Category Archives: Books

"I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now" by Damien Hirst.

Experiencing Artists’ Books

Look closely and you will find the rare and unique collections at the UT Libraries.

One of the special collections at the Fine Arts Library is the FAL Artists’ Publications Collection which includes artists’ books — books created with the intention of being a work of art. Some artists use books to explore narrative or the relationship between images and text, while others challenge our understanding of what books are and how we read them through the manipulation of form.

"Fishbubbles" by Jill Timm.
“Fishbubbles” by Jill Timm.

The Fine Arts Library contains over 200 artists’ books. Serving primarily as a teaching collection, the artists’ books show different binding techniques, materials, sculptural forms and conceptual approaches, with the FAL holding titles by such recognizable artists as Damien Hirst, Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha. Some of the books in the collection push the boundaries of reading by engaging with other senses such as smell, touch and taste.

"Schengen's kit : rules and advices for survival of refugees at sea : content: instructions on a funeral body bag in a plastic envelope" by Christine Kermaire.
“Schengen’s kit : rules and advices for survival of refugees at sea : content: instructions on a funeral body bag in a plastic envelope” by Christine Kermaire.

The opportunity to smell, touch, taste and hear the artists’ books will be available on November 7th from 5:30-7:30 pm as part of the Experiencing Artists’ Books event. This event is associated programming for the new Visual Arts Center (VAC) exhibition Fool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto curated by Allison Myers, Art History PhD candidate and 2016-2017 VAC Curatorial Fellow. Myers will lead a dialogue between local artists and bookmakers including Jason Urban, Artist and Studio Art Faculty, and Lindsay Starr from Cattywampus Press. After our dialogue, audience members will have the opportunity to engage with the unusual books in our collection.

"Scent" by Stephen Gan.
“Scent” by Stephen Gan.

The Fool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto exhibition opens on September 22nd from 6-8pm. Come and explore over 300 artists’ books from Aeromoto, a non-profit art library and community space based in Mexico City.

We hope to see you at the exhibition opening and the Experiencing Aritsts’ Books event later this fall.

Read Like A Librarian: Staff Poetry Recommendations

Sarah Brandt, Librarian for First-Year Programs, shows off her selection (including the creepy illustrations), The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe from 1945.
Sarah Brandt, Librarian for First-Year Programs, shows off her selection (including the creepy illustrations), The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe from 1945.

Poetry can be intimidating – it can be vague, filled with too many metaphors, caught up in form. We’ve tried to de-mystify poetry with our latest display at the UT Poetry Center, Read Like A Librarian: Staff Poetry Recommendations. Library staff found a great range of selections, including 19th century classics by Edgar Allan Poe and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and recently published volumes by poets like Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Peter Macuck.

Here’s a selection of staff recommendations and what they had to say about these books:

Fat Girl Finishing School by Rachel Wiley
Selected by Stephanie Lopez, Weekend & Evening Desk Supervisor

“Fat Girl Finishing School pulled me in with its cheeky cover, and once I started reading I was hooked! Wiley’s words are so powerful and thought-provoking that I found myself looking around to see if anyone else felt the earth shift under them. Before long, I was chasing down everyone I saw so that they, too, could read the words that caused such a visceral reaction in me. Do yourself and favor and read this. Your heart will thank you.”

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Selected by Sarah Morris, Learning & Assessment Librarian

“Barrett Browning is best known for two things: Marrying Robert Browning and writing Sonnets from the Portuguese. But she’s also the author of Aurora Leigh, a feminist epic that explores issues of class, gender, art, and the challenges women face in finding opportunities for work, and respect for their work, in a restrictive society. Groundbreaking at the time, it’s still a great read today.”

Come visit the UT Poetry Center in PCL 2.500 to see more staff picks and read the books in person!

A Hunting Trip to Tel Aviv

A bookshop in Tel Aviv.
A bookshop in Tel Aviv.
Uri Kolodney.
Uri Kolodney.

