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Posts Tagged ‘Inside BPL Collections’

Women in the Collections of Distinction

Posted on October 17th, 2013 by admin in General

blogcollageBoston Public Library’s Collections of Distinction highlight many people who made significant contributions to American society, including some revolutionary women:

  • Francis Clalin is featured in the American Civil War 20th Massachusetts Regiment Collection, a woman who disguised herself as a man named Jack Williams and fought in the Civil War. Boston Public Library holds two photographs of Francis Clalin, including one in which she is dressed as a male soldier, and one in which she wears female attire. These are by far the most requested items in the Rare Books department.
  • Former Beacon Hill resident Sarah Wyman Whitman, a talented artist and book designer, was the first woman to become the chief designer for a major American publisher – Boston’s own Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In addition to her groundbreaking book design work, she was an accomplished stained glass artist and painter, with examples of her stained glass work displayed at Harvard University and Trinity Church in Boston. Visit Boston Public Library’s Flickr photostream, which contains more than 350 examples of Whitman’s exquisite bookbindings.  Learn more by visiting the Fine and Historic Book Bindings Collection.
  • The Anti-slavery Collection contains 40,000 pieces of correspondence, newspapers, pamphlets, and books spanning a 35-year period, and features letters and correspondence from the abolitionist Weston sisters: Anne, Caroline, Deborah, Lucia, Mary, and Maria Weston Chapman.  The Weston sisters and eight other women from the Boston Female Anti-slavery Society organized the first anti-slavery fair in 1834 and were a significant force in the fight against slavery.

Findings in the Maritime Charts Collection of Distinction

Posted on October 10th, 2013 by admin in General

mapThere are many treasures to be found in the Maritime Charts and Atlases Collection of Distinction, as the thousands of nautical charts and atlases each tell their own unique story. Staff of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library recently discovered a surprising addition to one of the atlases during their research for an upcoming exhibition. Sketched on the reverse of a chart of the Atlantic Ocean in Thomas Jefferys’ West Indian Atlas from 1798, is a small, detailed drawing of a ship. Drawings such as this ship offer viewers a glimpse into the hobbies and interests of those who used these charts before us, adding a personal touch to these artifacts.

Several items from the Maritime Charts and Atlases Collection of Distinction are currently on display in the exhibition Charting an Empire: The Atlantic Neptune, which runs at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center through November 3. The Map Center is holding an Open House on Saturday, October 19, from 1 -3 p.m., which will include guided tours of the current exhibition and hands-on activities and games for children. For more information, visit the Map Center website or call 617.859.2386.


Meet the Collections of Distinction Curators

Posted on October 2nd, 2013 by admin in General

CDscreenshot1aBoston Public Library’s Collections of Distinction feature eighteen of the most outstanding, expansive, and renowned of the library’s holdings. Behind the collections are the curators who can expertly describe the significance of all the treasures found within. The curators recently answered questions about each of the collections, including their favorite sections, surprising finds, and which audiences they may appeal to. The first four collections highlighted include Shakespeare, Maritime Charts and Atlases, the John Adams Library, and our Local & Family History collection. Throughout October, more curators will be featured. Visit the Collections of Distinction page to meet them and learn more about the library’s collections.

Five Fun Finds in Collections of Distinction

Posted on August 28th, 2013 by admin in General

Boston Public Library unveiled its initial eighteen Collections of Distinction in June, which represent the most outstanding, expansive, and renowned of its holdings of more than 23 million items. Within the collection is an array of books, maps, manuscripts, letters, drawings, and other works dating back to as early as the 10th century. Staff recently identified five fun finds within the collections to share with library users and visitors:

  • Shakespeare: The first four folios of Shakespeare’s work are included among the 15,000 volumes.Francis Clalin
  • Urban Maps: The holdings feature the second largest collection of birds-eye and panoramic maps in the United States.
  • American Civil War Massachusetts 20th Regiment: A photograph of Francis Clalin, a woman who served as a man in the Civil War (pictured at right), is the most requested item in the Rare Books Department.
  • Incunabula: The two earliest titles in the collection are attributed to Johann Gutenberg, including a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, printed between 1454–1455, and Catholicon, printed in 1460. The latter is one of only twelve copies located in the United States and the only one printed on vellum (calfskin).
  • Colonial and Revolutionary Boston: The collection contains Paul Revere’s original manuscript and sketch of the Boston Massacre.

Boston Public Library gives priority to Collections of Distinction in terms of access, acquisition, digitization, and preservation; and continues to identify additional candidates for Collections of Distinction status. To view the criteria for identifying Collections of Distinction or to learn more about the individual collections, visit