Found in Firestone

Whenever a building gets turned inside out, unexpected mementos of its past inhabitants are sure to emerge. The renovation of Firestone Library, a project scheduled to continue to 2018, has involved the demolition of several areas and the discovery of diverse ephemera. “Found in Firestone,” a new exhibition in the main lobby of the University Library, shows some of the items left behind by the workers who built the Library and the students who have studied there.


Perhaps not unexpectedly, a fair amount of pornography lurked in study carrels. Newspapers from 1948, the year Firestone opened, were stuffed behind old walls.


Travel seemed to be another theme: an 1850s guide for visitors to Oxford was found behind a cabinet, and a brochure for tours to pre-revolutionary Havana turned up in a carrel.


Perhaps the strangest object was an origami bird discovered in the back of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s 1889 bronze sculpture of University President James McCosh’s head, with a note: “On March 20, 1969, 4:37 p.m. This particular paper was inserted in the orifice located posteriorally (to the subject’s face) so that you, the discoverer of this message, will be cognizant of its significance.”

These and other objects found by Ted Munz and his team from Massimino Building Company, the construction managers for the project, are displayed in a case beneath a rediscovered tapestry from the original faculty lounge. The exhibition, organized by Project Coordinator Margaret Kehrer and prepared by John Walako and Gretchen Oberfranc, is free and open to the public.

14. October 2013 by Rare Books and Special Collections
Categories: Exhibition | 1 comment

Egyptian Film Poster Designers and the Print Shops of Hassan Mazhar Gassour & Sayed Ali Ibrahim al-Nasr


“Gassour” [Hassan Mazhar Gassour, 1925-1992], one-sheet film poster for al-Tariq al-Mustaqim [The Straight Path] (Eqypt, 1943). Color lithograph printed in Cairo by al-Cinema al-Arabiyah. Arabic Movie Posters and Lobby Cards Collection, Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Egyptian Film Poster Designers and the Print Shops of Hassan Mazhar Gassour & Sayed Ali Ibrahim al-Nasr

Main Gallery, Firestone Library, Princeton University

21 September 2013 – 2 February 2014

Historical studies of the “golden age” of the Egyptian film industry, from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, have paid little attention to the colorful posters that advertised those films and the people who designed them. A new exhibition in the Main Gallery of the Princeton University Library, “Egyptian Film Poster Designers and the Print Shops of Hassan Mazhar Gassour & Sayed Ali Ibrahim al-Nasr,” highlights the artistic style, variation, and evolution of the artwork created by what became, by 1960, the most prominent film poster printing houses in Cairo. The dozens of posters and lobby cards on display, produced from the 1940s through the 1990s, are drawn from Princeton’s extensive Arabic Movie Posters and Lobby Cards Collection, acquired in Lebanon in 2008.  The exhibition runs from 21 September 2013 through 2 February 2014. An opening lecture and reception will be held on 29 September 2013. Dr. Christiane Gruber (Class of 1998) of the University of Michigan will speak at 3:00 p.m. in McCormick Hall on “The Painterly ‘Still’ in Modern Egyptian, Iranian, and Turkish Visual Cultures.” A reception will follow in the Main Gallery of Firestone Library. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public. Gallery tours will be offered by the exhibition curator, James Weinberger, Curator of Near Eastern Collections, on Sunday, October 13, at 1 p.m. and Sunday, November 17, at 1 p.m. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., closed holidays. For further information, please contact James Weinberger (609-258-3279 or


03. September 2013 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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Cotsen Children’s Library to Host International Conference


The Cotsen Children’s Library will host the conference “Putting the Figure on the Map: Imagining Sameness and Difference for Children” from Wednesday, September 11, through Friday, September 13, 2013.  The Conference is geared to professionals and experts in illustrated children’s literature and librarians and K-12 teachers are welcome.

This interdisciplinary program about international illustrated children’s books, co-organized by Emer O’Sullivan and Andrea Immel, will draw on the approaches in imagology, history, anthropology, psychology, and literary criticism.  It will focus on modes of expression arising within or outside the classroom that either target children or appropriate discourses for them that create competing, complimentary, or contradictory images of foreign nations and their peoples.  The program will also feature a workshop featuring primary resources from the Cotsen collection.

