Banned! — Лолита


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«Лолита , свет моей жизни , огонь моих чресел . Грех mой , душа моя . Ло -ли –та…”


Lolita-cover Lolita-back Lolita-spine

Владимир Набоков (1899-1977)
New York: Phaedra, Inc., Publishers, 1967
First hardcover edition in Russian

First published in Paris in 1955, then in New York City in 1958 and London in 1959, Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, is a controversial masterpiece of English literature.

Originally published as a paperback by a relatively unknown publisher, the first printing of 5,000 copies sold out before year’s end. Graham Greene wrote in London’s Sunday Times that it was one of the three best books of the year. Other early reviews were hardly so generous. Many considered it pornographic. British Customs was ordered to seize copies coming into the British Isles. A year later, France’s Minister of the Interior also banned it.

Times change. In 1998, Lolita was included by Modern Library in its list of 100 best novels of the 20th century.

This is the first edition in Russian, translated by Nabokov, whose mother-tongue was Russian. He added a postscript that appears only in this edition, describing his ambivalence toward his translation. Nabokov’s American publisher, Putnam, chose not to publish the Russian edition, concerned that it would not be a commercial success. Perhaps they were satisfied enough with the response to their American edition, which went into a third printing within days and sold one hundred thousand copies within three weeks. Up until that time, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936), was the only other American novel to have done so well.

All of Nabokov’s writings had been banned in the Soviet Union, although copies of his work were smuggled in. Nabokov was, after all, the son of aristocratic Russians who fled the country during the Revolution. The first printing in Russia was not until 1989. The work, by the once-outlawed, un-favored son of the Soviet state was a stunning success. The first edition in the Russian language was first issued in wrappers. This is “issue b,” in pink cloth, with gilt title stamp along spine and with dust jacket. University of Utah copy donated by Anonymous.

Book of the week — An Inflammatory Guide: Banned and Challenged…


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N7433.4-S713-I54-2012-front An Infalmmatory guide backside

An inflammatory guide: banned & challenged…
Jessica Spring
Tacoma, WA: Springtide Press, 2012
xN7433.4 S713 I54 2012

From the colophon: “…printed by hand to commemorate Banned Books Week…” Letterpress printed. Accordion folded pages attached to match-book style binding with staples.

Book of the week — The Poems of Shakespeare


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So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
— William Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII

The Poems of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Stamford, CT: Overbrook Press, 1939
PR2841 A2 K5 1939

Edited by George Lyman Kittredge, Gurney Professor of English Literature, Harvard University.

Overbrook Press was founded by investment banker, civic leader, and bibliophile Frank Altschul (1887-1981), who had pursued printing as a hobby since childhood. In 1934 he was approached by designer Margaret B. Evans, who had been working for Ashlar Press, which was closing. Altschul set up the Ashlar press in an abandoned outbuilding on his 450-acre estate, Overbrook Farms, in Stamford, Connecticut. He hired Evans as designer and compositor and John MacNamara as pressman. Overbrook Press printed an eclectic mix of books, pamphlets, broadsides and ephemera, emphasizing technical expertise and craftsmanship. The press engaged contemporary book designers and artists such as Daniel Updike, Jean Hugo, Bruce Rogers, Ann Simons, Valenti Angelo, and Thomas Maitland Cleland. Overbrook Press closed in 1969.

The Poems of Shakespeare is one of its most ambitious projects. It’s decorative initials were designed by Bruce Rogers. Text handset and letterpress printed in red and black with Lucretia type on handmade Cromwell grey paper. The press offered copies for sale, but most of them were given as gifts by Alschul. Copies for sale to the public were bound in three quarter morocco and slipcased, but more than a third of the edition was never bound, presumably to accommodate individual binding tastes.

University of Utah copy is bound in quarter brown morocco over marbled boards with gilt-lettered spine, issued uncut, in publisher’s slipcase. Edition of one hundred and fifty copies.


Shakespeare is coming! The First Folio arrives at the City Library in October.

