part II, on the other hand, contains neither bookplate nor syllabus, but a handwritten message:

I confess to wondering if this “Secret Admirer” ever revealed himself or herself to Mr. Widmer.

And to finding the stories that the authors never set out for their books to tell to sometimes be as thought-provoking as the text. 

The VMNH Library often accepts donations of natural history books and journals in need of a good home.  If you have materials you think may be appropriate, please contact the library. 

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