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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? This final blog posts in the “Classroom in Special Collections” series will display their answers (permission granted by students mentioned below).

SR Blog

Witnessing the “History of the Book” exhibit was an amazing experience to be apart of. All the books that were exhibited were quite old, and they were unique in their own ways. Three books that were significant to me included the Sumerian tablet with agricultural records, the 14th century Italian manuscript of music, and Shakespeare’s 2nd folio. Being an Anthropology major, the Sumerian tablet was meaningful to me because it relates back to several things I learn in my classes, and it deeply connects to the ancient world. I found the 14th century Italian manuscript significant because my family is of Italian descent, and one of my Uncle’s sing Italian opera and he would love that book. Also, music is something I hold near and dear to my heart, and I thought the book was absolutely beautiful. My favorite and most memorable book that I saw was Shakespeare’s 2nd folio. Growing up, I was obsessed with the Renaissance and with Shakespeare. My grandmother would take me to the Renaissance Fair every year, and we attended several Shakespearean plays. Seeing this original copy certainly blew my mind, and it was an opportunity that not everyone gets to have. I feel honored to have been able to witness this exhibit, and it is something I now know I can use to my advantage as a UC Davis student.

-Sonny Ruggiero

Works Mentioned:

1. Sumerian clay tablet. PJ4071 .S9

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

3. Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall copies. Oversize PR2751 .A2



I found our trip to Collections to be very interesting as I had the opportunity to see how different pieces of literature have changed through the centuries. The history behind the books we saw while on the tour through Collections at Shields was what awed me the most. I loved seeing these old books, with worn bindings, and pages made out of more than just paper. I began to imagine all the different people that held these books and the era in which these people existed. Those people were long gone, but the book they held, read, and created, were still here for us to see. Because of this, my attention was mostly focused on the books on the first three tables. More specifically, on table 1, I loved looking at the Sumerian tablet. How anyone was able to translate it was fascinating to me because all I saw were lines sketched into stone. Next, I was attached to the 11th century Greek Bible with its worn leather bindings and pages made of goat skin. How different things were back then that pages were made out of animal skins instead of paper, and if we looked close enough we could see where the animals hair had been. The amount of history behind the bible was fascinating to me as well. The next book that caught my eye was the 14th century Italian Manuscript of Music. This was probably my favorite of the collection of books. I couldn’t stop looking at the pages that had hammered gold on them. The artwork surrounding the old musical notes was very eye catching, especially when we were told that the drawings were of the composers. It made me wish that I could read musical notes so that I could get an idea of what the pieces might have sounded like. Overall, the pieces in the exhibit were interesting. The most eye catching pieces were the oldest ones and I enjoyed seeing how worn they were, and how different they looked when compared to what I am used to seeing today.

-Sarah Tesseo. ​

4. Sumerian clay tablet. PJ4071 .S9

5. The four Gospels of the New Testament. Greek. 12th cent. BS2551 .A4 no.2641

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