On Jon’s Desk: A gift from Dr. Ronald Rubin serves as a patriotic reminder


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The War, Title Page

The War, Title Page

Title: The War. Being a Faithful Record of the Transactions of the War between the United States of America and their territories and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Volume 1. Issue Numbers 1 -52, dated 27 June 1812 – 15 June 1813

Printed by: S. Woodworth & Co., New York

Pages: 218

The War, Vol. 1, No. 1, Page 1

The War, Vol. 1, No. 1, Page 1

James Madison has the unfortunate distinguishment of being the first President of the United States to ask Congress to declare war on another nation. In the early nineteenth century the United States struggled as a young nation against more powerful countries for legitimacy. Americans were mostly farmers and, having thrown off the chains of British oppression by winning the Revolutionary War, most returned to their plows. In succeeding in their worthy cause they wounded deeply the pride of the great lion across the Atlantic Ocean. For the British it was a stinging wound not easily forgotten. The American Revolution stopped many infringements in the former colonial states, but Britain continued to teach the traitorous Americans a “lesson” abroad.

In early 1812 the executive leader of the infant nation knew that without further action his country would continue to suffer under economic bondage resulting from Britain’s policies. After diplomatic solutions failed, President James Madison made a report to Congress on the continued abuses laid upon the country by Great Britain and requested the country declare war against the abusers. His request resulted in the War of 1812, a conflict that gave us our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” and ultimately culminated in greater legitimacy as a sovereign nation.

More than slightly ironic, the United States’ federal government itself at the time fought for legitimacy. The state governments were powerful and for most citizens the necessity for war with Great Britain ended with the winning of the Revolution. Public opinion precluded support for a war because if there is one aspect of war that is constant and unchanging it is that war is expensive. No one wanted to pay for a war. How then would the federal government generate the support necessary to successfully defeat another nation with arguably the most powerful navy of the period? The answer: information. People needed to know why it was important to once again challenge Great Britain and be educated on the stakes of not doing so.

Printers played a crucial role in accomplishing this. They printed and sold newspapers, generating support for the federal government’s decision to declare war on Great Britain. Historians refer to this as war propaganda.

S. Woodworth & Co., Printers

Printer’s Advertisement

The word “propaganda” holds many negative connotations, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and perspective matters. The act of uniting the United States would have been impossible without it. In the first issue of The War. Being a Faithful Record of the Transactions of the War between the United States of America and their territories and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland the editor tells the reader that the object, or purpose, of this publication includes: “To diffuse knowledge in the art of war, by communicating improvements calculated to render courage efficient against the enemy” and “To hand down to posterity the names of those heroes of America, who, by patriotism or courage, will signalize themselves in the present contest.”

The first issue of the publication provides the reader with a brief history in regards to the necessity of the American Revolution. The section ends with the conclusion that the United States’ quick recovery from that war led to its ability to economically compete with Great Britain and consequently caused that nation to become envious. The paper then offers two reports given by President Madison on the acts and injustices committed against the United States by Great Britain.

In issue number two the reader is confronted with examples of acts of patriotism and support. One section with the title “PATRIOTISM” offers an open invitation, almost a challenge, to the reader. One entry reads:

A Call for Patriotic Action

A Call for Patriotic Action

Support for the war did come from the nation’s citizenry and ultimately the United States succeeded in proving its sovereignty.

On September 12th, 1814 Frances Scott Key witnessed an attack on Baltimore, Maryland’s Fort McHenry from aboard a British ship. The next day he wrote a poem he titled “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” It was printed in newspapers. The United States’ victory at Fort McHenry in September 1814 turned the war in its favor. Frances Scott Key’s poem began to be sung set to a popular English tune (“To Anacreon in Heaven”) and in 1931 became our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Without support-generating propaganda such as The War, the United States may not have won the War of 1812 and we might be singing something other than “The Star Spangled Banner” at patriotic events. The War provides a glimpse into what the leaders of a young nation two hundred years ago needed from the country’s citizens in order to become the nation it is today.

 Contributed by Jon Bingham, Rare Books Curator

Editor’s note: Dr. Ronald Rubin has been a generous supporter of the Rare Books Department for years. For more about his donations see Dr. Rubin.

Thank you, Dr. Rubin!

Rare Books Goes to BYU!


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Greek Tablet

photo by Scott Beadles

An ancient piece from the Rare Books Department has been translated and published by BYU professor Lincoln Blumell.