Registration is free to Princeton University students, faculty and staff; $25 for all others.  To register online, visit:

Visit the conference website for speaker biographies and abstracts at:

For more information, please contact Andrea Immel, Curator, Cotsen Children’s Library, at

The Cotsen Children’s Library is a unit within the Department  of Rare Books and Special Collections in Princeton’s Firestone Library.  The gift of Lloyd E. Cotsen, Class of 1950, Charter Trustee, and collector, Cotsen is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of international historical illustrated children’s books, prints, manuscripts, original artwork, and educational toys.

For directions to the Cotsen Children’s Library:


11 September 2013

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm:  Reception (Cotsen Children’s Library, Firestone Library)

12 September 2013 (All activities Thursday take place at Friend Center, William Street, Room 113, unless otherwise noted.)

9:30 am – 10:15 am:  Registration and coffee

10:15 am – 10:30 am:  Welcome

10:30 am – 12:00 pm:  Session 1 Ethnography on Display

  • Emer O’Sullivan  “Picturing the World for Children: Early Nineteenth-Century Images of Foreign Nations”
  • Gillian Lathey “Figuring the World: Representing Children’s Encounters with Other Peoples  and Cultures at the 1851 Great Exhibition”
  • Silke Meyer (via Skype)  “Politics in the Children’s Perspective: National Stereotypes in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Prints”

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm:  Lunch

2:00 pm – 3:15 pm:  Session 2  Images Instrumentalized

  • Martina Seifert “Appropriating the Wild North: The Image of Canada and Its Exploitation in German Children’s Literature”
  • Lara Saguisag “Foreign Yet Familiar: Theorizing the Immigrant Child in Progressive Era Comic Strips 1896-1912”

3:15 pm – 3:30 pm:  Break

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm:

  • Amanda Brian  “Civilizing Children and Animals in Lothar Meggendorfer’s Moveable Books”
  • Eric J. Johnson  “Teaching How to Hate: Oncle Hansi’s Pedagogial Polemic and  the Question of Alsatian Nationalism”

13 September 2013 (Venue to be announced.)

10:00 am – 12:00 pm:  Session 3 Internationalism, Pacifism, and Tolerance, I

  • Nina Christensen “Education to Tolerance: Citizens of the World in Eighteenth-Century Children’s Literature and Children’s Literature of Today”
  • Cynthia Koepp “An Anthropologist Shows Children a World of Difference: The Pedagogical Imagination of Louis-François Jauffret”
  • Minjie Chen “Foreigners Not (Yet) in One Box: Discourse on Race and Foreign Nationals in Chinese Children’s Reading Materials 1890-1920

12:00 pm – 1:15 pm:  Lunch

1:15 pm – 3:00 pm:  Session 4 Internationalism, Pacifism, and Tolerance, II

  • Farah Mendlesohn “National Characters, National Character: Children in Pacifist and Anti-Militaristic Publications for Children Between the Wars”
  • Gabriele von Glasenapp “Information or Exoticization?: Constructing Religious Difference in Children’s Non-Fiction”
  • Margaret R. Higonnet “No Child Is an Island”

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm:   Session V Primary Materials Workshop (Cotsen Children’s Library, Firestone Library)

  • Jill Shefrin  “Pictures for Tarry-at-home Travellers”
  • Setsuko Noguchi   “Around the World in One Game: Japanese Picture Sugoroku

5:00 pm:  Closing words

20. August 2013 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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Library Renovations Under Way in Rare Books and Special Collections


Summer Renovations

In light of the library’s importance in teaching and research at Princeton, the University has committed to a comprehensive renovation of the Firestone Library that began in 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in September 2018.   With classes finished for the academic year, the renovation work will ramp up significantly this summer.  A list of summer projects can be accessed on the Library’s Renovation Update page:

Visiting Rare Books and Special Collections During the Construction

The current phase of summer construction includes work in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, and from the middle of June until the first week of September, there will be asbestos abatement and contractor work in areas of  the Cotsen Children’s Library, the Main Exhibition Gallery and Reception Area.  Accommodations will be made to assure continued reading room and paging services throughout the construction.  The Department’s Dulles Reading Room will remain open during normal summer hours (Monday-Friday, 8:45-4:15).

