New England Tavern Ledger Book, 1785-1788

Picture the scene: A bustling New England tavern, December 1785. Two patrons sit at the bar, swapping war stories and discussing nascent U.S. political philosophy over mugs of… of what, exactly? MSU Special Collections recently acquired an early American tavern keeper’s account book that can help answer that question—recording what American revolutionaries and their contemporaries …

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A Book of Cyphers, or Letters Revers

A Book of Cyphers, or Letters Reverst (1683)Our somewhat damaged copy of this 17th century work on cyphers or monograms features wonderful hand-coloring throughout. Some of the colors have faded with age, but this artistic personal touch still adds a layer of beauty to this fascinating little book.     Tweet

Cure for Love

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us! And while it can be a time of joy for many, for some it is more bittersweet, recalling memories of past heartache. If you fall into the latter camp this year, don’t fret—we uncovered the remedy you might need in an old manuscript recipe book. “A Cure for Love” was …

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Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

The Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) is renowned for its fantastic woodcut illustrations. A total of 1,809 illustrations adorn the book, but only 645 woodblocks were cut.  Most of the illustrations are re-used throughout the book – some as many as 11 times! Above are six instances of the same illustration, as seen in the copy owned …

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  A nightmare before Christmas? Our copy of Elsie’s Hallowe’en Experience, an 1888 collection of children’s stories from author Mary Dow Brine, was apparently given as an Xmas gift in 1908. It’s not as strange as it sounds—the work does contain a couple of Christmas stories in addition to the titular tale of a spooky Halloween …

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Giant Manuscript Antiphony

Here are some close-up shots from the giant manuscript antiphonary we wrote about a few months ago.  Last Wednesday was the MSU Libraries Open House, and this was one of the wonderful items Special Collections set out to entice passers-by. Some of the students who stopped by affectionately referred to it as a “Harry Potter book,” …

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Is this 17th century collection of German criminology woodcuts one of the world’s first comic books?

      Is this 17th century collection of German criminology woodcuts one of the world’s first comic books? The book, dated 1686, is made up of 20 or so woodcut illustrations showing the administration of criminal justice, including images of defendants before judges and scenes of punishment and torture.  All of the illustrations have been …

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Florentine Chronicle (1537)

  Florentine Chronicle (1537) Born in the late 13th century in Florence, Giovanni Villani was a notable Italian statesman and diplomat, remembered today for recording the history of Florence in his Nuova Cronica, or New Chronicles. Our 16th century reprint of Villani’s Florentine chronicle features contemporary marginal annotations on nearly every page, marking important lines and …

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Update: Mark Twain, Eugene Field, and a Skeptical Odyssey in the Stacks

Back in March, I shared something we had recently discovered in the Special Collections vault: an 1835 edition of Cruikshank at Home, inscribed by noted authors Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Eugene Field.  We were excited to find the autographs of these two 19th century literary giants, especially because no mention of the inscriptions was made in our library …

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