Read all about it in today’s BYU News:

“BYU professor works with University of Utah library to translate 1700 year-old obituary”

“I’ve looked at hundreds of ancient Jewish epitaphs,” Blumell said, “and there is nothing quite like this. This is a beautiful remembrance and tribute to this woman.”

The findings have just been published in the Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period.

Congratulations, Dr. Blumell!


Journal of the week — Liberator


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“I have to work here but I don’t have to eat here.” — Howard Brubaker (1882-1957)

New York: The Liberator Publishing Co., Inc.
HX1 L5

Liberator began publication under the editorship of Max Eastman (1883-1969) in March 1918. Eastman’s sister, Crystal, worked closely with him, and wrote many of the reports from Europe. Liberator was published to take place of the American radical periodical, The Masses, which had been shut down by the United States government in December 1917 as offensive and contrary to mailing regulations during World War I. The Masses was anti-war. Many of its editors and writers contributed to Liberator.

Liberator fused politics, art, poetry and fiction. The international reporting that came out of it was among the best in the United States,  including stories filed by the legendary John Reed (1887-1920) from Soviet Russia. Other contributing artists and writers included e. e. cummings (1884-1962), John Dos Passos (1896-1970), Ernest Hemingway (1999-1961), Helen Keller (1880-1968), and Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). Almost every important radical or liberal literary figure of the time was represented in it.

The Liberator began to take a definite political line. In 1922, Eastman left the Liberator, and the Communist Party of America (CPA) took it over. It merged with Labor Herald and Soviet Russia Pictorial to form Workers Monthly, an organ of the CPA, in November 1924. Prime movers Max Eastman and Floyd Dell (1887-1969) left the editorial board, and Robert Minor (1884-1952) and other closer followers of the Communist line replaced them.

The publication, from its evocative cover art, to the typesetting required to meet the standards of its writers, was expensive to produce. To offset cost, Eastman used cheap newsprint, resulting in a publication that is incredibly fragile. Few copies survive.


Book of the week — How long?


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Sande James-Wascher
Renton, WA: Wascher-James, 1993
N7433.4 W38 H69 1993

Women’s struggle for the vote through text, photographs, and quilt block. Text inspired by an article on women’s suffrage by Minna Morse in The Smithsonian, 1993.

From the artist’s statement: “I choose to create what I feel will be beautiful and bring pleasure. That does not preclude having a powerful message…Most of my work is done with what might be considered ‘women’s work’: embroidery, quilting, beading, etc. I do this intentionally to show that there is merit and power in these techniques and because I enjoy working this way…The book formats I use allow me to do pieces that are sculptural with strong visual images as well as written components…”

Photographs from the Library of Congress, Oregon Historical Society, Smithsonian, and Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College. Flag book bound in concertina style, opening to reveal twenty-one card leaves in three horizontal rows, each leaf with text/printed photograph on one side and illustration of a postage stamp on a ground of printed patchwork on the other. Boards of printed patchwork with floral lilac fabric border. Edition of one hundred and twenty-five copies. University of Utah copy is no. 45, signed by the author.

On Jon’s Desk: Uncle Tom’s Cabin — not just some backwoods book


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PS2954-U5-E52a- title_page

Title Page, U.S. First Edition, March 1852


Title Page, Early Great Britain Edition, May 1852

Title: Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly (United States) / Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Negro Life in the Slave States of America (Great Britain)

Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe

First Edition (U.S.) / Early Edition (G.B.)

Published: Boston: John P. Jewett & Company, 1852; Cleveland, Ohio: Jewett, Proctor & Worthington, 1852 (U.S.) / London: Clarke & Co., 1852 (G.B.)

Pages: U.S. edition comprised of two volumes; volume one with 312 pages and volume two with 322 pages. G.B. edition is single volume containing 380 pages. U.S. edition contains six full page illustrations; G.B. edition contains fifty full page illustrations.

Call Number: PS2954 U5 E52a (U.S.) / PS2954 U5 1852 (G.B.)


