New acquisitions: Printing proofs for the Kelmscott Chaucer

Special Collections recently acquired five printing proofs of wood engravings from William Morris’ masterpiece, the 1896 Works of Chaucer. The illustrations were designed by Victorian artist Edward Burne-Jones, and then would have been transferred to blocks of wood by Robert Catterson-Smith and then engraved by William Harcourt Hopper. These proofs would have been created as drafts of creating and printing the entire page composition, which includes the illustration, woodblock borders, and type. The proof shown here corresponds to page 452 of the Chaucer, from “The House of Fame.” The proof has been initialed by Burne-Jones and includes small penciled comments about the image in the margins. The proofs are available for research in the Special Collections reading room, as is our copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer and other works from the Kelmscott Press.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

This week in 1519, Charles, King of Spain and Duke of Burgundy, was elected Holy Roman Emperor. Charles V succeeded his paternal grandfather Maximilian I (his maternal grandparents were Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain). Charles’ reign saw immense change across Europe, including the launch of the Protestant Reformation, major political and religious conflicts, and the Spanish conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires.

Special Collections owns a number of important works related to Charles V and his reign, including printed histories, laws, treaties, and a number of manuscripts and correspondence issued by the emperor or his government. This letter (Call number: VMSS 247), which is dated 9 March 1521, was written from Charles V to Rodrigo Ponce de León, Duke of Arcos. It mentions the Duke’s work to quell tensions in Seville, Spain during the Revolt of the Comuneros, a 1520-1521 uprising against Charles’ rule that was mostly confined to the region of Castile.

The Giunti and the Medici

As part of the History of Printing and Renaissance/Reformation Collections, Special Collections has acquired numerous examples of the work of the Giunti family, a prominent Italian printing dynasty of the 15th and 16th centuries. The family’s printing business extended across Europe, with presses in Venice, Florence, and Lyon and a book distribution network which spread from Spain to Germany. In Florence, the Giunti press was closely tied to the ruling Medici family, and printed many pamphlets and laws issued by the duchy. The law pictured here was issued by Grand Duke Cosimo I de Medici, who was born this day five hundred years ago. The portrait of Cosimo, also printed by the Giunti, comes from a pamphlet commemorating his funeral in 1574.




Julia Ward Howe

May 27 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of American writer and activist Julia Ward Howe. Howe is perhaps best remembered today as the author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but during her lifetime, she was acclaimed as a poet, lecturer, abolitionist, and advocate for the rights of women. She helped to found several women’s suffrage organizations and other clubs and advocacy groups.

Shown here is a commemorative item (VMSS 537) celebrating Howe’s birthday and the founding of the New England Women’s Club, which Howe helped to establish in May 1868. Howe has signed it and addressed it to Mrs. Mary J. Judah. The Greek inscription lauds Howe as a “Poetess/Philosopher/Philanthropist.”


Gifts from Queen Victoria

Friday, May 24, 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria. The Victorian Collection here at L. Tom Perry Special Collections contains a wealth of material about the Queen and her life, as well as a number of documents signed and written by Victoria herself. In honor of her birthday, we’re sharing a gallery of books from the collection once given by the Queen as gifts! Details about these items can be found in the bibliography of the David Magee Collection — just search on Victoria’s name.

Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”: The Unpublished Art of Maynard Dixon

May 31 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the foremost poets in American literature, Walt Whitman. To celebrate, Special Collections is exhibiting one of its most unique items from our Walt Whitman Collection: a suite of tempera paintings by Maynard Dixon, which were intended to illustrate a never-published edition of Whitman’s poetry collection, Leaves of Grass.

Dixon (1875-1946) created these illustrations between 1929 and 1933. He was living in San Francscio at the time and may have been encouraged in the project by the distinguished fine press printers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, who were working on their own edition of the book around the same period (the Grabhorn edition, which they considered one of their finest works, can also be found in Special Collections). The Dixon Leaves of Grass collection consists of 18 pieces, including seven tempera paintings measuring approximately 6 x 9 inches, and eleven smaller drawings in tempera and ink. Eight of these are on display in the small case exhibit on display in the Special Collections Reference area this month.


New exhibit to celebrate the builders of the First Transcontinental Railroad!


This month the sounds of train whistles and the puffs of steam engines will fill the air in Utah, celebrating 150 years since the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. We here at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections also wish to do our part in acknowledging this important historical event and its impact on Utah and the American West. Along with the current exhibit “Since the Golden Spike: 150 years of Utah railroad history” on display in our main gallery, we are pleased announce a new smaller exhibit titled “Road to Promontory: Planning and Building the Pacific Railroad.”  This exhibit showcases the amazing engineering and building feats it took to complete the First Transcontinental Railroad (aka Pacific Railroad) in 1869.

A focus of this exhibit is not only what was accomplished by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, but how, including the contribution of those, like the Chinese, Irish, and other minority groups, who have gotten little recognition over the past 150 years. This exhibit also acknowledges the impact the railroad had on this land’s native people. While the railroad allowed for safer travel to and through the American West, and boosted economic opportunity, it also spelled the eventual demise of Native Americans and their way of living. To best honor the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, it is important to recognize all sides of the story and all who were involved or effected in its construction.

Also shown are examples of various routes that were proposed for the Pacific Railroad, including an original map and several others viewable digitally on an iPad.  There are also handouts with lists of selected events to celebrate the anniversary in general, as well as events focusing on honoring the Chinese railroad workers. For other events , visit:

This exhibit will be on display in the Entrance Lobby to Special Collections until the end of May 2019. If you are looking for ways to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the completion of the TCRR this month, this is a perfect place to start. You may even see a “golden spike”!


New Book of Mormon Exhibit

We are pleased to announce a new exhibit now on display in L. Tom Perry Special Collections. It is titled “The Book of Mormon in Church History,” and it showcases early significant editions of the Book of Mormon, including an 1830 First Edition, and 1837, 1840, and 1920 editions, with explanations of uinique changes or corrections made. Also shown are various documents related to the history of the Book of Mormon, including a handwritten copy of the 1829 revelation to Martin Harris regarding the calling of Three Witnesses (now D&C); a journal kept by Hyrum Smith where he records selling copies of the Book of Mormon in Kirtland in the 1830s; and documents from the James E. Talmage papers related to his work on the 1920 Book of Mormon Committee.

This exhibit will be on display in the Reading Room in Special Collections until the end of April 2019. Come see this new exhibit and learn more about the early history of the Book of Mormon!

Art Nouveau Bindings for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, we’ve created a gallery of some rather gorgeous poetry books. The bookbindings shown here were all designed in the art nouveau style, and published between 1880 and 1910. Art nouveau features long, flowing lines, inspired by organic forms. It was popular in decorative arts of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods in both Europe and America.

BYU’s Ghost Scroll

One of the most popular items from the Japanese Rare Books Collections, Bakemono no e (化物之繪), also known as the Ghost Scroll, has been digitized along with a number of other rare maps, scrolls, and illustrated books from the collection in order to facilitate research for scholars worldwide. The Ghost Scroll was hand-painted in the late 17th or early 18th century, and it depicts 35 supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore (you may know the kappa, shown here, from the world of Harry Potter). The scroll has been studied both in the U.S. and Japan. BYU students recently created a Wikipedia entry for the Ghost Scroll — check it out to view and learn about each creepy creature!


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