Williamsburg before Williamsburg

The College of William and Mary was founded before the City of Williamsburg, the former in 1693, the latter in 1699. The original of this map, however, was made at some point before 1683, and was used by the Lords of Trade and Foreign Plantations in London in their administration of the colonies. It shows the area where Williamsburg and the College would be built, at least a decade before they came into being. This was often the only sort of documentation people in London had access to about places they had never seen themselves.

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The ties that bind: How the decay of a binding shows its construction

Swem Library has a great many books in very bad bindings. Most modern books, for instance, are held together only by glue at the spine. Even modern hardcovers have the same binding. Other than the hard shell surrounding them, they are in all other respects exactly the same as a cheap paperback. In the past, however, bindings were much stronger.

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Remembering World War I

On April 6, 1917 the United States entered World War I, then known as the Great War. A century later, objects in Special Collections reveal memories of Americans’ lives at wartime. Among the variety of materials available for research are a collection of Red Cross posters, a veteran’s scrapbook, and a nurse’s correspondence with loved ones.

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The World Before QWERTY

Can you type without looking at the keyboard? This used to be a skill taught to people who wanted secretarial or clerical jobs. Now of course many of us type quickly because we use computers on a daily basis.  But what about the predecessor to the keyboard we know? This is it – a typecase, filled with individual letters which had to be assembled by hand to create anything which needed to be printed.

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Believable Lies

The island of Taiwan, once commonly known in the West by the Portuguese name of Formosa, has recently resurfaced in the news in connection with the One China policy. In the past it was also a subject of interest, although information coming from Taiwan itself was often scarce. Because of that scarcity it was possible in 1704 for a European to appear in London claiming to be a Formosan and to publish a book about the island that was fiction masquerading as a true travel account. Special Collections has just acquired a first edition of one such work with funds from the Gale H. Arnold ’58 Special Collections Endowment.

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