U.S. First Edition, Illustration, Page 62


Early Great Britain Edition, Illustration, Page 125

When Harriet Beecher Stowe conceived Uncle Tom’s Cabin during the early 1850’s she was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the time part of the western frontier. Living in Cincinnati, directly across the Ohio River from the slave state of Kentucky, Stowe was exposed to fugitive slaves and often heard firsthand accounts of the horrors experienced by formerly enslaved people. Sympathetic to their suffering, she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to expose the tragedies she was hearing about and included many aspects of the firsthand accounts she had heard into the story.

In her concluding remarks Stowe assures us the story is based on true events. She wrote,

“The writer has often been inquired of, by correspondents from different parts of the country, whether this narrative is a true one; and to the inquiries she will give one general answer.

The separate incidents that compose the narrative are to a very great extent authentic, occurring, many of them, either under her own observation or that of her personal friends. She or her friends have         observed characters and the counterparts of almost all that are here introduced; and many of the sayings are word for word as heard herself, or reported to her.”

Stowe’s story from the backwoods of the western frontier became immediately successful throughout the country and quickly thereafter throughout the Western Hemisphere. Initially released as a weekly serial in a newspaper called The National Era from June 1851 to April 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was then printed by John P. Jewett and released March 20, 1852. It sold 3,000 copies the first day, 10,000 copies in the first week, and in the United States 300,000 copies the first year. In Great Britain 200,000 copies were sold the first year, with sales there reaching 1.5 million copies after only a few years. Many of these were infringing, or pirated, editions, having been printed and sold without permission by the copyright owner.

In today’s terms we would say Uncle Tom’s Cabin went viral overnight. Stowe ignited a spark with her writing that caused flames to rise on multiple continents. Her novel brought compassion to the heated economic debate already centuries old, an emotion many had worked hard to suppress. The pen and paper Stowe put to incredible use in a city on the edge of the American frontier played an unquestionable role in history. Ten years after the novel’s publication, when U.S. President Abraham Lincoln met Stowe in 1862, he remarked, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!”

Stowe’s concluding admonition in the novel’s final comments is a strong rebuke on the nation and, as seen by the popularity of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Great Britain, was found completely fitting for application on the world at the time as a whole. She wrote,

“Not by combining together to protect injustice and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to be saved – but by repentance, justice, and mercy; for not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!”

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a critique on the most divisive topic of her time more than one hundred and sixty years ago. Holding these historic editions and reading these words helps us to realize that even after all this time there is a great deal left to accomplish in protecting justice and mercy. Little wonder millions of copies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin have been sold; perhaps a few million more need to be.

Contributed by Jon Bingham, Rare Books Curator

Book of the week — Dido and Aeneas


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“In our deep Vaulted Cell, the Charm wee’l prepare,
Too dreadful a Practice for this open Air”

Nahum Tate (1662-1715)
West Burke, VT: Janus Press; Bangor, ME: Theodore Press, 1989
Z232 J36 T37 1989

Libretto by Nahum Tate to music by Henry Purcell. Compact disc of the opera inserted, performed by the Taverner Choir and Taverner Players, conducted by Andrew Parrott. Book structure and box designed by Claire Van Vliet. Three overlapping sections of accordion-fold paperwork landscape collage with five varying and irregular-sized text pamphlets sewn into each of five openings. The book can be stood in a line or in a star-circle. Housed in a black cloth tray case with paper spine label. Compact disc is in a chemise in a pocket at the front. A rear pocket contains an empty chemise for the owner’s own CD. Printed in honor of the 300th anniversary Nahum Tate’s libretto. The first publication of the libretto was probably distributed to the audience at the first performance of the piece, which celebrated the coming of William and Mary to the English throne in 1689. Edition of one hundred and fifty copies. University of Utah copy is no. 49.


Hold History in Your Hands


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The Rare Books Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah invites students, faculty, and community members to visit the Special Collections Reading Room (Level 4), where you can hold history in your hands.

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The rare book collections of nearly 80,000 pieces includes first editions of Galileo’s Dialogo (1632), Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620), Dickens’ Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836), Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651), Rousseau’s Dictionnaire de Musique (1768), Stephens’ Incidents of Travel in Central America (1841), Swift’s Travels into Remote Nations of the World (1726), Thoreau’s Walden (1854), and much, much more.

Rare Books welcomes U!