Opening June 18th, “Enchanted Vision” draws on the Arthur Rackham Collection held here at the RBML.illustration of a sprite

Rackham, a British illustrator illustrated 50 major works beginning with Rip Van Winkle in 1905, Alice in Wonderland, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Winnie the Pooh, and other English and American classics.

The collection contains 26 letters by Rackham and nine Christmas cards either specially designed by him or incorporating designs made for his books. There are also letters to Rackham’s biographer, Derek Hudson, from Winifred Wheeler, daughter of Walter Freeman, a friend who started Rackham on his commercial career. The manuscript notebooks, galley proofs, and a printed copy of Hudson’s Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work are included.

In addition, the Columbia University Library has a collection of 413 Rackham drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings, 30 sketch books, and about 400 printed books and ephemera.


Newly Available Collections – June 2018

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections newly opened by RBML archivists.word archive in script

El Diario/La Prensa Photograph Morgue, 1970-2006
“El Diario/La Prensa is the largest and oldest Spanish-language daily
newspaper in New York City, and the oldest Spanish-language daily in
the United States. The El Diario/La Prensa Photograph Morgue contains
photographs and associated materials kept as reference, or morgue,
files by the newspaper’s staff. It documents events and personalities
significant to New York City’s Spanish-speaking communities between
approximately 1970 and 2006.”

Norman Witty Cinema Collection, 1917-2008
“A collection of rare periodicals, books, and printed ephemera on
topics related to cinema history, assembled by the cinema enthusiast
and rare book collector Norman Witty (1941-2013).”

Society for Classical Studies records, 1868-2018
The collection was confusingly numbered and had various accessions in
multiple places; the finding aid is now accurate and up-to-date.

Development Foundation of Turkey (DFT) collection 1966-2005
“DFT’s two-pronged approach with human resources deveopment and
technical assistance that developed a single coordinated system
covering income generation, promotion of technical and social skills,
awareness building about environmental protection, assistance for
sustainable management models, institutional development of
communities, and advocacy for the rural households could be of
interest to the Columbia Library Collection and may provide ample data
for researchers and students interested in achieving a better
understanding of the socio-economic development in rural Turkey since

Rita Raǐt-Kovaleva Correspondence, 1965-1981
A small amount of correspondence of Rita Rait-Kovaleva (1898-1989), a
prominent literary translator, with Sara Ginsburg and Lynn Visson.

Summer travels with the University Archives            

Now that Commencement has passed and the campus has calmed, are you thinking summer about travel plans?

Here’s some inspiration from the University Archives: three travel diaries from three very different writers and from very different times and circumstances.

SS Bremen, Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-11081 / Georg Pahl / CC-BY-SA 3.0

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RBML summer hours and have a restful Memorial Day

Commencement has come and gone on Columbia’s campus. Bleachers are clattering down in front of Butler Library and RBML researchers are making their way into our reading room in a steady stream.

A few reminders:

  • Always check the RBML website for our summer hours.
  • We’ve put in place new security measures to make sure that our collections are safe and accessible for all users. These include inspecting personal materials before you leave the reading room.
  • You can complete registration and ordering materials before you arrive at RBML. This will help you know which materials need to be ordered in advance and which are readily available onsite. Our materials are clearly marked in red text if they are located offsite and need to be ordered in advance.

Enjoy the long holiday weekend!

cat under red white and blue fhat


CU summer housing: Lorca slept here

Welcome to the start of Columbia’s 2018 summer session!

We recently processed a collection of Columbia Men’s Residence Hall Registers and Ledger Books. The registers served as a directory of residents for each of the earliest dorms on the Morningside campus. Organized by last name and first initial, the books list the room number, mail box number, check-in and check-out dates, and a forwarding address. The “office boys” kept these registers at the front desk to note when residents arrived, when keys were returned, as well as for handling deliveries and other requests. On the inside pages, the books include contact information for area hospitals, cab companies and messenger services.