As the UT Libraries bibliographer for Hebrew, Jewish, and Israel studies, one of my favorite parts of my job is the selection and acquisition of resources for our collection. I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to shape and enhance our holdings, as other librarians did before me, so that current and future patrons would benefit from a strong and valuable collection. Whereas most of this activity is done at my office, communicating online with local and international vendors, once a year I have the opportunity to go on an acquisition trip and get my hands dirty.

A bookstall.
A bookstall.

Acquisition trips are important because they make possible the purchase of otherwise hard to get unique, non-mainstream items. In addition, cultivating long-term close relationships with local vendors and scholars is essential in order to build a strong collection. Knowledge of the local culture and publishing trends, coupled with personal relationships and ongoing collection work, allow me to better serve faculty and student research needs and requests.

During my last trip to Israel in May 2015, I managed to put my hands on some unique Israeli cinema resources. Some of these titles are unique holdings among academic libraries around the world, i.e. they are held either only by the UT Libraries or by fewer than 3 institutions. For example, the rare journal Omanut ha-kolnoa (“The art of cinema”), which I accidently have found in a dusty second hand book store in Tel Aviv, is held only by the Libraries and the National Library of Israel. Sefer ha-tasrit ha-katsar (“The short screenplay book”), published by the Tel Aviv University Film Department, is held only by the Libraries. Other unique resources in this subject area include Israeli film festival catalogs and short films on DVDs produced by Tel Aviv University students and never published or distributed commercially. These and other resources of Israeli cinema that we hold make our collection in this subject area a unique and distinctive collection among academic institutions in the United States and around the world.

The hard part.
The hard part.

Getting hold of those unique items would sometimes require an extensive leg work, pun intended. While visiting Israel, I spent a significant amount of time canvassing the streets, visiting second hand book stores, looking for those items. Many stores are not necessarily in the big cities — Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Haifa — but in the periphery, usually in Kibbutzim (collective communities). Some of these visits were pre-arranged before my trip, and some were done on-the-fly, especially those to stores in remote areas. Some of these second hand stores would have a searchable online inventory, but the advantage of visiting in person is the personal relationship with the owner. By now I am in contact with many of these vendors, who set aside the good stuff for me before adding it to their inventory.

Cultivating personal rapport has a big impact when it comes to acquiring unique or rare materials. One example of this strategy is my encounter with Ms. Leah Bernshtain Gilboa, who wrote a book about her husband’s combat unit during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. This unique personal narrative was researched, produced, and self-published by the author, printed in only 300 copies, and distributed among former comrades, friends, and relatives. The author’s son was a presenter at a conference I attended in Montreal, just before I left for Israel. When I was chatting with him, he told me about the book and urged me to contact his mother while in Israel, so I did, and we have met one evening in Tel Aviv. The book is now part of the Libraries’ collections, a unique holding among academic libraries around the world! This is a perfect example of a relatively new book (published in 2014) which did not make it to the mainstream market, and which I was able to acquire due to a personal encounter.

Book Catalogs the Universe of UT Collections

“The Collections” (UT Press, 2016).

While we’re apt to sound out the world-class general and distinctive materials maintained by the Libraries, these resources are just a single galaxy in a greater universe of extraordinary collections across UT campus.

In the first of its kind accounting, the University of Texas Press has just released a massive assemblage of the rare, unique and exceptional collections that reside on the Forty Acres in the form of The Collections, a necessarily significant tome documenting the various holdings — recognizable and not so — from around UT.

Represented in the book are Libraries mainstays such as the Benson Latin American Collection, the Alexander Architectural Archive, the PCL and Walter Geological Map Collections and the Historical Music Recordings Collection, as well as highlights from discrete collections across the branches.

The book features hundreds of items from more than 80 collections campus-wide, covering a range of subject areas: archaeology, ethnography, fine and performing arts, rare books and manuscripts, decorative arts, photography, film, music, popular and material culture, regional and political history, natural history, science and technology.

