Balancing the Books in Rare Books

As the old Sam Cooke song goes: Don’t know much trigonometry Don’t know much about algebra, Don’t know what a slide rule is for But I do know that one and one is two, And I do know something about early printing and history. And books of firsts are always fun. So there is much to love about Luca Pacioli’s Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita (Summary of arithmetic, geometry, proportions more »

‘The whole man at once:’ scientific identities at the Dibner Library — Edward Jenner

“George Sarton, a founder of the history of science as an academic discipline, argued that scholars should pay close attention to portraits. These images, he said, can give you ‘the whole man at once.’ With a ‘great portrait,’ Sarton believed, ‘you are given immediately some fundamental knowledge of him, which even the longest descriptions and discussions would fail to evoke.’ Sarton’s ideas led Bern Dibner to purchase portrait prints of men and more »

John Lewis Childs: A Profile of an American Seedsman.

Cultivating America’s Gardens, our newest exhibition produced with Smithsonian Gardens is now open in the National Museum of American History and features many colorful seed catalogs from our collection. This post, highlighting seedsman John Lewis Childs,  was written by social media intern Trudi J. Antoine. While some children played games and chased the pavement, John Lewis Childs pursued a dream of playing in the dirt. Starting from the ground up, horticulturist and more »

Opening this week: Cultivating America’s Gardens

Smithsonian Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens will present a new exhibition, “Cultivating America’s Gardens,” at the National Museum of American History May 4 through August 2018. Amateurs and professionals, young and old, schoolchildren and scientists—Americans of every sort—have put their backs into gardening for a variety of motives: beauty, food, science and prestige. Americans garden to feed themselves and their families and to create a sense of place and beauty in their backyards more »

Unearthing an 18th-Century Librarian-Gardener

Rare book cataloging can require some detective work. A recent case for me involved a record of ancient coins in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, transferred to the Smithsonian’s Dibner Library for cataloging from the National Museum of American History’s National Numismatic Collection. This is also a tale of how a book can reveal unexpected histories.

A Zinnia Grows in Space

National Garden Month blasts off with zinnias, written by Robin Everly and Julia Blakely. Smithsonian Libraries, most days, is like a typical library system — we assist staff and visitors with information needs, purchase books, check in journal issues, digitize, catalog, and of course, shelve books. However, the Smithsonian being the Smithsonian, sometimes your ordinary day turns upside down into something else. It’s what makes working here so fun and interesting. Such a day occurred November 10, 2016, when a Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulturist contacted our librarian in the Botany and Horticulture Department about attractive 19th-century books featuring information about zinnias. He was working with a National Air and Space Museum (NASM) film crew on an educational program about Astronaut Scott Kelly’s growing zinnias on the International Space Station (ISS). The botanical librarian, along with our catalog librarian in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, came up with some stunning botanical illustrations and set up a display in the rare book reading room for the filmmakers. From these more »

Musical stuffed bunnies still sing it…..

“Easter Parade” is still a popular song- lots of little kids today know this old tune from their musical animal toys. You might know the lyrics and tune to sing along with the first 2 lines of the chorus of  “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…”  Written by Irving Berlin in 1933, the song was also the basis of the iconic 1948 movie musical starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. The song was introduced by Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb on Broadway as part of the musical revue As Thousands Cheer (1933), in which musical numbers were strung together on the thematic thread of newspaper headlines and the lives of rich and famous people.

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