Birds and Fish of Japan

In March of 1852, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry received orders to command a diplomatic mission to Japan. Some 18 previous expeditions, 4 of them from America, had failed to breach the Japanese wall of isolation. And while the Perry expedition is famous as a diplomatic coup, less well known are the expedition’s contributions to the sciences of astronomy, hydrography, ethnology, botany, geology, medicine, ornithology, ichthyology, and conchology.

The three-volume report of the expedition to the U.S. House of Representatives, Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852, 1853 and 1854 under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by order of the government of the United States, was printed in Washington, D.C. by A.O.P. Nicholson in 1856. In addition to the narrative report, the set includes a multitude of charts, fold-out maps,  and illustrations.

Volume II of the set contains a myriad of reports on the agriculture, geology, medicine, biology, and botany of Japan. It includes these beautifully engraved color illustrations of birds, fish, and shellfish, as well as other engravings and illustrations.


Birds

Plate 2 _ Ornithology. Phasianus Scemmering II _ Temminck. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock Phila.
Plate 2 _ Ornithology. Phasianus Scemmering II _ Temminck. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock Phila.
Plate 5 _ Ornithology. Heterornis Sericea (Gmelin). On Stone by Wm E Hitchcock.
Plate 5 _ Ornithology. Heterornis Sericea (Gmelin). On Stone by Wm E Hitchcock.
Plate 6 _ Ornithology. Ixos Haemorrhous _ Gmelin. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock, Phila.
Plate 6 _ Ornithology. Ixos Haemorrhous _ Gmelin. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock, Phila.

Fish

Nat. Hist. Pl. III. No. 1 - Serranus Tsirimenara. No. 2 - Serranus Marginalis. Bayard Taylor del.
Nat. Hist. Pl. III. No. 1 – Serranus Tsirimenara. No. 2 – Serranus Marginalis. Bayard Taylor del.
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Nat. Hist. Pl. IV. No. 1 – Sebastes Marmoratus. No. 2 – Sebastes Marmoratus. H. Patterson del.
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Nat. Hist. Pl. V. No 1. Pelor Japonicum – Life Size. No. 2 – Sebastes Inermis – Life Size. No. 3 – Trigla Burgei. H. Patterson del.
Nat. Hist. Pl. VIII. 1. Serranus Urodelus. 2. Iulis Quadricolor. 3 & 4 - Iulis Lutesens.
Nat. Hist. Pl. VIII. 1. Serranus Urodelus. 2. Iulis Quadricolor. 3 & 4 – Iulis Lutesens.

 

Shellfish

Conchology Plate II. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate II. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate V. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate V. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York

 

Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China seas and Japan… is a part of the U.S. Serial Set, which is a series of over 14,000 volumes containing hundreds of thousands of numbered congressional reports and documents which have been published since 1817. Grand Valley State University houses this set in Special Collections & University Archives in agreement with the Grand Rapids Public Library.

Books Go To War

Armed Services Editions, 1943-1947

During the Second World War the paperback series known as the Armed Services Editions were distributed free to American soldiers, sailors, and airmen overseas.

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The idea for the program came from two Army officers and was further developed by the Council on Books in Wartime, an association of publishers, booksellers, and librarians.  This group was able to convince the armed forces, publishers, and printing firms of the positive impact that this initiative would have on the American men in uniform.

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Not sold or available in the United States, these paperback books introduced thousands of servicemen to the pleasures of reading.  Between 1943 and 1947, almost 123 million copies of 1,322 titles were printed.  All types of literature were available: classics, best-sellers, non-fiction, mysteries, and westerns, among others.

The books displayed here are from the Grand Valley State University Libraries’ collections and loaned by J. Randall Bergers.

Chained Books

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, books were valuable goods in that they were expensive to purchase.  One source mentions that one book was worth as much as a farm.  Being portable, books were easily subject to theft.  To prevent such occurrences, churches and schools developed a system of chaining books to tables, desks and lecterns in such a way that they could be read, but not taken away.