Edited by Andrée Bober with the support of more than 350 staff from across the university, The Collections features a foreword by UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves and a historical introduction by Lewis Gould, professor emeritus of American history, whose essay traces the formation of the collections and acknowledges many people whose visions are manifest in these material resources.

The Collections is available now through UT Press, and will be in the stacks at the Fine Arts Library soon.

Literature on a String

Wood, Paper, String exhibit.

Modern forms of independent publishing like zines owe a debt not only to the likes of Thomas Paine, but also to popular types of cultural or regional publications that emerged from a desire to capture an otherwise oral tradition for both broader diffusion and preservation.

The Brazilian literatura de cordel — literally “string literature” from the way that street vendors suspended the chapbooks — is a notable example of a form that gained traction due to its relatively low impact production requirements and visual appeal.

Mostly in the form of quartos, cordels are small chapbooks or pamphlets containing folk novels, poems and/or songs, and usually decorated by woodcut prints that became prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly in the northeastern region of Brazil.

The Benson Latin American Collection recently opened an exhibit of cordel literature drawn from its collections, curated by Julianne Gilland with assistance from Teresa Wingfield and Carla Silva-Muhammad.

Wood, Paper, String highlights the art and history of the Brazilian popular literary. Featuring recent Benson Collection acquisitions, the exhibition explores cordel’s evolution from traditional to contemporary themes and showcases the woodcut illustration that is an iconic visual element of the genre.

Wood, Paper, String runs at the Benson Collection in the second floor gallery space through January 31, 2016, and is open to the public during regular hours.

Collections Highlight: Gravitation

"Gravitation" by Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, and John Archibald Wheeler. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1973.

Gravitation is a seminal work familiar to all advanced physics students, but the Kuehne Physics Mathematics Astronomy Library (PMA) has an uncommon copy of the book.

Co-author John Wheeler presented this copy with his inscription to a former engineering professor at UT, who donated the book to the PMA Library.

A time later, co-author Kip Thorne  gave a lecture at UT and a Physics undergrad asked if he would add his inscription. Finally, co-author Charles Misner visited campus for a lecture and he, too, added his inscription to the volume, completing the trio.

Inscriptions by the authors on the frontispiece of "Gravitation."

A New Frontier for Middle Eastern Studies in Qatar

Doha skyline.In early January of this year, Libraries’ collections development staff traveled to Doha, the only major city and capital of the small Persian Gulf country Qatar. Although in English our convention is to say the Persian Gulf, Qataris in fact speak a dialect of Arabic. This was a particularly exciting opportunity because Qatar was new territory for Middle Eastern Studies at the Libraries. Although the Middle Eastern Studies staff have traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, Qatar just had not made the list until this year. This fact presented challenges that have proven useful to our professional development, most notably in gaining experience with utilizing professional relationships that lead to local, on-the-ground contacts in unfamiliar locales.

This trip was instrumental in three principal ways: first, for enhancing the Libraries’ distinctive collection in Middle Eastern Studies, especially in the areas of Islamic law and Persian Gulf Studies; second, for getting a sense of the research environment in Qatar; and third, for our professional development.

View of book fair from aboveOne of the reasons that January was chosen as the ideal time for this trip (besides the weather being much more pleasant than the Persian Gulf in summer) was to attend the Doha International Book Fair.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the book fair.We could say that book fairs in Arabic-speaking countries are a big deal, but that would be an understatement. The Cairo International Book Fair, which we have attended in the past, is the largest of the book fairs in the Middle East. It is part scholarly paradise and part carnival. Whole families come out to look at books, make purchases, and find unique materials for their children. The Doha Book Fair was similar, especially as the fair itself put an emphasis on children’s literature.

Book fair booth map and publisher list, including children’s materials.

