Institutional knowledge is an awesome thing and something that is often taken for granted and/or overlooked. I recently learned a cool story surrounding one of the rare books housed in Special Collections, thanks to former Dean of W&M Libraries, Nancy Marshall.
What do Indiana Jones and the Content Services Mosaic Intern have in common? We both spend our days searching for historical treasure: in my case that involves paging through old texts—often plain or even dirty in appearance—researching their autographs and marginalia, and mining valuable snippets of the lives of people important to both our local and national history. Occasionally, I do have the opportunity to handle a book whose cover reflects its treasure inside, like the Canon Missae ad Usum Episcorum, ac Praelatorum Solemniter, vel Private Celebrantium (1755), donated by Ralph H. Wark and Patrick Hayes.
Swem Library holds two editions of A grammar of the English tongue, with the arts of logick, rhetoric, poetry, &c., but it is in the earlier one, printed in 1714, that we find something unexpected and extraordinary. This volume belonged to Samuel Clark, who, according to Alumni Oxonienses by J. Foster, matriculated at St. John’s College, Oxford in 1725 at age 18, graduated BA in 1729, MA in 1733, and BD in 1738. That he was a fellow of the college we know only because he told us so with his autograph on the flyleaf: Sam:[ue]ll Clark e Coll:[egium] Di:[vi] Jo:[annis] Bap:[tisti] Soc:[ius] Oxon.[ienses].
Many of the treasures in Special Collections don’t actually live in the stacks downstairs but are instead housed in Swem Library’s Offsite Stacks (SOSS). Most materials are kept in SOSS either because they are infrequently requested through Special Collections or have specific requirements for the environment in which they must be housed. However, SOSS contains materials just as intriguing as items found in the regular stacks, so it’s a treat to go through some of the lesser known materials held there.
It may seem like Spanish empire in the Americas would have little to do with European politics, but we should not assume that the Atlantic world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was any less global than our own. As noted in a previous post, the publication in Europe of different editions of Bartolomé de Las Casas’s description of Spanish colonialism was linked to both conflict with Spain and sovereignty and border politics a long way from Mexico.