On July 2, the Burke Library participated in the Researching Early Modern Manuscripts and Printed Books NEH Summer Seminar. The four-week seminar was sponsored by the CUNY Graduate Center and provided an opportunity for 16 scholars to develop their skills in the area of bibliography (the study of books as material and cultural objects) and book history. In addition to instructional sessions addressing subjects such as codicology, provenance, and analytical bibliography, the seminar included visits to New York City libraries with distinguished special collections relevant to the study of the early modern era. The goal of these visits was to allow participants to learn about the many collections in the city and in particular to gain hands-on experience working with manuscripts and early printed books.
The seminar's visit to the Burke Library focused on the McAlpin Collection of British History and Theology. The McAlpin Collection is among the most significant of its kind, covering the years 1501-1700 and comprised of more than 19,000 items addressing the many theological, political, ecclesiastical, and philosophical controversies of the period. The collection was funded by David H. McAlpin and his family, and was developed early on by Ezra Hall Gillett, Charles Augustus Briggs, and Charles Ripley Gillett. Initially focusing on late 17th century Deism, the collection was soon expanded to include books, pamphlets, and broadsides from the English Reformation, Civil Wars, Commonwealth, and Restoration. The collection is remarkable for its depth and breadth, and researchers are able to examine important works in multiple editions, as well as multiple works by a particular author or pertaining to a particular issue or debate. Included in the collection are a number of very rare works, including an almost complete set of publications from the celebrated Marprelate controversy of 1588-89.
At the workshop, insights into the binding structures and conservation histories of items from the McAlpin Collection were offered by Alexis Hagadorn (Head of Conservation, Columbia University Libraries) and Jennifer Jarvis (Mellon Conservator for Special Collections, Columbia University Libraries). Several other volumes — including an incunabular Bible printed by Anton Koberger, a first edition of Foxe's Actes and Monuments, and several Luther pamphlets — were on display to allow participants an opportunity to explore the wide of range of bibliographical and historical evidence found in the Burke Library's special collections.