Not My Job

This blog is “not my job.” Not any longer, anyway. As of today, I haven’t been paid by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a year. That is my explanation for letting this blog die.

I have recently read over all the posts I made to it, and I still think they’re interesting, informative, and nicely written. I regret that the list of Pennsylvania publishers from the collection’s Pa. Imprints Collection never got completely published. But other than that, I’m fine with it all.

There were difficulties at the State Library that led to my looking elsewhere for employment. And I’m very, very happy with my new job. We’re well supported (financially and otherwise). We have interesting things to do. We have an interesting collection to work with, on an interesting subject. There’s a building project that is funded, and will actually open on schedule. I have a nice place to live and a (usually) pleasant commute. What’s not to like?

One of the reasons this ‘Erudite and Eccentric’ blog stopped so abruptly was the paranoid attitude of the administration in Pennsylvania about information flowing in any channel other than the one that was strictly controlled by the administration. I am also free of that now. So I may be appearing soon at a blog near you (although I read today that young people are leaving blogs in droves, preferring the short attention span media of the tweet and its ilk).

Footnote of sorts: the most popular post on this blog … even today … is the one on Charles Dickens and fog. That’s just symptomatic of one of the things I always felt was wrong with the rare book collection at the State Library: that post and its subject wasn’t worth the pixels it was printed with to the head person there because it wasn’t about Pennsylvania and it wasn’t about Benjamin Franklin. There was no real vision, and the people perished.

UPDATE: Just today, Friday 27 April 2012, I had an email from the now-current “Rare Books Librarian” at the State Library of Pennsylvania. I had asked him “How are things going? Did the new space ever get up and running in a fully functional way?” His response: “We are still “in the process” of getting the space “fully functional”. Nevertheless, things are moving in the right direction—slowly.” Sigh! All I can add is ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Published in: on 12 March 2011 at 10:32 am  Comments (2)  

Three Pamphlets Among Many

At the library we’re all working away as hard as we can, trying to wrap up certain projects between now and the end of the fiscal year.

Still, I have to mention a couple pamphlets that I came across this week while cataloging bound pamphlet volumes. This particular volume had a number of temperance items, so I wasn’t surprised to see also this item:

The utility of ardent spirits: an address for an anti-temperance society / by Amicus Justitiae. Boston: Light and Horton, 1835.

But as it turns out, this is not actually an anti-temperance pamphlet of 32 pages. It is a satire. Read this, where the writer delineates the way that consuming strong drink and ardent spirits will prevent a family from running up debt:

A retailer of ardent spirits received an application from the wife of a man whom he was in the habit of supplying daily with large draughts of New England rum on credit, for some flour, sugar, and other necessary articles for the family, which she wished to obtain on her husband’s account. The retailer replied that ‘he could not supply her with those articles on the credit of her husband, as he should never get his pay for them, but if she would bring the money, he would be happy to furnish her.’ Thus you may perceive, the poor woman was prevented from incurring a debt which she had no means of discharging, and the family restrained from a luxurious indulgence in flour and sugar; and all through the influence of New England rum. (page 22)

Well, there you have it: a case of daily rum consumption keeping a woman from running her family into debt.

Then there’s the

Proceedings of the Congressional total abstinence society, at a meeting held in the hall of the House of representatives, Friday, February 25, 1842. New York: American Temperance Union, 1842.

They met at 7 p.m. right there in the Capitol. There were speeches. There were resolutions. There were testimonials. And, yes, the Hon. Mr. Wise of Virginia publicly signed the pledge.

And finally, I can’t resist adding mention of:

The man in the moon and moonshine in general: lecture for the benefit of the Charitable Fuel Society / by C.A. Adler, Providence, Nov. 20th 1851. [Providence, R.I.: Charitable Fuel Society, 1851].

I honestly don’t quite know what to make of this piece, which consists of 24 pages similar in tone to this:

The man in the Moon! Were I to deny the existence of such an individual, I should run the danger of being mobbed and stoned, or at least of being pronounced a German infidel, a dangerous disciple of Strauss; in the papal states the holy inquisition might take me up and burn me as a heretic; yet, though I have strained my eyes to the utmost, I never could discover any trace of him, and I have often thought it might be with him, as it is with ghosts and true love; everybody speaks of them, but very few have seen them. (pages 8-9)

Well, whatever, it’s here in our Pamphlet Volumes collection should someone want to work through the rest of it.

Published in: on 10 March 2009 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  


The title of this post is one of my newest vocabulary words.  I don’t believe I’d heard it before earlier this week when I cataloged a pamphlet from our Pamphlet Volume collection:  The Sloyd of America by Gustaf Larsson.

