New Acquisitions in Renaissance printing

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections has a long history of collecting the output of the major French humanist printers of the 16th century. Our vaults hold extensive collections of the work of the Estienne (Stephanus) family, Simon de Colines, Josse Badius Ascencius, and Christophe Plantin. These printers helped spread Renaissance and humanist learning throughout Europe, most often through the output of their printing presses, but sometimes through their own work as scholars and textual editors. They issued Greek and Latin texts in new, updated editions based on recently-discovered manuscripts. They also printed new works by scholars across Europe in many subjects, including Biblical studies, language and literature, medicine, and science. Special Collections actively acquires examples of these printers’ works with an eye to documenting their impact on European history and culture as well as the history of printing and typography.

This post features a few recent acquisitions: first, two examples printed by Simon de Colines (whose press was active in Paris, 1520-1546). Colines likely studied at the University of Paris and worked at the press of Henri Estienne. When Estienne died in 1520, Colines married his widow and assumed management of the press until the oldest Estienne son, Robert, could take over the family business. Colines then set up his own shop nearby and continued to establish his stepsons in the printing trade.

Colines’ “Satyr” pressmark on the title page of an edition of Lucan, 1528.

The 1528 edition of Lucan was the first book printed in Colines’ italic typeface.

Illustrated title page of Bovillus’ Liure singulier & vtile touchant l’art et pratique de geometrie (Colines, 1542).

Next, two new acquisitions from the press of Christophe Plantin (active 1545-1589). French-born Plantin apprenticed as a bookbinder, setting up shop in Paris in 1545. In 1548, he moved the major commercial center of Antwerp, and quickly gained acclaim as a binder. He expanded his business to publishing, printing, and typefounding. Plantin’s books found markets in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Title page to a Dutch-French-Latin dictionary edited and printed by Plantin between 1567 and 1573.

A page spread from Rembert Dodoens’ “Stirpium historiae” printed by Plantin in 1583. This botanical work features extensive woodcuts by Flemish artist Pieter van der Borcht.

Johannes Kepler at 450

During late 2021, libraries, museums and universities around the world celebrated the 450th anniversary of the birth of astronomer Johannes Kepler. Kepler was born December 27, 1571 near Stuttgart in modern Germany.

Kepler is best known today for his three laws of planetary motion, developed from years of studying the motion of the planet Mars. He was able to improve on the Copernican model of the solar system by describing how planets move around the sun in elliptical orbits. Kepler also formulated the mathematical rules which govern the speed and size of a planet’s orbit.

Kepler described his laws of planetary motion in two different books, Astronomia nova (New Astronomy, 1609) and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae (Summary of Copernican Astronomy, 1618). The L. Tom Perry Special Collections owns copies of both titles, along with a number of other early works by Kepler.

Celebrating Dorothy Wordsworth

Christmas Day 2021 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of writer Dorothy Wordsworth, younger sister of poet William Wordsworth. Dorothy’s reputation as a writer was long overshadowed by her brother, but with the publication of her diaries and letters in the mid-twentieth century, scholars and critics have re-evaluated the importance of her writing and her contributions to the Romantic movement.

Facsimile of a page from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals, edited by Ernest De Selincourt.

Dorothy was a keen observer of nature, people, and the landscapes she encountered at home and in her travels. Her journals have often been studied for the relationship between Dorothy’s journal entries and William’s poetry. Dorothy’s own travel writings, such as her “Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland” and her description of ascending Scafell Pike, have also garnered the attention of modern scholars, as has her correspondence with other Romantic writers in the Wordsworth circle.

The Rowe Collection of William Wordsworth actively collects the work of Dorothy, including published editions of her writing, and biographies, criticism, and other secondary works. Researchers can find out more on the Rowe Collection website under the Dorothy Wordsworth tab.

Student exhibit on Books of Hours

Exhibit posterDr. Elliott Wise’s Fall 2021 Art History 490/540 class are guest curators of the newest exhibit in Special Collections. “The Book and the Body” showcases the students’ original research using images from Special Collections’ printed and manuscript Books of Hours. The exhibit examines how early readers would have interacted emotionally, spiritually, and physically with these illustrated books within the context of everyday devotional practices.

“The Book and the Body” will be on display in the reading room now through January 31, 2022.


This week marks the 150th anniversary of the appearance of the first installment of George Eliot’s Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life. Often considered to be one of the greatest novels in English literature, Middlemarch was serialized in eight parts between December 1871 and December 1872.

Middlemarch originated from two different writing projects which Eliot (the pen name of Mary Ann Evans) developed in 1869 and 1870. In early 1871, she began incorporating them together, but the novel soon began to outgrow the typical three-volume structure favored by Victorian publishers. Eliot and her partner George Henry Lewes suggested to her publisher Blackwood that the new novel might be issued in eight rather than three parts. The publishers agreed to this plan; the first five volumes were issued every two months and the final three volumes were issued monthly.

