Category Archives: Printing History and Book Arts

Come in and look more closely!

The premise of the current exhibition “Mirror of Humanity: Seeing Ourselves in Playing Cards” is that the imagery used on playing cards tells us a lot about how we have viewed ourselves in the past. As an example, consider the deck The Forbidden City: Pekin & Chinese Views (Los Angeles, CA: Grimes-Stassforth Stationery Co., 1901). From a distance, it is a somewhat grey collection of stock views. But when we look closer, we can see some sights ripped from the headlines, and a set of attitudes from a specific moment in time. The deck was issued just after the Boxer rebellion, a war between anti-foreign Chinese forces and a coalition of Western powers including the United States, newly flexing its muscles as an international power.

The two of Diamonds from Field USA 0117

The two of Diamonds from Field USA 0117

In her guest label, Professor Amy Lelyveld describes many of the scenes depicted on the cards, such as the Two of Diamonds with the British Legation, one of the scenes of fighting: “It is shown here ‘after the Siege’ but with the protective barricade that was erected in front of the entrance and sandbags on the roof—intended to protect the roof from incoming artillery and catching fire–clearly still in place.”

 

The Joker from Field USA 0117

The Joker from Field USA 0117

It is the scorn of the victor which assigned the Joker to “the Chinese official authorized to act as a plenipotentiary in negotiating with peace with the allied foreign forces in early September 1900. He went on to be a signatory to the Boxer Protocol that required the Chinese Government to pay compensation—at immense expense—to the 8 Allied nations who resisted the Boxer Rebellion.”

Come in and see more of this deck, and the rest, from Argentina to South Africa!

 

 

Please join us on Monday, November 11, 2019 at 6 pm for a gallery tour, followed by a reception at Hex & Co., where we will announce the winner of a playing card design competition. Just sign up here.

The exhibition is open in the Kempner Gallery during RBML open hours until January 31, 2020.

Thanks for entering our Playing with a Full Deck Design Contest!

As the Halloween ghouls and goblins and geese came out last night, the deadline for our design contest, Playing with a Full Deck, also came to a close. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter!

Our panel of judges will get to work and choose a winner to be announced at a tour and reception for the exhibit, Mirror of Humanity: Seeing Ourselves in Playing Cards, on Monday, November 11th at 6pm. From 6pm – 7pm, we’ll have a guided tour of the exhibition with curators Jane Siegel and Kimberly Springer. Then join us from 7pm until 10pm for games, food and a cash bar for beverages with the contest co-sponsor, Hex & Company (2781 Broadway at W. 112th). Please register in advance.

A prize will also offered for a fan favorite selected by public vote. Visit the exhibition in the RBML’s Kempner Gallery to vote for a fan favorite (6th Floor Butler Library) from November 11-15, 2019.

And check out our Spotify playlist of cards-related songs from blues, hip hop, R&B and country!

Acquisitions | A book made with glass pages and other new titles in book arts

Click the tweets below to enlarge and see which new acquisition Curator Michelle Chesner stop in her tracks.,,

Becky Slemmons, They did not know that the books were already in our head, 2015.

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Contest | Playing with A Full Deck – design your own playing card!

Playing with a Full Deck is a competition for the most creative re-imagining of the standard playing card deck.

The competition accompanies the Columbia University Libraries’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library exhibition, Mirror of Humanity: Seeing Ourselves in Playing Cards.

The Columbia University community is invited to create a new playing card design. The contest invites thinking across academic subject areas, while also encouraging play and creativity. Contestants are asked to think beyond typical boundaries when imagining the playing deck of today and the future.

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What is this place? A short intro to RBML

That is the question we hear a lot at the beginning of the new academic year as students explore Butler Library and end up here, in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, aka “The Pink Palace.”

pink castle design and acronym rbml

Is there difference between a “castle” and a “palace?”

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is Columbia’s principal repository for primary source collections.  The range of collections in the RBML spans more than 4,000 years and includes rare printed works, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, papyri, and Coptic ostraca; medieval and renaissance manuscripts; posters; art; comics & cartoons, and oral histories.

Forming the core of the collections: 500,000 printed books, 14 miles of manuscripts, personal papers, archives and records, and 10,000 (and counting) oral histories.

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New exhibition | Mirror of Humanity: Seeing Ourselves in Playing Cards

Playing cards were once condemned as “the Devil’s picture book,” gaudy bits of pasteboard that encouraged sins such as time-wasting and gambling. Mirror of Humanity: Seeing Ourselves in Playing Cards instead approaches playing cards as mirrors which retain images of past perceptions of ourselves and others.

Whether commercial products made to appeal to buyers, or fanciful gifts created as souvenirs or advertising, playing cards are objects people at every social level, and in many parts of the world, use regularly. Mirror of Humanity focuses on imagery in playing cards and how they reflect the creators’ alliances and biases.

Cards made in Europe and the United States from the 16th to 21st century are arranged in categories reflecting positions on education, gender, race, celebrity, scenic views, war, politics and political satire.

Click through to hear select songs about playing cards and wheelin’ & dealin’! https://tinyurl.com/playing-card-playlist

The exhibition opens Augusts 26th and runs through January 31, 20120. Please join us on November 11 for a gallery tour, followed by a reception at Hex & Co., where we will announce the winner of a playing card design competition.

The RBML’s Fall 2019 Exhibitions

Book History Colloquium | Who made this book? Bookwork in the Global Supply Chain

18 April 2019 | 6pm | Room 523 Butler Library

Most any author can tell you who published their book, but how many know where it was printed? Or by whom?

This talk explores the nature of contemporary bookmaking amid the realities of a global supply chain, an increasingly casualized labor market, and digital workflows that effortlessly move digital files around the world. Continue reading

Book History Colloquium: Old Books as Digital Objects

13 February 2019 | 6pm | Room 522 Butler Library

early english manuscript

Photo courtesy sarahwerner.net

We are used to reading texts with our eyes—reading the words and images for their content (in fact, this is so obvious it’s odd to describe it). But we also read texts with our fingers—the feel of the materials, the act of navigating through a codex or scroll, and the feel of the weight shifting or paper folding as we move through the content all contribute to our understanding of the work we’re reading.

The guest speaker for this event is Dr. Sarah Werner, independent scholar, editor of the blog Wynken de Worde books, early modern culture, post-modern readers and the author of the forthcoming Studying Early Printed Books 1450-1800: A Practical Guide.

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