Everyone knows these famous lines even if the rest of the poems escapes them. “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly known as The Night before Christmas, was written in 1823 by Clement C. Moore (1779-1863) and is a staple in many families’ holiday traditions. But what accounts for the poem’s enduring popularity?
In the basement of Swem Library is a room used mostly for storage. Along two walls are machines and wooden cases full of drawers. The machines are printing presses and the cases are filled with type – individual letters cast in metal, designed to be set by hand and printed on the machines. The basic principle–of metal type used in a press–was a technology in use for five hundred years in the West, from the mid-fifteenth century until the twentieth. Now, however, our printing is done by different machines, with jets of ink replacing the metal letters of the past. An upcoming exhibition at Swem Library examines printing from the early days to the present, using some actual equipment, as well as early modern rare books and modern day private press books, all from Special Collections.
The Library of Congress’s reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson’s library now receives many visitors who wander through the remarkable library of a remarkable man, institutionalized at the very heart of the US government. The importance and preservation of the libraries of “great men” has been a part of our history for a long time; and most national, university, college, and other institutional libraries are based around those of white men.
None of the books from the first library of William & Mary survived the 1705 fire, except, that is, for this one, Paolo Sarpi’s History of the Council of Trent (BX830 1545 .S323 1676b), found in England during the Second World War. How it ended up there is a mystery, especially in light of its inscription, which indicates that the book was the gift of Captain Nicholas Humfrys to William & Mary in the year before the fire. An answer to the question of how this book survived – or whether it ever made it to the College – may never be possible, but in looking at Humfrys’s life we may be able to put some of the pieces together.