As an undergraduate, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ‘special’ in Special Collections excludes you. I certainly thought this until beginning my placement here as part of the Library’s Graduate Trainee Scheme.
Special Collections staff, however, are keen for you to know that the valuable resources found on level 12 of the Library are available to all students and staff of the University. Subject strengths include art, languages, literature, music, history and the history of law, science and medicine.
During my time in Special Collections, I have drawn upon my studies as a recent graduate of English Literature to create a web resource featuring texts considered on the Renaissance Literature course studied at Honours level here at the University of Glasgow. The website highlights some of the rare books available for consultation in the Library. The books chosen are all between 300 and 400 years old, and include first editions of some of the most influential works ever written. Some of the items described include:
• first editions of Paradise Lost, The Faerie Queene and The Anatomy of Melancholy, all annotated by early readers;
• a copy of the second edition of the collected works of Ben Jonson, known as his Second Folio;
• early quarto editions of Henry IV parts one and two, both published during Shakespeare’s lifetime.
To accompany the launch of these new pages, I invited students to attend seminars in the department to view these volumes for themselves. They were also given guidance on handling rare books and how to find and consult material from Special Collections. It is possible to arrange similar visits for other classes by contacting the Special Collections Department.
The students who visited Special Collections were excited to have the opportunity to view the original copies of books they had read as part of their studies. Particular highlights seemed to be Shakespeare’s First Folio and the first edition of The Faerie Queene which has been in the University of Glasgow’s Library for over 300 years. Past students have felt compelled to add their thoughts on Spenser’s long allegorical poem to the title page:
Underneath the title is written ‘horabel most horabel’. Also on the title page, in a different hand, has been written: ‘The Faery Queen a very nonsensical book I assure you upon my word of honour John Colquohoon Esq.”
Thankfully, those who visited Special Collections were more impressed with seeing this book than these readers! Joel Summers, an English Literature Honours student, said:
‘It was fascinating to see some of the texts in their original form that we are studying at Honours level: I certainly feel it helped to put our course in perspective’.
In order to create these pages for the website, my first task was to select which books to include from the myriad available. I looked through each book featured, discovering many interesting aspects and peculiarities in each. It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to view so many of the treasures kept in the Special Collections Department. One of my favourite books is Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, so looking at the four copies of the first edition owned by the University of Glasgow Library was a particular highlight for me.
I hope this new web resource will help bring to light another small part of the infinite treasure-trove on level 12 of the Library and encourage new users to visit the department. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Lara Burton, Library Graduate Trainee.
Tags: Ben Jonson, Edmund Spenser, Graduate Trainee, John Milton, learning, literature, milton, paradise lost, rare books, renaissance literature, Special Collections, special collections seminars, spenser, treasures, William Shakespeare