Category Archives: manuscripts

Chinese Telegraphic Codebooks and Cryptography

The Chinese codebooks were essential tools for encoding and decoding confidential messages in the age of telegraphic communication under the Chinese Nationalist governance. Messages exchanged between high level officials were often encoded to prevent information leaks. Unlike the codes in English, one might wonder how the Chinese encoded telegrams as its writing system is entirely logographic.

During the processing of the Li Zongren papers and the Wellington Koo papers, Chinese telegraphic code books were found in the collections. Since these individuals were prominent statesmen during the Republic of China period, one would be curious to know how were these codebooks utilized by and how these codebooks are different compared to other telegraphic codebooks.

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CFP: In Service to the New Nation: The Life and Legacy of John Jay

The John Jay Papers Project seeks paper proposals for a conference entitled “In Service to the New Nation: The Life and Legacy of John Jay,” to be held on September 24-25, 2020, at Columbia University. Dr. Joanne Freeman, Professor of American History at Yale University, will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. The conference coincides with a major exhibition of Jay documents and artifacts at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) and with the completion of The Selected Papers of John Jay, a documentary edition of Jay’s writings that appears as a seven-volume series published in print and digital formats. The current edition of the John Jay Papers Project commenced in the 1990s and built on the extensive collection of John Jay materials that RBML began amassing several decades earlier. The conference is sponsored by Columbia University’s Office of the Provost.

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Lo and behold: a new finding aid for the Wellington Koo Papers

Processing collections and creating finding aids according to updated archival standards gives RBML archivists the opportunity to discover anew our collections. In this post, Processing Archivist Yingwen Huang reflects on creating a new finding aid for the heavily used Wellington Koo Papers. Wellington Koo, a graduate of Columbia and a prominent statesman and diplomat from China, played a major role in positioning China in the 20th Century international political scene. Koo used this papers as the basis for his extensive (10,000+ pages!) oral history interview held in RBML’s Oral History Archives.

“I hope this record will contribute in some small way to a mutual understanding between East and West, and to an understanding of history.” – Speech on the presentation of the Koo oral history to Columbia University, May 28, 1976

At the age of 31, Koo was the youngest delegate in the Chinese Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. He was the key figure in speaking on the behalf of China in the direct restitution of Shandong province during the conference. He later went on to serve as the Chinese Ambassador to France, England, the United States, while representing China at the League of Nations and contributing to the founding of the United Nations.

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RBML’s copy of rare Galileo text appears in PBS’s Secrets of the Dead

Galileo’s sketches of the moon from Sidereus Nuncius, published in March 1610.

Perhaps you saw a familiar place in PBS’s new program on the forgery of the Galileo Sidereus Nuncius?

Segments of the show Secrets of the Dead: Galileo’s Moon were filmed here in the RBML. You’ll also be able to see mathematician David Eugene Smith’s true copy of Sidereus Nuncius, which is in the RBML collections. It turns out the RBML’s copy may be the only one in New York.

Missed the show’s debut? You can watch is for free, streaming online at the PBS website

Librarian Jane Siegel picks favorites from the RBML collections

The Current, a journal of contemporary politics, culture, and Jewish affairs at Columbia, stopped in to the RBML to speak with Jane Siegel, Librarian for Rare Books.

She’s all-around fount of knowledge about how so many of our rarities and oddities came to reside in Butler Library.

Read more about Jane’s career here in the Libraries and which items in the RBML’s vast repository are her favorite. Yes, we play favorites.

Pride Month and history in the RBML collections

Photo by Jiroe on Unsplash

Getting to tell your own story is a gift, but it means that you have to contend with other people’s stories, and I guess that can mean arguing, maybe for 50 years straight. And that’s O.K.  – Who Threw the First Brick at Stonewall? Let’s Argue About It

The RBML’s archival, manuscript, oral history and University Archives are full of materials from people who were out and proud, recently revealed queer collections and likely materials and people still somewhat closeted by historical forces and past archival practices rooted in homophobia.

You’re invite during PRIDE month, and every other month, to explore the collections we have on offer that begin to demonstrate the range of LGBTQIA people, voices and experiences. Some materials to start with include, but aren’t limited to:

Ephemera relating to the LGBT movement in Croatia // A collection of leaflets and cards and one button relating to the LGBT movement in Croatia. Several of the items were issued by Kontra or Iskorak, both based in Zagreb. //

And, by all means, if you come across items in our collections that show evidence of LGBTQIA histories, let us know so that we can update our records accurately.

Muslim World update

As a part of the Manuscripts of the Muslim World project, a team of librarians, faculty, students, and other experts from Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and the Free Library of Philadelphia are working together to catalog and digitize their libraries’ manuscripts in Arabic and Persian, along with examples in Avestan, Berber, Coptic, Ottoman Turkish, Samaritan, and Syriac. Manuscripts from the libraries at Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College are also being included. As texts, these holdings represent the flourishing intellectual and cultural heritage of Muslim lands from 1000 to 1900 CE, covering mathematics, astrology, history, law, literature, as well as sacred texts including the Qur’an and Hadith. As manuscripts, these unique objects also exemplify traditions of calligraphy, illumination, and bookbinding from this period, and carry traces of the many scribes, patrons, readers, and collectors who produced, read, and owned them.

…these holdings represent the flourishing intellectual and cultural heritage of Muslim lands from 1000 to 1900 CE, covering mathematics, astrology, history, law, literature, as well as sacred texts including the Qur’an and Hadith.

An example of the lacquered covers that typically appear on Persian manuscripts.

After the first year of the project, which is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, over two hundred manuscripts from the participating institutions are now newly available in digital editions on the OPenn website, with more added constantly. Over half of those are of manuscripts held in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which can also be searched in CLIO.

As the project continues over the next two years, it is anticipated that the online collection will grow to more than 500 manuscripts and 800 paintings from the partner institutions. This will include some manuscripts from the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary as well. Digital editions of Columbia’s manuscripts will also be made available as part of the University’s collections in the Internet Archive.

Updates on the project, including selected images, can be found on Twitter at @MMWProject.

 – Matt Haugen, Rare Book Cataloger, Columbia University Libraries