“Sloyd” is a Swedish system of manual training that focuses particularly on learning through wood carving, or — in the words of the inscription on the pamphlet’s title page — “Sloyd is tool work so arranged and employed as to stimulate and promote vigorous, intelligent self-activity for a purpose which the worker recognizes as good.”

It seems that between 1888 and 1890 a Mrs. Quincy A. Shaw was conducting “private experimental work” in some Boston public schools into the value of Sloyd.  Larsson’s pamphlet, with its many plates illustrating the products and plans illustrating an ideal classroom layout, is the result of Shaw’s experiments.

Larsson carried out a teacher training course in the philosophy and methods of Sloyd there in Boston.  At the time of the pamphlet, nearly 200 teachers had completed the course, “most of whom are now giving sloyd training to large numbers of children, as well as to adults, in public and private schools in widely distant parts of the United States.”

Published in: on 15 January 2009 at 11:28 am  Comments (1)  

Cataloging an Old Book

It was one of those books in the cataloging backlog that was easy to ignore: plain green cloth binding with a library call number gold-stamped in the spine.  Seemed to be early 20th century.  At some point it must have been removed from the circulating collection but never made it completely into the Rare Collections Library. 

But that title on the spine . . . L’Ami des Moeurs 1788.  Maybe that pointed to something interesting after all.  It did.

The complete title page transcription is: L’ami des moeurs, poemes et epitres / par M. R.D.L. de plusieurs Académies. A Philadelphie, et se trouve à Paris : Chez Cailleau, 1788.

Getting it back into our catalog and onto our rare books shelves proved to be an interesting bit of work.  This book turned out to be a volume of French poetry that doesn’t seem to be in too many places.  Only one, besides here in Harrisburg, as far as I could discover.

The first problem was identifying the author.  Just who was Monsieur R.D.L.?  And would I find him listed in catalogs as “R.D.L.” or as “L., R.D.”  Or not at all?  Looking in the OCLC Database turned up nothing.  So I googled the title.

 There was a single reference to the book title in a footnote of a scholarly article.  And the author’s name was given in full: R.D.L. was identified as “Renaud de La Grelaye.”  Taking that name back to OCLC gave me several items with the name in that form, and one in the fuller form “La Grelaye, Renaud de, 1737-1807.”  But taking that name back to the Library of Congress Name Authority File didn’t retrieve the name.  Maybe it appears under “Grelaye, Renaud…” or “de La Grelaye…” or…?  No such luck. 

But I could confirm the name and dates in an online French encyclopedia.  So I pressed on, looking for another bibliographic record.  Trying the catalog of the Bibliotheque nationale de France brought back nothing.  But then trying their union catalog gave me a copy in the Bibliotheque municipale: Dijon.  A single copy in all of France!  And none – according to OCLC – in the United States and the non-U.S. libraries in OCLC. 

Suddenly, this little 164 page book of poems seemed much more interesting than its cover let on that it might be.  So I went back to the article located via Google.  It was a Project Muse reference to an article by Henry C. Clark that appeared in the May 1998 issue of Eighteenth-Century Life.  Neither of which I have immediate access to at my library. 

Time to call on the kindness of friends.  I know a librarian at a nearby state university whose library subscribes to the Project Muse database.  Can she look at the article and tell me whether the article really says anything about my French book? Better than that: she sent me a pdf version of the article for my research purposes. 

But, unfortunately, the reference was as I feared, simply a mention of ‘my’ book in a long list of other titles making his point (that there were a lot of similar titles published in France at the time, all discussing the morality of luxury).  I could have tracked down Professor Clark to try to find out where he had come across the L’ami des moeurs, but I didn’t.  With his article I was able to come up with proper subject headings for a catalog record.

Now, the only problem left was that publication statement.  Was this book really published “in Philadelphia and available in Paris”?  That should be easy to nail down, what with all the bibliographic work done on early printing in Philadelphia.

Except that the title, author, and publishing firm do not show up in any of the usual sources as a Philadelphia imprint.  (Aside from the rarity of the item, whether or not it was printed in Philadelphia makes a difference to me for where I classify and shelve the book.)   Which led me to call upon the expertise of the rare books people (librarians and book dealers, mostly) on a listserv.  They came back quite quickly late on a Friday afternoon with confirmation that the “a Philadelphie” was a false imprint.

And that gave me what I needed in order to create a bibliographic record for this book in OCLC, export the record to our local catalog, and finish the processing of the item in order to make it available to researchers.

