Early to Modern: New Acquisitions in Special Collections and Stanford University Archives


Image: Engraved after a painting by Henry Fuseli
from John Milton's Paradise Lost. London:
Printed by C. Bensley, 1802.

The Stanford University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, held the exhibition Early to Modern: New Acquisitions in Special Collections and Stanford University Archives. This exhibition featured over 100 treasures of Special Collections, including antiquarian books, documents and objects from the Stanford University archives, and contemporary artists’ books. All items on display were acquired by the Stanford University Libraries from 1999-2003, with publication dates spanning the Renaissance through the first years of the twenty-first century. Early to Modern: New Acquisitions in Special Collections and Stanford University Archives was on view at Stanford University’s Cecil H. Green Library, Peterson Gallery, second floor of the Bing Wing from April 1 through July 15, 2003. The exhibition was free and open to the public.

The works in Early to Modern celebrated the diversity of materials collected by the Department of Special Collections in recent years. In the realm of rare, antiquarian books, this diversity was demonstrated not only by the wide variety of book formats, binding structures, and illustrations, but also by subject matter. Examples in the exhibition included Samuel Johnson’s Taxation No Tyranny; An Answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American Congress (London, 1775), containing Johnson’s rousing rebuke to the rebellious American colonists; John Milton’s Paradise Lost (London, 1802), a first edition publication with colorful, gothic-inspired plates engraved after Henry Fuseli; The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote (London, 1755), the first edition translation of Cervantes’ Spanish classic by Tobias Smollett, and Thomas Astle’s The Origin and Progress of Writing, as Well Hieroglyphic as Elementary, an elegantly illustrated and fascinating look at typography.

The archives section of the exhibition was rife with compelling elements of Stanford’s history and works by Stanford faculty and alumni. Included are Reverend David Charles Gardner’s typed dedication address for Stanford’s Memorial Church spoken in January of 1903 to a crowd of over 2,000; Emerita Professor of English Diane Middlebrook’s research notebook for her published biography of jazz musician Billy Tipton, a woman who lived as a man; and Hugh Kegley’s (Class of 1917) photo album of Stanford prior to the 1906 earthquake and his aerial shots of the campus taken in the 1920s.

Gems of modern art and contemporary artists’ books were also well represented in the exhibition, with the inclusion of Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs, optic and kinetic works of art by a giant of Dadaism; Julie Chen’s Evidence of Compression, a Flying Fish Press work with a fascinating, shell-like structure; Nods, a collaborative work with the poetry of John Cage and the design of Barbara Fahrner, and fine-press editions with original prints and illustrations by artists Leonard Baskin, Rufino Tamayo, Joseph Goldyne, Bruce Conner, Frida Kahlo, Peter Koch, among others.

LOCATION: Peterson Gallery, Green Library
Bing Wing, Second Floor
Stanford University, Stanford, CA