Many factors are used, often in combination, to determine if a book is “rare.” Below is a primer describing several factors that can be used in this regard:
A Dictionary of the English Language was published by Samuel Johnson in 1755. Johnson’s Dictionary, as it is also known, was the preeminent English dictionary for some 173 years until the Oxford English Dictionary was published. The work took some 9 years to produce, and established a standard for creating and presenting entries. The D’Youville College Archives holds a miniature edition from 1796, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language in Miniature to which are added, an alphabetical account of the heathen deities; a list of the cities, boroughs, and market towns in England and Wales; a copious chronology; and a concise Epitome of the most remarkable Events during the French Revolution. In the introduction, editor Joseph Hamilton wrote:
Anxious to please, as well as instruct, the Editor has procured a Type of unequalled Symmetry and Beauty; the Paper is of the finest Quality and Texture, and the typographical Execution unrivalled.
In addition to institutional records, the D’Youville College Archives holds rare books, mainly from the late 19th century. Book publishing expanded rapidly during the 1800s, with books becoming more affordable for the general public. Most were printed with cloth book covers and often embellished with gold stamping, illustrations, or other ornament. Although these books were mass-produced, the charm of the illustrative cover art deserves notice. Below are examples from the rare books collection.
There was a group of painters who became identified specifically with the painting of beautiful women rather than the general concept of beauty in art…. It is in this spirit, the masculine appreciation of feminine appearance, that the 1890s and the turn of the century witnessed the publication of several books dedicated to the beauty of women in art….
Among these books was Theodore Child’s A Mirror of Fair Women: Studies in Beauty and Elegance, published by Harper and Brothers in 1892. The D’Youville College Archives holds a selection of engravings and etchings from this work, some of which can be viewed here:
*Quote taken from Bailey Van Hook’s Angels of Art: Women and Art in American Society, 1876-1914. Published by Penn State Press, 2004, pp.165.
the blank leaves at the beginning and end of a book, pasted to the inside front and back covers and first and last pages.
Before books were mass-produced, it was common for endpapers to include maps, marbling, or other ornament. Endpapers are functional and serve to help support and strenthen the book, but they can also be quite beautiful. These examples are from books held in the D’Youville College Archives:
Although today most endpapers are blank, children’s books, in particular picture books, often still contain ornamented endpapers:
The D’Youville College Archives holds 70 prints of late 19th century Venice. These images were the work of Ferdinando Ongania (1842-1911). Ongania was an Italian publisher, and owned the Münster bookshop in the Piazza San Marco, Venice. Over the course of his career, he published 43 works on Venice, its history, and art. One of the best known is Calli e Canali in Venezia, (Streets and Canals in Venice), published in the 1890s. The images capture Venetian life at that time, from the people, to the gondolas, canals, and architecture.
The object of The Mentor Association is to enable people to acquire useful knowledge without effort, so that they may come easily and agreeably to know the worlds great men and women, the great achievements, and the permanently interesting things in art, literature, science, history, nature and travel.
The Mentor magazine was published from 1913 to about 1931 by The Mentor Association. The Association was founded by William David Moffat in 1912 and included experts in various fields. Each issue was devoted to a single subject augmented by fine photogravures (photogravures are prints produced in such a way as to mimic the richness and subtle range of tone found in photographs). Several examples are included here:
The purpose of The Mentor Association is to give people, in an interesting and attractive way, the information in various fields of knowledge that they all want and ought to have. The information is imparted by interesting reading matter, prepared under the direction of leading authors, and by beautiful pictures, produced by the most highly perfected modern processes.
We give you in The Mentor the good things out of many books, and in a form that is easy to read and that taxes you little for time. A library is a valuable thing to have if you know how to use it. But there are not many people who know how to use a library. If you are one of those who don’t know, it would certainly be worth your while to have a friend who could take from a large library just what you want to know and give it to you in a pleasant way. The Mentor can be such a friend to you.
The D’Youville College Archives holds 43 issues of The Mentor, from September 29, 1913 to April 1, 1915.
Famed Irish author Padraic Colum gave a highly anticipated lecture at D’Youville College on January 14, 1920. Florence Keady (DYC class of 1921) wrote an article on the author and his work. Published in the D’Youville Magazine, Keady wrote, “To readers in a country that can boast neither of fairies nor folk-lore, there is no need to apologize for writing about fairy tales or their makers. The present article will deal with those stories of the heroes of the dawn and the elves of twilight which one of the most distinguished of modern Irish penmen has written down for us in a prose of singular sweetness and charm.”¹Continue reading