The Fix – Book Detective

When a book arrives in the Conservation Lab the first order of business is often detective work. The binding is examined to determine if it is original to the book, the paper is analyzed for clues to its origin, and scraps of paper or other ephemera enlighten us as to the provenance of the book. Recently, a particularly intriguing volume, Botanicon,  came to us from the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History.

Honolulu Calling: A Tapa Barkcloth Binding for a 1930 Phone Book from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries recently acquired a telephone book. Big deal, you say? Ah, but this is a telephone directory for the territory of Hawaii, issued for the winter of 1930. For that reason alone, it’s fun to browse through, to see the old advertisements and daydream about living in the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands, back in the days when the entire list of businesses and households in the territory which owned telephones could be recorded in one slim volume. But this isn’t just any old phone book. This particular copy belonged to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, which opened in February 1927 on the spectacular Waikiki beachfront. Known as “the Pink Palace of the Pacific,” the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was one of the earliest luxury resorts established in this tropical paradise. The stylish décor featured at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, inspired partly by the native crafts of the South Sea Islanders, exerted a lasting influence upon tourists from the mainland, who came to associate the good life in Hawaii more »

Smithson’s Cookbook: English Curry

The origin of curry, the saucy, spiced dish celebrated in India and Great Britain, is not exactly known.   But it is now thought that similarly spiced dishes were developed concurrently, but independent of each other, in England and in India thanks to the spice routes that spanned from Asia and into Europe.   Exotic spices like turmeric and pepper made their way into England during the conquests of the Romans in 40 AD and the Moors in 711 AD, and came in handy during Middle Ages when highly seasoned meats could make aging meat more palatable.

The Fix: Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of the Birds of Ohio

The Book Conservation Lab received a rush request to repair a two volume set of “Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio.” The set is to be displayed at a May 9th event with author Joy Kiser discussing her book “America’s Other Audubon,” chronicling the publication of this work.

Darwin’s Legacy

Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of… , 1839-1843, Plate 42. Amblyryuchus Demarlii [Iguana] The Libraries opened its new exhibition  Darwin’s Legacy in the National Museum of Natural History on Sept. 10. The exhibition cases feature the first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), a revolutionary book that changed the course of modern science. November 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. This exhibition will be on display through Sept. 12, 2010.                On the Origin of Species is widely heralded as the foundation for evolutionary biology. After graduating from Cambridge University in 1831, Darwin signed up as an unpaid naturalist for a five-year scientific voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. As he sailed around South America and the Galápagos Islands (1831-36), Darwin made notes and observations, collected animal fossils and plant specimens and studied the geology of islands and coral reefs. His work led him to think deeply about the distribution of animals and plants over place and time. Darwin’s theory more »

An Entomological Coloring Book for 19th-Century Ladies

Would a fine 19th-century British lady be likely to shriek and swoon onto a fainting-couch upon seeing these images of monstrous-looking insects? Or would she eagerly pick up a paint brush and contemplate which colors she should use for the thorax and stinger? The English author, physician and scientist John Hill (1714?-1775) was certain that the sight of an amazing creature like the Mottled Saw-Fly, with its bulging eyes and curly antennae, would catch the fancy of artistically-inclined ladies. How do we know? The following two-line advertisement printed on the title-page verso of Hill's book, A Decade of Curious Insects (London: Printed for the author, 1773; QL466.H646 1773 SCNHRB) provides the answer: "Ladies who may chuse [i.e. choose] to paint these insects themselves may have sets of the cuts on royal paper printed pale for that purpose." A prolific author renowned for his literary quarrels with such luminaries as the satirist Henry Fielding and the Shakespearean actor David Garrick, John Hill helped to popularize the study of natural history. These more »

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