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Rare Books

Recent Acquisitions

Rare Book Acquisition Highlights, 2018

Compiled by John Miles


The McIlhenny Natural History CollectionRenard's Poissons

Longtime friend of the library Dr. James “Jim” Bishop donated a number of interesting and beautiful books, perhaps the most exciting of which is the illustrated catalog of marine life by Louis Renard, Poissons, ecrevisses et crabes (1719). Meticulously detailed and at times fanciful in its depictions of sea life, Renard's book is also notable both for the vibrancy of its colors and for its scarcity: this is one of only sixteen extant copies. In remarkable condition, this book makes an outstanding early addition to the McIlhenny Collections' strength in ichthyology. 

Read more about the book and Bishop's other equally striking donations here.

The library also added Fortunio Liceti's illustrated book of monsters, De Monstrorum Natura, Caussis, et differentiis Libri duo (1634). This is the first illustrated edition of Paduan physician Liceti's classic teratology (the scientific study of congenital abnormalities and abnormal formations; also of monsters and monstrosities), which attempted a scientific and descriptive taxonomy of human deformities and malformations. However fantastic these depictions appear today, Liceti's book remained an important reference in the field as late as the nineteenth century.


The Rare Book Collection

Local businessman and bibliophile Doug Jehle donated the large plate book Choix des plus célèbres maisons de plaisance de Rome et de ses environs (1809-13) by the neoclassical French architect Charles Percier. Exhibiting a rigorous attention to architectural accuracy as captured by exacting engravings, this book demonstrates why Napoleon favored the work of Percier and his partner Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, who we now recognize as exemplifying the Directoire and Empire styles.


The Gladney Chess Collection

Bill Cotter of W. S. Cotter Rare Books donated a 1981 reprint of Jean Gay's Bibliographie anecdotique du jeu des échecs. Gay was a mid-nineteenth century bibliographer working in Paris, whose thorough and at times witty work catalogs a number of books on chess not found elsewhere.

Rare Book Acquisition Highlights, July 2015 to June 2016

Compiled by Michael Taylor, 2016

Japanese Illustrated Books

We have started building a small collection of Japanese illustrated books to provide material for studying the history of books, printing, printmaking, and illustration, and to support Asian art surveys and comparative historical studies. The initiative will also strengthen the McIlhenny Natural History Collection by adding works by Japanese artists, who made important contributions to nature illustration. Several dozen items have been acquired and are listed on the guide to Japanese Illustrated Books & Prints.

Medieval Manuscript Facsimiles

  • Parma Ildefonsus. 11th-century manuscript of a text by St. Ildefonsus on the sanctity of the Virgin Mary. Each page features illustrations and/or elaborate borders. Produced at the Abbey of Cluny.
  • Book Altar of Philip the Good. 15th century. Combination of a panel diptych and a prayer book. Made for the Duke of Burgundy.
  • The Black Hours. 15th-century Flemish book of hours. Pages dyed black.

History of Books and Printing

Book Arts / Artists' Books

Anna Hellsgard and Christian Gfeller, Chapter XI: Who Stole the Tarts? (2015). One volume of a series of 12 unique volumes, one for each of the 12 individual chapters in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. "The conceptual integrity of only allowing one chapter per institution insures that the book as a whole will exist on a global scale" (artists' statement). Striking modern art acquired for use in presentations on color theory.

Justseeds Artists' Cooperative, Migration Now: A Print Portfolio of Handmade Prints Addressing Migrant Issues (2012). Portfolio of 37 letterpress and silkscreen broadside prints.


  • Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1760-67). One of the most important eighteenth-century English novels. Also a satire on the excesses of eighteenth-century publishing and authorship.
  • Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (1771). Another one of the most important eighteenth-century English novels.
  • Numerous editions of Charlotte Temple by the early American novelist Susanna Rowson (1762-1824), acquired for use in course on the History of the Book in America.
  • Persian Kama Sutra. 18th century, facsimile. Contains love poetry and 119 illustrations of sexual positions. In an Islamic flap binding. Acquired for history of books and writing collection, and as an example of Islamic book art.
  • Block puzzle of six maps (19th century). Teaching aid used to instruct children in geography.
  • Matthew Calbraith Perry, Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan (1856). Account of the opening of Japan to trade and diplomatic relations with the West. Also America's first encounter with Japanese art.


Rare Book Acquisition Highlights, July 2014 to June 2015

Compiled by Michael Taylor, 2015


Nicolas Louis Bourgeois, Christophe Colomb, ou, l'Amérique découverte (1773). An epic poem on Christopher Columbus, accompanied by an album containing 26 original graphite drawings on vellum by Noël Challe. The drawings are believed to have been created between 1769 and 1772 in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). Each numbered drawing depicts a scene from one of the twenty-four cantos of the poem. An extremely rare example of book-related art produced in the colonial Caribbean. Also provides insight into illustration processes in the eighteenth century.

Philippe de Belleville, Theatre d'histoire (1613). An illustrated chivalric romance. One of the library's earliest illustrated French-language books.

Album of French engraved plates of garden designs and architectural ornamentation, circa 1700. Includes designs by André Le Nôtre, designer of the gardens at the royal palace at Versailles.

Jean Barbault, Les plus beaux monuments de Rome ancienne (1761). Large eighteenth-century architectural folio depicting Roman ruins in the style of Piranesi.

Manuel de Andrade de Figueiredo, Nova escola para aprender a ler, escrever, e contar (1722). Elaborate Portuguese penmanship manual. Acquired for history of books and writing collection.

La Divina comedia di Dante Alighieri (1813?). Illustrated edition of the Divine Comedy by Sofia Giacomelli. Acquired to build on existing Dante collection and to complement a 1578 edition acquired last year.

Petrarch, Il Petrarcha (1552). Edition of many of the author's poems. The library's copy has three sonnets crossed out with ink, probably by an early owner. These are the so-called "Babylon sonnets" banned by Pope Clement VIII in 1595. Acquired as an example of censorship for the history of books and writing collection.

Thomas Doughty, The Cabinet of Natural History and American Rural Sports (1830-33). The first book of colored sporting prints produced in the United States. Doughty founded the Hudson River School of painting.

John Keats

In 2013, Special Collections began expanding its holdings of works by John Keats to support study of how the physical aspects of different editions affect readers' interpretation of his poetry. We have continued building the collection over the past year. Works acquired include:

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscript Facsimiles

  • Divine Comedy.  Facsimile of a 1491 printed edition with extensive added illustrations attributed to Antonio Grifo.
  • Codex Gisle.  Sacred music manuscript, dated 1300, copied and illuminated by the Cistercian nun Gisela von Kerssenbrock. Contains 53 historiated initials depicting the life of Christ. Perhaps the only medieval manuscript produced by a woman.
  • Songbook of Joan the Mad. Early 16th-century collection of Latin, French, and Flemish polyphonic chansons. Includes 54 miniatures.
  • Apicius / De re coquinaria. 10th-century Carolingian manuscript of Roman recipes originally compiled in the 4th or 5th century.
  • Gladiatoria.  15th-century illustrated German manuscript on martial arts.

Book Arts / Artists' Books

Gaylord Shanilec, Lac des Pleurs (2015).

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (2014). Arion Press edition.

Tim Lane, Anima Mundi (2014). Limited edition concertina book; reproduction of a 5-meter-long graphite-on-paper drawing; pages can be recombined with each other by folding them back and forth revealing new narratives with each viewing.

Three Brighton Press books: Martha Serpas, The Diener (2011); Marie Luise Kaschnitz, Herbarium (2010); and Duck Blind (2013). Acquired for the Rare Book, McIlhenny, and Louisiana & Lower Mississippi Valley Collections in honor of Elaine Smyth on her retirement from the LSU Libraries.

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