This book still has its sixteenth-century chain of eight links that is connected to a hasp, itself attached to the rear wooden cover.  The book appears to have been owned privately before it ended up as part of the collection of the English parochial library in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, which probably added the chain. Grand Valley State University Libraries purchased the volume in 2011, and it can be viewed and studied at Special Collections & University Archives.

Suetonius 1491 binding

Suetonius Tranquillus, Gaius. Vitae XII Caesarum. With commentary by Marcus Antonius Sabellicus.
Added texts: Marcus Antonius Sabellicus, Epistola Augus-tino Barbadico and Vita Suetonii. Ausonius, Versus. Sicco Polentonus, De Suetonio.
Milan: Uldericus Scinzenzaler, 19 November 1491.
Folio.  Collation:  a-f8 g-h10 i-m8 n-r6 s8 (-s8 [blank])

Suetonius, a Roman historian, was born ca. AD 70 and died sometime after 130.  He was a contemporary of Tacitus, another Roman historian, and friends with Pliny the Younger.  Suetonius was a prolific writer, but his most famous work is Lives of the Twelve Caesars.  It has always been a popular work, although it concentrates on personalities and ignores the generalities of the times and society, and perhaps relies too much on gossip, scandal, and amusing anecdotes.  No fewer than thirteen editions were printed in the fifteenth century.

Dell Map Backs

Dell Publishing was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte.  In the 1920s and 1930s it published a variety of magazines, including the so-called “pulps,” as well as comic books.  Beginning in 1943 the company began its foray into paperback publishing, which consisted mostly of reprints of hardcover mystery novels, but later included westerns and romances.

With its fifth book in 1943, George Harmon Coxe’s Four Frightened Women, the company initiated its ten-year program of putting a map on the back cover of these books.  These “scene of the crime” maps could show streets of a town or city, the plan of a country house or apartment, or a bird’s-eye-view drawing of the locale where the story takes place.  Some are not maps at all, but merely drawings that illustrate scenes from the novel.  This successful marketing strategy gradually ended by 1953; by that time more than 600 Dell map backs had been issued.  They are now highly esteemed by collectors.

A few examples from the University Libraries collection are featured here.  The wide range of front cover art should be noted; some are very well designed, while others are more typical of lurid and sensational pulp fiction.


 Mysteries

Spring Harrowing by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Spring Harrowing by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Romance

White Fawn by Olive Higgins Prouty
White Fawn by Olive Higgins Prouty
The Heart Remembers by Faith Baldwin
The Heart Remembers by Faith Baldwin

Westerns

Gunsmoke and Trail Dust by Bliss Lomax
Gunsmoke and Trail Dust by Bliss Lomax
Cactus Cavalier by Norman A. Fox
Cactus Cavalier by Norman A. Fox

Art by an Unknown Medieval Craftsman

Arv-Brv copy

Eusebius Caesariensis (ca. 263-ca. 339) was an early historian of the Christian Church who lived in Caesarea Maritima, located on the eastern Mediterranean coast in what is now Israel.  He became Bishop of Caesarea around 313 and was a prolific writer on many religious topics.  One of his many works that has survived is his De Evangelica Praeparatione (translated as Preparation for the Gospel) in which he attempts to prove the superiority of Christianity in comparison with all other ancient religions.

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There were six editions of De Evangelica Praeparatione printed in the fifteenth century.  Grand Valley State University Libraries’ Special Collections has the edition from 1497 printed in Venice by Bernardinus Benalius.  While not particularly rare, this copy has remarkable illustrated initials at the beginning of each of the book’s fifteen chapters and preface, all different and all executed with supreme skill.  These large blue initials contain fanciful birds, reptiles, amphibians, snakes, monkeys, and other creatures; the background of intricately interlaced red penwork also demonstrates the artistic ingenuity.  The final initial also carries the Christogram, the symbol used as the abbreviation of Jesus Christ; it combines the first two Greek letters in the name Christ (Χριστος), chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ).

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