Mellon Scholars Program: Exploring Hope College’s Rare Book Room: A Treasure Trove of Resources for Students of Art History

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Anne Heath, Hope College
Dr. William Pannapacker, Hope College

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Over the course of four weeks last May, Professor Anne Heath and I assessed the contents of the Rare Book Room. From the start of the project, we established our central research question: is there anything of significance in the Rare Book Room that would have potential for an art show? As each book was assessed, a Google Document was created in order to sort each book. Some books of interest are as follows: Catalogues van de Tentoonstelling de Vrouw 1813-1913 Meerhuizen-Amsteldijk, a catalogue for an exhibition of women from 1813-1913, The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell published in 1843, and several Holy Bibles ranging from 1476-1716. Each of these books was of interest not only because of their outward physical properties, but also because of the detailed illustrations provided in the pages. Throughout this process other book exhibits at various libraries were examined: the Newberry Library, the Morgan Library, the Beinecke Library and the Andover-Harvard Theological Lab. As each show’s materials were compared and contrasted, Professor Heath and I came up with potential exhibits for the gallery in the art department: Sixteenth-century Books, Dutch Books, the History of the Book, Moving from the Manuscript to the Printed book, Reconstructing the Reader, and Highlights from the Collection. At the end of our research, we discovered that the Rare Book Room does, in fact, offer the art department enough material for a show in 2012, which would consist of books that are interesting for their physical properties: whether a beautiful cover, gorgeous typography or fascinating prints.

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