Armed with a booth map and publisher lists, we started working the book fair on the night of its opening. One of our new colleagues – so new that we met for the first time in Doha through our professional contacts – was in charge of a booth for an interfaith center, and another was a professor at the Georgetown Qatar School of Foreign Service. Yet another was a graduate student in the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies and a Doha local. Their insights and recommendations for local presses and the best ways to get around town and the book fair were indispensable. Continue reading

Scholarly Discovery in an Indian Book Stall

Indian Book Stall

The Libraries recently joined a national program to deepen and diversify the national collection for South Asian Studies and focused on a new niche for collection efforts: pulp fiction in South Asian languages.

While the Libraries holds one of the largest and broadest collections of South Asian material in the country, there is also a recognized need to remain active and creative in supporting the sometimes idiosyncratic but always deep research of the scholars at our universities — research that could not be undertaken without unique, international and multilingual collections at their disposal.

Beyond our local needs, however, we also feel the imperative to acquire and preserve materials in US research libraries, lest the ever present dangers of politics, funding and environment threaten them being lost forever — recent news stories of tragic weather events or the destruction of objects from art museums only further drive this point home.

Thus, large research libraries are striving to keep these deep, distinctive collections at the forefront through cooperative collection development initiatives across institutions. In 2014, the Libraries joined a national collaboration for South Asian collections through which librarians across the country seek to leverage existing practices in order to develop simultaneously a robust national collection and unique local collections. There’s a recognition that materials supporting the long-tail of research do not need to be duplicated across many U.S. institutions; rather, harnessing individual skill sets, building upon local interests and working with backroom technical support, the Libraries have concentrated on local niche specializations to develop.

Telugu pulp novelRecently, Libraries’ collections development staff began exploring a relatively narrowly focused pulp fiction collection that the Libraries can provide in support of this distributed national collection. While on a brief acquisitions trip to India in early 2015, I was able to seek out and acquire a number of popular literature titles in Telugu language (one of the languages we teach here at UT) that would not have been represented in the national collection if I had not picked them up while in Hyderabad. That booksellers were reluctant to sell them to a research library as they are not “proper literature” and are “really for time pass for women” is another story for another time; for now, let’s remind ourselves that approved subjects of research change over time — what was once dismissed (women’s literature, popular culture, and the like) is now hot stuff.

The Telugu materials that were chosen for acquisition parallel the pulp detective novels that were prevalent and popular in the American 1930s and 1940s — an era that produced the likes of Dashiell Hammett and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Regional expressions of the genre exist in many South Asian languages; for example, Hindi pulp emerged in the 1950s and became extremely popular — especially as a diversion for train passengers — and remained so until the digital age. Capturing and preserving as many examples of the genre from the region will help us further understand pulp as both a literary movement and cultural documentation.

In light of current trends in scholarship that indicate a growing interest in unconventional or non-traditional subject matter, it only makes sense to focus efforts on collections practices that enhance these underrepresented areas for the benefit of research and casual interest.

Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp FictionThere’s a growing scholarly interest in everyday and popular literature as a venue to explore and understand the production of culture. For examples of efforts in this vein, the work of recent UT graduate Laura Brueck or recent publications such as the Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction. There’s also an increasing recognition and appreciation for the cultural artifactual value of common materials. The covers of recently acquired pulp fiction titles in Telugu are suggestive in many ways — ways common to printed literature everywhere, as a recent library presentation by English professor Janine Barchas suggests.

The Libraries are excited about this new collecting area and through foreign acquisitions trips in 2016, with plans to develop it in other languages as well, most notably Tamil and Malayalam. Stay tuned to keep watching this unique and distinctive collection grow….

Showcasing the Hamilton Book Award Winners

Authors, left to right: Allison Lowery, Dr. Desmond Lawler, Dr. Huaiyin Li, and grand-prize winner Dr. Denise Spellberg.
Authors, left to right: Allison Lowery, Dr. Desmond Lawler, Dr. Huaiyin Li, and grand-prize winner Dr. Denise Spellberg.

Doing research in a library can be an adventure in serendipitous discovery. For Dr. Denise Spellberg, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, an unexpected search result was the impetus for a research project that resulted in her acclaimed book, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders.

