Monthly Archives: February 2017

Behind the Stacks: Acts of the Saints

A piece of waste paper stuck to the verso of the title page in a volume of the Acta Sanctorum

In the course of preparing more of Burke’s rare books for preservation boxes, I came across a set of the Acta Sanctorum (published from 1643 to 1794) with each volume holding a small piece of waste paper behind the title page. It’s not unusual to find random scraps of paper stuck in the pages of our rare books, but this was curiously consistent in this 53 volume set. Looking closer, I realized these had been used to blot the ink from a library ownership stamp.

Underneath the waste paper is a stamp

Close-up of stamp that reads “Duplum bibliothecae Univers. Friburg. Brisg.”

The blotter has done its job

Reverse of the paper piece shown above, with signature marking “G7”

Another piece of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

Reverse of the paper piece shown above, with signature marking “G6”

Another view of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

Another view of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

From the stamps, it appears these books were formerly duplicates in the library at the University of Freiburg. I can’t help but picture someone, years ago in Germany, going through these books, stamping and conscientiously placing a piece of paper to blot the ink in each of the 53 volumes. Now, at the Burke Library in New York, we’ve carefully measured and fitted these books into sturdy clamshell boxes that will help preserve them for today’s and future generations of scholars. The pieces of waste/blotting paper are still there for now.

We welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library; to learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website.

A Word on Edward Robinson

Though perhaps less well-known today than some of Union Seminary’s recent faculty, Edward Robinson (1794-1863), whose papers have recently been processed by Rebecca Nieto, played several important roles in the early life of Union and in the broader world of biblical scholarship.

Edward Robinson — Source: Wikimedia Commons

A founding member of the faculty, Robinson was Union’s first Professor of Biblical Literature and served as librarian during the seminary’s uncertain first decade. Near Eastern archaeologist J.B. Pritchard — whose Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) will be familiar to contemporary seminarians — lauded his contributions to “Palestinology” in his landmark works, Biblical Researches in Palestine, and Adjacent Regions and Physical Geography of the Holy Land.

Robinson was also responsible for coordinating the acquisition of the approximately 14,000 works that comprised the original Union library. In 1838, while on a major trip to the Holy Land, he arranged for the seminary to purchase a large collection of books from biblical scholar and erstwhile Benedictine monk Leander van Ess. Today, that Burke Library collection remains a unique and important resource for scholars of fifteenth and sixteenth continental Europe, and contains many beautiful medieval manuscripts.

One of the most ancient sections of the present Temple Mount in Jerusalem is named for his work there. “Robinson’s Arch” is the remnant of a first-century structure located at the southwestern corner of that historic edifice and would have been a major point of entry to the upper temple complex. Over the past decade it has sometimes been used as a controversial alternative site of worship to the traditional Western Wall.

Robinson’s Arch from the west — Source: Wikimedia Commons