Every effort is being made to schedule the most disruptive construction work during off hours, but some noise and minor inconveniences are to be expected.  Ear plugs will be available and the doors to the Dulles Reading Room will remain shut to minimize disruptions.  If you have questions or concerns regarding an upcoming visit to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, please contact us at (609) 258-8497 or

The Renovation Vision

Proposed Rare Books & Special Collections Exhibition Gallery

Proposed Rare Books & Special Collections Exhibition Gallery

The plans for the renovation of Firestone are focused on creating a building that is well-suited to support modern library services and contemporary approaches to scholarship while also providing the proper environment for one of the world’s great book and manuscript collections.  For a master plan of the renovation, a photo gallery of completed and ongoing work, as well as renovation updates, see the Firestone Library Renovation website.

05. June 2013 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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Envisioning the World: Henry and Holly Wendt Donate Historic World Map Collection.


Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus). Untitled Map of the World. Ulm, Germany, 1482.

An extraordinary collection of world maps, dating from 1472 to 1700, has found a permanent home in the Historic Maps Collection of the Princeton University Library. Collected by Henry Wendt, Class of 1955, and his wife, Holly, the thirty items have been traveling around the country for the past three years as an exhibition, “Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps, 1472-1700.” Firestone Library’s Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts hosted the show in early 2010.

As Wendt explained in the catalogue that he wrote for the exhibition, “Three major strands of thought—classical Greek geography, new scientific concepts augmented by the dramatic expansion of geographical information obtained from the early voyages of discovery, and the durable medieval theocratic representation of the world—appear alone or in combination on printed maps for more than 200 years.” By the end of the seventeenth century, the cascading scientific work of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Joannes Kepler (1571–1630), and Edmond Halley (1656–1742) had begun to change the look and purpose of world maps. To support his narrative, Wendt grouped his maps into four historical periods:

• 1472–1502: “Printing, the Bible, and Ancient Wisdom” (8 maps). Included is the first printed map, Saint Isidore’s simple woodcut (1472) showing three continents in the form of a T, encircled by an ocean, an O—hence, the beginning of what became known as T-O maps. At the center is Eden, and the continents reflect the dispersal of Noah’s sons (Shem, Ham, Japheth) after the Great Flood.

• 1504–1548: “The Age of Exploration” (7 maps). “Typus Cosmographicus Universalis” (1532) by the German cartographer Sebastian Münster belongs to this group. Coming ten years after Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage of circumnavigation, the map reflects the curvature of the Earth and contains rudimentary shapes for North and South America. Sea monsters still ply the oceans.

• 1570–1640: “Worldviews Collide” (8 maps). The golden age of Dutch mapmaking art is represented by the world map of Willem Janszoon Blaeu, “Nova totius terrarum orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula” (1630). Superb copperplate engraving and hand coloring offer a cartographic feast. Surrounding the Mercator projection of the world are insets of the seven wonders of the world and figures representing the four seasons, the four elements, and seven astronomical bodies (the sun, moon, and five planets)—illustrating the carte-à-figures style of border decoration.

• 1657–1700: “The World Measured: Science Comes of Age” (6 maps). “Nova & Accuratissima totius terrarum orbis tabula nautica variationum magneticarum . . . ,” by the English astronomer Edmond Halley, typifies a more modern approach to mapmaking: a thematic overlay of the known geography with objective data—in this case, isogonic lines indicating variances in the Earth’s magnetic field—to interpret natural phenomena. No wind heads, monsters, or religious imagery embellish the science. As Wendt noted, this scientific method endures in cartography with global positioning systems, satellite photography, and space exploration.

Wendt’s collection also includes Abraham Ortelius’s historical map “Tabula Peuteringeriana,” more commonly known as the “Peutinger Table.” First printed in 1598 and based on a thirteenth-century manuscript scroll now housed in the national library of Austria, the map presents the cursus publicus, the network of roads originally created for couriers of the Roman emperors. In eight AAA TripTik–like sections, the map provides a compressed, linear view of the world similar in function to a subway map today. Only the essential elements for travelers remain: distance in terms of a day’s hike, symbols for places to stop for food and shelter, only the rudiments of rivers and other topography. A fascinating world view from the perspective of the Romans.

The maps are in the process of being catalogued and scanned; high-resolution copies will be available to the public, linked from the library’s online catalog records.

Collecting maps and producing fine wines have been passions of the former SmithKline Beecham chairman/CEO and proprietor of Quivera Vineyards and Winery; Princeton is certainly another. The Historic Maps Collection has been greatly enriched by this thoughtful and generous donation, just one in a long list of significant gifts and endowments to the university from Holly and Henry Wendt.

28. May 2013 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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