Whether it’s a rare book printing found at long last or piece of ephemera found in an archival collection by chance, those who visit the University of Houston Special Collections almost always find something they cannot wait to share with others. Here we celebrate what makes the University of Houston Special Collections so special–our Favorite Things.
Today Sara Craig, University Archives Student Assistant, offers us one of her favorites.
One of my favorite things in the UH Special Collections is the series of 13 volumes of the Narrative of the expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan donated by Maury Maverick, a Texas Congressman in the late 1930s. The Narrative itself was compiled from the journals and notes of Commodore M. C. Perry and his officers during a trip to Asia from 1852 to 1854, first printed commercially in 1856. What makes this particular set so fantastic is the care that went into the binding and creation of each volume. Each individual book is unique, with a soft cover Japanese four-hole stab-bound (Yotsume Toji) book ensconced in a tri-fold hardcover case. These books are considered to be extra-illustrated, that is the creator of the books took the narrative and added in extra pages containing maps, prints, newspapers and other ephemera before rebinding, creating a unique and unusual set of books.
Extra-illustrated books were an unusual fad that was popular in the late 18th to early 19th century in England and the United States. Collectors of extra-illustrated books would pay to have an original printed book taken apart and rebound with added letters, maps, prints and pages from other books. Often the rebound books would be encased in gilt and leather bindings. Occasionally the extra-illustrations in a book refer to sketches, drawings and small paintings included in an original binding of a book.
Some of the extra information added, including the newspapers, deal with the aftermath of World War Two and the signing of the treaty with Japan. There are also items of a personal nature included, a letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Maury Maverick and personal letters from President Truman and his wife, Bess Truman, to Maury Maverick and his wife. Other items appear to be ephemera gathered by Mr. Maverick during his travels in Asia, postcards, Christmas cards and woodblock prints.
What first intrigued me about these books, however, was not the information contained within. The visual appeal of the books is obvious. The beautiful book cloth covering each individual volume, each a different pattern, some small and woven, others either created using a wax-resist technique or hand-printed to appear so, is eye-catching as you walk down the aisle in the book stacks. Once you open each volume, the actual bound books are covered in a completely different and unique book cloth that complements the exterior case. Some of the interior book covers have areas of hand-embroidery; others appear to be hand-printed.
For individuals who are interested in Asian history and culture, both historic and more recent, these volumes are particularly wonderful resources. They are also nice examples of extra-illustrated books, of interest to individuals with an enthusiasm for unusual books or artists books. Even fans of scrapbooking will find looking through this set of books might give them ideas for future projects.
If you have not visited the M.D. Anderson Library recently, you should know that right now we have quite a bit we would like to show you.
Here at the University of Houston Special Collections we continue to shine light on the fruits of research’s labor. Our mini-exhibition, “From Our Collections…” is currently featuring a rotation of three new works that may be viewed at the entrance to Special Collections in the Aristotle J. Economon, Hanneke Faber & Andrew J. Economon Elevator Lobby exhibit space on the second floor. Now highlighting the breadth and variety of research potential contained in our collections are the following:
Incredible Tretchikoff: Life of an Artist and Adventurer, Boris Gorelik (2013); featuring research from the Cruiser Houston Collection.
The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941, Bernadette Pruitt (2013); featuring research from the Oral Histories – Houston History Project.
In addition, Pat Bozeman’s exhibit, “1914-2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years — World War I,” continues it’s run at the foot of the Morrie & Rolaine Abramson Grand Staircase on the first floor of the M.D. Anderson Library. Timed in part to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the armistice, the exhibit features maps, poetry, prose, and propaganda representing a number of the Great War’s belligerent nations.
Also on the first floor you can find the celebrated “Nina Vance and The Alley Theatre: A Life’s Work,” a collaborative curatorial effort carried out by our own Stacey Lavender along with Catherine Essinger, Librarian for UH’s Architecture & Art Library. The exhibit chronicles the people, plays, and places that have made the Alley Theatre what it is today.
Finally, if you have visited us before here on the second floor, you have no doubt experienced our USS Houston permanent exhibition. Pulling letters, photographs, artifacts, and more from our popular Cruiser Houston Collection, the exhibit illustrates the long peacetime and wartime history of a ship that earned the nickname the “Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast” and the sailors who served on her.
But wait, there’s more! Can’t make the trip to campus? I’d be remiss if I failed to mention our growing list of online exhibitions, open 24/7, 365 days a year. A couple of my favorites are UH Homecoming Through the Years, where curators Matt Richardson and Sara Craig draw from our rich University Archives to tell the story of our homecoming traditions, and From American Football to ZZ Top: A History of Robertson Stadium, that highlights the history of the 70 year old stadium that was demolished in 2012 to make way for the new TDECU Stadium.
More information regarding our exhibits, past and present, can be found online here. Hope to see you soon!
The University of Houston Special Collections recently hosted the Sea Cadet Corps Katy Division for a day of discovery and insight into the history of the USS Houston. The Sea Cadets are a non-profit youth program for Americans ages 11 through 17, committed to teaching leadership abilities to young people while broadening their horizons through hands-on military training. Cadets in attendance included new members as well as veterans of the Corps.
Julie Grob, Coordinator for Instruction and longtime caretaker of our USS Houston archival collections, invited the cadets to participate in a scavenger hunt to locate special items in the library’s USS Houston permanent exhibit and then shared the story of the USS Houston (CA-30) and her crew with them. The cadets were fascinated to learn about the hardy volunteer crew who served on the Houston during World War II, many of them tragically becoming prisoners-of-war under the Japanese for three and a half years.
We are so pleased to be able to host the Sea Cadets and provide this look into the Navy’s history and look forward to doing more of the same in the future. Those interested in naval history or the story of the USS Houston are encouraged to visit and experience the exhibit for themselves. While here, be sure to check out our archival collections. Unable to make it to campus? Remember that we continue to grow our online access for researchers through our Digital Library collections, including the USS Houston (CA-30) Photographs, the Lt. Robert B. Fulton USS Houston Letters, the William Slough USS Houston Letters, and the USS Houston Blue Bonnet Newsletters.