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections owns a first edition copy of Middlemarch in the original parts. An early owner had the original paper wrappers mounted onto cardboard covers and bound each volume with a matching green leather spine. Can you find the owner’s signature on the covers in this photograph?

Stephen Crane

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of American writer Stephen Crane. While Crane’s reputation suffered for several decades after his death, his writing had a strong influence on later 20th century writers. Today he is recognized as a major figure in American literature, particularly as a representative of late 19th century Naturalism.

Crane began writing in his teens. He eventually dropped out of college to pursue writing professionally, producing short stories and reporting for newspapers and other periodicals. He soon began writing novels and poems as well as expanding his journalism career. His poetry was initially panned by critics, but The Red Badge of Courage, his second novel, was widely acclaimed and sold well. Crane spent several years traveling the world as a war correspondent and publishied several more books of stories and poems before succumbing to tuberculosis at age 28.

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections contains complete run of Crane’s trade publications from 1895-1903, from The Red Badge of Courage (first edition pictured above) and Maggie: A Girl of the Streets to the posthumously-published Last Words and The O’Ruddy. The Will Bradley cover design for Crane’s second book of poetry, War is Kind, is shown below.

Gothic novels and other tales of terror

Looking for some Halloween reading suggestions? We bring you a grim and grisly new addition to the Victorian Collection: the 1847 anonymous Gothic novel The Mysterious Avenger. Issued by a Yorkshire publisher, this cheaply produced “penny dreadful” features everything a reader might expect in a modern horror thriller. Spooky locales? Sinister characters? The supernatural? Revenge? Torture? Murder? Blood and gore? All to be found in The Mysterious Avenger.


Other penny dreadfuls and Gothic/horror novels can be found in the library collections by using the advanced search feature and searching the genre field for the terms “penny dreadful,” “gothic fiction,” “horror fiction,” or “street literature.”

Archive Classics Series: BRIGHAM YOUNG (1940) — Friday, October 22, 7pm – Library Auditorium

This is the first film to be presented in the ARCHIVE CLASSICS series.

This series features the presentation of cinematic gems held in the BYU MOTION PICTURE ARCHIVE.

These films are esteemed to be of particular importance to BYU Students, focusing on depictions, representations, and expressions of latter-day saints in the medium of the cinema.

The plan for the series is to hold one screening per academic semester and include a presentation that will place them in their time and context.

Producer Darryl F. Zanuck viewed the trek west by latter-day saints as a fantastic epic fit for the big screen. Glossing over sticky points, especially polygamy, the production is one of the most sympathetic to early Mormon history and is an absolute milestone for the Church’s public image in the 20th century.

There is incredible history with this film, and too much to put in a blog post. Numerous articles have been written about this film and its influence and impact.

Come see it with a crowd and hear from James D’Arc, former curator of the BYU Motion Picture Archive who knows the film and its importance backwards and forwards.

This is one you don’t want to miss!

Friday, October 22, 7pm – Library Auditorium

A Halloween exhibit

From October 13-31, Special Collections reprises the “Thrills and Chills in Cloth” exhibit for Halloween. It features some particularly spooky 19th and 20th century books from our Rare American Literature and Victorian and Edwardian collections.

The exhibit demonstrates how British and American book designers took advantage of new technologies to stamp full-color images into cloth bindings. The exhibit features some famous titles of mystery and suspense, like Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, as well as forgotten titles with eerie cover images.

History of the Doctrine and Covenants exhibit

It’s that time of year again!  Our annual “History of Doctrine and Covenants” exhibit is on display now in L. Tom Perry Special Collections. This exhibit takes the viewer through the history of the Doctrine and Covenants, from handwritten manuscripts to being published in book form in 1835. Later editions with significant additions or deletions are also displayed, including the 1844 edition (added the section on the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844, along with seven other revelations), the 1876 edition (added Section 132 on plural marriage, along with 26 other revelations), and the 1921 edition (removed the Lectures on Faith, which had been there since 1835). Also shown is an 1835 letter from Oliver Cowdery to Newel K. Whitney regarding original copies of a revelation, and James E. Talmage’s journal where he documents revisions he was asked to make in 1921 as part of the Doctrine and Covenants Committee.

In addition, come see the Library’s copy of the Book of Commandments (1833), which is rarely on display, and some information about Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, one of the young girls who helped save pages of the Book of Commandments when the press in Independence, Missouri, was destroyed by a mob.

This exhibit will be on display in the Reading Room in Special Collections until the end of November 2021. Come see this popular exhibit and learn more about this significant book of modern day scripture!

Note: Because this exhibit is in our Reading Room, visitors must remove all coats and bags and store them in a locker available on-site.

Can’t make it in person? No problem! Knowing that many may not be able to see this exhibit in person for various reasons, we have created an online version of this exhibit: This includes additional content not found in the physical exhibit, including information about The Evening and Morning Star (1832) and additional manuscript revelations.

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