Dr. Denise Spellberg sharing the details of how her award-winning work began.
Dr. Denise Spellberg sharing the details of how her award-winning work began.

Dr. Spellberg shared this recollection—along with other fascinating insights from her research—at the Hamilton Book Awards Author Showcase and Reception, which was held at the Perry-Castañeda Library last Friday. Dr. Spellberg’s book was the 2014 grand-prize winner of the Robert W. Hamilton Book Award.

Dr. Spellberg was joined by three of the runner-up prize-winners, whose work was also honored at the 2014 award ceremony: Dr. Desmond Lawler of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (for Water Quality Engineering: Physical/Chemical Treatment Processes, which he co-authored with Mark Benjamin); Dr. Huaiyin Li of the Departments of History and Asian Studies (for Reinventing Modern China: Imagination and Authenticity in Chinese Historical Writing); and Ms. Allison Lowery, from the Texas Performing Arts Center and the Department of Theatre and Dance (for Historical Wig Styling: Volumes 1 and 2).

Dr. Lorraine Haricombe, UT Libraries Vice Provost and Director.
Dr. Lorraine Haricombe, UT Libraries Vice Provost and Director.

With presentations nearly as diverse as the PCL’s collection, each faculty author gave the audience an introduction to the themes and motivations that define and drive their research. Both Dr. Lawler and Ms. Lowery spoke of their passion—for clean water and the craft of wig creation, respectively—while Dr. Li described how his experiences in China and the United States allowed him to analyze modern Chinese historical writing. Dr. Spellberg recounted how the discovery of playbill from a 1782 performance of Voltaire’s Mahomet in Baltimore led her to research the role of Islam in early American history.

George Mitchell, president and CEO of the University Co-op.
George Mitchell, president and CEO of the University Co-op.

The University Co-op has sponsored the Hamilton Book Awards since 1997. Winners are determined by a multidisciplinary committee appointed by the Vice President for Research at UT Austin, and the prize is awarded each October. The Hamilton Book Awards Author Showcase and Reception is an extension of the partnership effort by the Co-op and University of Texas Libraries to foster and promote faculty research on campus.

This well-received inaugural Showcase and Reception event was planned by School of Information graduate student and Ask a Librarian intern Katherine Kapsidelis, who graduates this May.

Home is Where the Art Is

The Tiger’s Eye

There’s a certain honorable quality of humility that is seemingly characteristic to bibliophiles.

The book, being inherently sacred as some see it, belongs to the world — especially those that are part of a library’s collections and meant to be shared across time. So when a former UT teaching fellow recently rediscovered a borrowed volume that he had inadvertently packed away during a move some 60 years ago, he did what any guilt-ridden lover of books would do: he returned it along with a confessional (see below).

Thus a partner volume to the bound collection of an abstract art journal came home again — be it on a slightly lengthened extension of the normal lending period.

The Tiger’s Eye — its title a clever reference to Blake’s masterwork — was an important abstract expressionist journal published for a two-year run from October 1947-October 1949. The format of the journal emphasized the artistic process with poetry, fiction, drawings and reproductions of works being directly accompanied by the artist’s writings, criticism and essays. Internationally distributed, the quarterly journal was printed in editions of 3,000-5,000, with full-color covers and quality heavyweight stock that featured the occasional color plate, making it one of the more urbane publications of the era.

The journal was published by painter John Stephan and his wife, poet Ruth Stephan, in whose name the Libraries also maintains the large collection of poetry volumes that compose the bulk of the University of Texas Poetry Center.

The publication was seen as important enough to the abstract expressionist movement that it warranted an entire book dedicated to its history, The Tiger’s Eye: The Art of a Magazine (Yale University Press, 2002) of by Pamela Franks the Yale University Art Gallery.

To the great benefit of present and future users of the Libraries, The Tiger’s Eye, Volume 1, Numbers 1-4 (1947-8) has now rejoined its companion Volume 1, Numbers 5-9 (1947-8) after over a half-century apart thanks to an unexpected act by devoted patron of the written word.