Columbia residence hall ledger with Lorca signature

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Shavu’ot: The holiday of the Torah

Moses receiving the Torah at Sinai (MS X893 J522, 7r)

The holiday of Shavu’ot is one of the lesser known holidays in the Jewish calendar.  It doesn’t involve obvious rituals, like eating flat crackers for a week, living in a hut in the backyard, blowing a ram’s horn, or fasting.  Shavu’ot celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and is celebrated by Torah study and scholarship (among other things).  There is a common custom to stay up all night studying Torah (and its myriad commentaries).

There are many prayerbooks in our collection that are specific to Shavu’ot, and include selections of various parts of the Jewish canon, including the Hebrew Bible, the Mishna, and the Talmud.  The image above is taken from an illustrated volume of special prayers recited in the seven weeks between Passover and Shavu’ot.  It has been entirely digitized and is available online.

Because of the custom to stay up all night studying the sacred texts, various books were written specifically for the night of Shavu’ot.  The tiny text in the book on the right (magnified below, although still quite small) is the Tikun Lel Shavu’ot.  Its text is essentially an abridged version of the entire Jewish canon, including the first and last line of every section of the Hebrew Bible and the Mishna, as well as additional kabbalistic texts.  The word “tikun” means “reparation,” and according to mystical lore, reading this text on the night of Shavu’ot is an atonement for the Israelites sleeping late on the morning when Moses came down with the Tablets at Sinai. 

Another example of a book for Shavu’ot was the Azharot Le-Shavu’ot, which we have in many copies and formats.  The Azharot contain a poetic version of the 613 commandments, meant to be recited on Shavu’ot.  One particularly interesting Azharot, from Carpentras, in France, includes a story about “the miracle that occurred…when the Carpentras Jewish community was saved from harm after a troop of armed men entered within the walls. A special Purim was celebrated in Carpentras each [year] to commemorate this episode of 1512.”  Another Azharot in our collection is written in a Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) version.

As with many prayers, however, the special liturgy for Shavu’ot is often included in broader Mahazorim (prayerbooks) for special days throughout the year.  On the left is a Southern Italian Mahazor from the 15th century, open to the beginning of the section for Shavu’ot.  (This manuscript has been digitized in its entirety, and is available online.)

The Biblical book of Ruth is read during the morning service on Shavu’ot for various reasons.  Her conversion to and acceptance of Judaism is a parallel to the Israelites’ initial acceptance of the Torah at Sinai.  Additionally, her grandson, King David, was born and died on Shavu’ot.  Because Ruth’s collection of wheat from Boaz’s field ultimately led to her marriage, an image of Ruth with wheat is sometimes pictured on marriage contracts (ketubbot), like this one from Corfu, 1782.  (A digitized image of the entire ketubbah can be seen here)

Featured oral history | Max Pruss, the captain of the Hindenburg airship

One can’t help but notice the explosion of podcasts available for download from sources both commercial and nonprofit.

The Columbia Center for Oral History Archives fields requests for permission to use excerpts from our oral history collection in radio and podcast productions. In addition to any restrictions or permissions that might apply, as Curator of Oral History, I consider the integrity of the project: will the oral history narrator’s story be served and/or augmented by the production?

A recent example of good use of our oral history collection is this story from the CBC’s podcast, The Hook. Max Pruss, air pilot of the ill-fated Hindenburg. Pruss sat down with, as it was called then, the Oral History Research Office in 1960 as part of our Aviation Project. For The Hook, Pruss’ granddaughter Viola, produced this documentary, Finding Max.

Hindeburg airship crash

Photo | David Erickson | e-strategycom | Flickr


Kent State shootings reverberated on Columbia’s campus

On May 3, the editors of the college newspapers at Brown, Bryn Mawr, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Haverford, Princeton, Rutgers, Sarah Lawrence, and the University of Pennsylvania agreed to publish a joint editorial condemning the American invasion of Cambodia and calling for a nationwide university strike to demand “an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Southeast Asia.” The editorial said in part:

“We must cease business as usual in order to allow the universities to lead and join in a collective strike to protest America’s escalation of the war. We do not call for a strike by students against the university, but a strike by the entire university— faculty, students, staff, and administrators alike.”


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