The only fly left in my ointment is that I cannot tell how or why we have this item in the first place.  There seems to have been at one time a page or two in front of the title page, pages on which there could have been some identifying information that is now lost.  This could even be one of our Alexandre Vattemare gifts, but his stamp is not on the title page and the title is not in the list of books from him which our state librarian published in 1854.  I’ll probably never learn how it came to be here.  C’est la vie.

Published in: on 17 December 2007 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pennsylvania Publishers in our PA Imprints Collection – Philadelphia “B”

Here is the newest installment on the preliminary list of imprints from Pennsylvania cities and towns. It comes from the online catalog of the “Pennsylvania Imprints to 1865″ collection in the Rare Collections Library at the State Library of Pennsylvania.
This is a preliminary list of the printers and publishers represented in this collection 1) who were working in Philadelphia, and 2) whose names begin with the letter “B”. I noticed in putting together this list that there were a number of items that we have cataloged under the printer’s name, when there is a quite different publisher named (or vice versa). At the moment I am hoping that the ‘other’ name gets picked up when we get to that part of the alphabet. And, as usual, there are other anomalies in this list.

Philadelphia  – Benjamin Franklin Bache; Benj. Franklin Bache – 1792-1798
Philadelphia – Printed by F. Bailey; Francis Bailey; Francis & Robert Bailey, et al.; F. and R. Bailey; Lydia R. Bailey – 1779-1814
Philadelphia – Lydia R. Bailey – 1808-1839
Philadelphia – Ernst Ludwig Baisch – 1774-1775
Philadelphia – Henry Carey Baird – 1861
Philadelphia – T. U. Baker, printer – 1839
Philadelphia – A. Bartram, printer; Archibald Bartram – 1804-1805
Philadelphia – R. Bell; Robert Bell – 1770-1784
Philadelphia – T. Belknap – 1832
Philadelphia – Edward C. Biddle – 1836-1837
Philadelphia – G. und D. Billmeyer; George and Daniel Billmeyer – 1814-1832
Philadelphia – John Binns – 1810-1817
Philadelphia – John Bioren – 1797-1827
Philadelphia – I. Bird – 1833
Philadelphia – Thomas L. Bonsal – 1831
Philadelphia – J. Bouvier – 1810-1812
Philadelphia – Daniel Bowen – 1839
Philadelphia – Will. Bradford; William Bradford; Samuel F. Bradford; S. F. Bradford; Thomas & William Bradford; Bradford; Samuel S. Bradford; T. Bradford – 1689-1848
Philadelphia – John Bradley – 1809
Philadelphia – T. Brindley – 1834
Philadelphia – at the Lorenzo press of E. Bronson – 1805-1806
Philadelphia – A. Bowman – 1817
Philadelphia – William Brown – 1811-1838
Philadelphia – M. Brunner u. Co – 1850-
Philadelphia – E. Buck – 1822
Philadelphia – P. Byrne – 1802-1810
Philadelphia – Benjamin C. Buzby – 1818
Philadelphia – Budd and Bartram – 1796-1803
Philadelphia – Bronson & Chauncey – 1803-1804
Philadelphia – Bansal & Desilver – 1837
Philadelphia – Bradford and Inskeep – 1808-1813
Philadelphia – Barrett and Jones – 1844-1877
Philadelphia – Francis Bailey and Thomas Lang – 1791-1792
Philadelphia – Bioren & Madan – 1795-1797
Philadelphia – Brannan & Morford – 1810-1811
Philadelphia – Brown & Merritt – 1809
Philadelphia – John Bioren and Thomas L. Plowman – 1804
Philadelphia – Brown & Peters – 1829
Philadelphia – Bartram & Reynolds – 1807
Philadelphia – William Y. Birch & Abraham Small – 1804-1806
Philadelphia – Bennett & Walton – 1807-1829
Philadelphia – Butler & Williams – 1844

Published in: on 16 October 2007 at 9:02 am  Comments (1)  

Hello world!

Welcome to

This is a fairly unofficial blog from the Rare Books Librarian at the State Library of Pennsylvania. I have been in this position for just under a month now and since my supervisor has told me that blogging about our work here would be ‘a great idea,’ well, here it is.

My intentions are to blog about

  • the new Rare Collections Library being constructed here in the historic Forum Building (part of the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, PA);
  • the holdings of the rare books collection (especially as I discover things that I think are especially interesting);
  • rare collections preservation and conservation issues;
  • other rare books and special collections topics, especially when related to Pennsylvania.

One more thing: the blog title. During one of the interviews for this position, my supervisor mentioned that if I accepted the job I would be “joining a line of erudite and eccentric predecessors.” As I recall it, I responded by opining that I could surely fill one of those roles and hoped I could fill the other, but left open the question of which was which.

Published in: on 22 November 2006 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment