Category Archives: Printing History and Book Arts

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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RBML is hiring a Curator of Literature

bookstore shelves with levitating book

This is not how RBML handles books. Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

We’re pleased to announce an opening here in Columbia University Libraries’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library for a new Curator of Literature.

The ideal candidate is an accomplished and creative professional with an MLIS or PhD in English, American Literature or related fields.

Primarily, the Curator develops, manages and actively promotes the use of RBML literature collections through programmatic outreach, awareness, public programs and instructional activities.

The Curator is responsible for developing holdings in literature in all formats (e.g., print and archives) through purchase and donation.

Key to the Curator position are archival and/or librarianship skills related to stewarding literature collections that are in place, prioritizing their organization, description, conservation, digitization, and security.

Though very broad in scope, RBML’s Literature collections concentrate around the history of publishing, “obscene” or erotic literature, poetry between the World Wars, the European realist novel, the Beats, African-American literature of the twentieth century, and contemporary poetry, as well as eighteenth-century belles lettres, the novel, fine press and artist books, and twentieth-century small press production.

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and strongly encourages individuals of all backgrounds and cultures to consider this position.

Please see the full advertisement for more details, qualifications and how to apply. PDF: Curator of Literature Ad

New exhibition | Persian Bookbinding

flowered wallpaper background

Following the introduction of lacquer-painting in the 15th century, bookbindings became a rejuvenated site for creative expression in Iran.

‘In the School of Wisdom’ presents over thirty examples, representing the diversity of the art as it developed from the late Safavid to Qajar eras and contextualizing it within a changing landscape of libraries and book culture.

hand drawn playing cards

Collections News | Albert Field Playing Cards go online

The Columbia University Libraries has digitized cards from nearly two hundred decks of the Albert Field Collection of Playing Cards.

The cards date from the 16th century through to 1801, and were mostly European – French, German, English, and Italian, though we slipped in one deck from a very new United States.

play cards of various suites and iconic figures

JT Humphreys, No revoke playing cards, Albert Field Collection of Playing Cards, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

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