Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Collection | Black Journalists Oral History Project

Oral History master’s student and RBML graduate student worker, Kyna Patel, was part of the team that organized and processed a collection that documents important moments in black journalism in America.

The Black Journalists Oral History Project consists of interviews with journalists, editors, publishers, and various members of the black press about a wide range of issues. Conducted by Henry G. La Brie III in the 1970s, the interviews cover: aspects of running a newspaper (editing, printing, getting news, advertising, etc.), the Kerner Commission Report, the historical role of the black press, the white establishment press, and several other topics related to race and journalism.

yellow book cover for Perspectives of the Black Press 1974

Some of the oral history interviews in the Black Journalists Oral History Project. Mercer House Press.

In helping process this collection, I read and listened to transcripts and audio from these interviews and stumbled upon many things that were not on my radar. Accounts of the suburbanization and white flight’s effect on local black press’ circulation, how the success of Ebony paved the way for black models to be hired more for national advertising, and the obstacles and dangers encountered by journalists reporting and gathering-news-while-black were either new to me or expanded upon in a more real and accessible way than what I learned in school. Continue reading

Literary Remains

Earlier this summer some of the items from our Tennessee Williams Papers made their way back to Morningside Heights after having been borrowed for the Morgan Library & Museum’s fantastic show No Refuge but Writing.

In the final weeks of the exhibition, its curator, Carolyn Vega, gave a tour to a group of local rare book librarians. She kindly pointed out the items loaned by Columbia, and it was striking how consistently Williams name-checked the poet Hart Crane, whose papers we also hold. Continue reading

Newly available collections – July 2018

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections newly opened by RBML archivists.

Scuola Grande Synagogue Records
“Records of the Scuola Grande Synagogue (also known as the Norsa
Synagogue or the Scuola del Torrazzo) and the Jewish community of
Mantua, Italy, dating between 1707 and 1829.”

Marc Raeff Papers
“Correspondence, research materials, and personal papers of Marc
Isaakovich Raeff (1926-2008), a Russian history scholar and Bakhmeteff
Professor of Russian Studies at Columbia University. ”

Core Curriculum records
“The Core Curriculum records contain teaching and administrative
materials chiefly pertaining to the longstanding Columbia College
courses Contemporary Civilization and Humanities A (now called
Literature Humanities). Materials include syllabi, exams, quizzes,
teaching resources, administrative correspondence and memos, and
curricular reviews and reports. The Core Curriculum records contain
limited material pertaining to Core classes beyond Contemporary
Civilization and Literature Humanities.”

Arthur Goren papers
Goren was a historian and professor of American
Jewish history at the Hebrew University and Columbia University: Continue reading

George Arthur Plimpton and Hebrew Manuscripts

The interconnections between collections here in the RBML continue to emerge as researchers use our materials, but also as our librarians continue to be curious scholars and preservations.

Michelle Chesner, Librarian for Jewish Studies, and Jane Siegel, Rare Book Librarian, discovered this connection between the George Plimpton collection and our Jewish Studies collections: 

Thanks to the intrepid work of Jane Siegel, we have been able to identify two additional pieces of Hebrew manuscript, included in a handbook (PLIMPTON MS 093.93 1630) of handwritings (writing samples was one of Plimpton’s many collection strengths).  Both are handwriting samples from Amsterdam.

Torah scroll by David Friedrichsfeld

Read the full post on the Jewish Studies blog and see more images of this cross-collection find.

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.

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)

Now available | Digitized early issues of The Blue and White

The Blue and White was founded in 1890 as a broadsheet weekly newspaper – looking similar to its competition the then bi-weekly Columbia Spectator.

After 14 issues it changed format and became a monthly humorous and literary magazine. Content included lecture announcements, student poetry, critical essays, illustrations and drawings, and reports of what was happening around the campus, from athletics to campus gossip. Of note is the “Told Between Puffs” column written under the pseudonym of Verily Veritas.

Continue reading