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Special Collections, history of book

The Classroom in Special Collections

Special Collections prepared a “History of the Book” table exhibit for Prof. Jane Beal’s University Writing Program 101 course.  The students were then asked to answer the following question: What were three of the most memorable and meaningful books that you saw in the “History of the Book” table exhibit in the Special Collections of Shields Library? The blog posts in the “Classroom in Special Collections” series will display their answers (permission granted by students mentioned below).

NoAuthor blog

The three most memorable and meaningful books that I saw in the “History of the Book” table exhibit include: the Sumerian tablet with agricultural records, the wine cork with quotations from Homer’s Odyssey and Faerie Queene by Spenser. I found all the books meaningful, however, these three in particular stood out to me the most. I think the Sumerian tablet with agricultural records was my favorite because it was the first “book” or “writing” discovered. I found the tablet to be intriguing because of the Davis history behind the tablet. The librarian told our group that a fellow UC Davis professor was able to translate the writings on the tablet, which I thought was really interesting. The next book that I enjoyed was the wine cork with quotations from the Odyssey. This was memorable and meaningful to me because it brought back memories of high school when I read the Odyssey in my sophomore year English class. I remember enjoying that book, so it brought back pleasant memories. I thought it was nice to make that connection to my own past experiences. Finally, I thought the Faerie Queene by Spenser was memorable because I learned that this piece is one long poem. The book was a decent size, so I was shocked to discover that Faerie Queene was actually a whole poem. If I ever have the time, I would like to read the first poem. Dr. B said the first poem is manageable. These three books were all special and interesting to me. These pieces stood out from the entire book collection. I am very appreciative that I was able to visit the Special Collections room in the library because I have an even greater appreciation for the history of books. I anticipate that books will continue to evolve into even more interesting pieces.


Works Mentioned:

1. Sumerian clay tablet. PJ4071 .S9

2. The wine / illustrated and bound by Suzanne Thomas. TP548.7 .T46 2008

3. The Faerie Queen: The Shepheard’s Calendar: together with the other works of England’s Arch-poet... PR2350 1617


NS Blog

Three of the most memorable books that I witnessed when taking part in the tour of the Special Collections of the UC Davis Shields Library were the Sumerian cuneiform tablet, Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, and the 14th century Italian manuscript of music. The cuneiform tablet depicted one of modern man’s first languages, albeit comprised of pictograms instead of words, but also details man’s tireless journey toward modernity. It amazes me that such an important work of literature could survive for so long and still be legible today. Isaac Newton is somewhat of a hero of mine who championed the scientific method to derive universal, mathematic truths of our universe. Without his pioneering efforts, Einstein might not have formulated a revision of the law of universal gravitation, or derive his most famous equation. Finally, the 14th century Italian manuscript of music was especially interesting to me as a musician. It was incredible to see how the art of written music has retained a similar form for centuries now. I was able to play some of the music in my head and, although it sounded a tad dated, it sprang to life with fervorous energy. Shameless and blatant promotion aside, the tour through the Special Collections of the UC Davis Shields Library was an enlightening experience – one that has rejuvenated my love of reading with the new ambition of reading and studying older works.

-Nicholas Skinner

4. Sumerian clay tablet. PJ4071 .S9

5. Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica. QA803 .A2 1726

6. Il codice Squarcialupi : Ms. Mediceo Palatino 87, Biblioteca medicea laurenziana di Firenze. Oversize ML96.4 .S68


Archives and Special Collections


Classroom in Special Collections series Rare Books Student Reflections