Category: pamphlets

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The search for sustainable energy in 1869

Continuing our theme of engines, this week's pamphlet is Power without Fuel by James Baldwin, published in New York in 1869.  In this pamphlet, Baldwin explains his attempts to design an engine that isn't dependent on coal, wood, oil, gas, or other combustible fuel. His idea (he wasn't the first to think of it) was a variation on the carbonic acid motor: an engine that would run on a solution of carbon dioxide in water.  Engineers investigated carbonic acid engines as a possible replacement for steam power in the nineteenth century.  While the gasoline engine won out in the end, there are several turn-of-the-century patents for carbonic acid motors in the United States and Europe.  Today, we'd probably say that Baldwin was attempting to develop alternative energy, an endeavor which is one of the University of Missouri's four strategic research areas

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MERLIN catalog record


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Posted in Rare Book Collection

Were there steam engines in the Bible?

Yes, you read that title right – this week we're sharing a selection from the collection of British pamphlets, and it's a sermon claiming that the steam engine was revealed in biblical prophecy.  It appears to survive in only a few copies (perhaps unsurprisingly), and this is one of the few in the United States.  The author is Tresham Dames Gregg (1800-1881), a militant protestant clergyman who spent much of his career in the Church of Ireland campaigning against Catholicism.  Gregg was popular with the working class in Dublin and was consistently at odds with higher-ranking Church officials throughout his career.  Although known for his preaching style and his prolific writings, "in his later years he had strange ideas about the rule of the Antichrist, and his own personal immortality" (source).

Gregg's primary idea in this sermon is that various prophetic visions in the Bible are actually descriptions of steam engines.  He goes to great lengths to prove this, even paraphrasing the first chapter of Ezekiel, with the famous vision of God's heavenly chariot, to claim that it is in actuality a vision of a passenger train in the far future.  But Gregg doesn't end there.  He suggests that locomotives on earth are already  "partly realized by human skill…  why should we not, thus led, be by the divine goodness, at last enabled to construct locomotives that would connect the earth with the other planets?"

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Posted in Rare Book Collection

5 Women Printers and Booksellers of the 17th Century

In honor of Women's History month, this post takes a look at five women printers and booksellers from the seventeenth century in Special Collections.  Women during this period sometimes inherited printing offices or booksellers' shops from their fathers or husbands. Once in charge of their establishments, they were able to operate as independent businesswomen, responsible for operations, finances, and the supervision of pressmen and compositors.

The book below was printed by a woman printer for a woman bookseller! Mary Clark was the widow of Andrew Clark, a printer.  She maintained a printing business in Aldersgate, London, from 1677 to 1696.  Ann Mearn (also spelled Mearne) was part of an influential family of booksellers and bookbinders.  Her husband, Samuel Mearne, was a former warden and master of the Stationers' Company, stationer to Charles II. Her sons and husband were part of the group book historians refer to as the "Queen's Binder," known for the high quality and intricacy of their gold tooled designs.

AAB-128Life and Reign of Henry VIII

Hannah Allen was born into a family of booksellers and bookbinders, and she married Benjamin Allen, a bookseller, when she was probably in her early teens.  After the death of her husband in 1646, Hannah Allen inherited his business.  Her name appears on imprints as the proprietor for about five years.  She published works by radical puritan authors and worked with a wide variety of stationers, a fact that suggests her press was successful and financially independent.  After freeing her apprentice, Livewell Chapman, in 1650, she married him, and her name disappears from the press's imprints. Legally, the business became his upon their marriage, although it's likely she was still involved.

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Sarah Griffin had a longer career than Hannah Allen, and rather than being a radical printer, she was at the head of an established printing house founded in 1590.  Her mother-in-law, Anne Griffin, was in charge of the business from 1634 to 1643, and she gradually transferred the business to her son Edward (Sarah's husband), beginning in 1638.  Sarah in turn inherited the business when Edward died in 1652, and began printing jointly with her son, Bennett, in 1671.  She is recorded as a printer in the Stationers' Company records until 1673.


Anne Seile (also spelled Anna and Ann) inherited the bookselling business of Henry Seile when he died in 1661.  She published books under her own name until 1667.  This edition of Heylin's Cosmography, with its large size and engraved maps, would have been expensive to produce.  Anne Seile must have been one of the primary financial backers of this publishing venture, since her name is the only one listed on the engraved title page.

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There are works by many other women authors, booksellers, printers, and artists in Special Collections. Come by and take a look!

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An address, delivered before the members of the Franklin Debating Club, on the morning of the 5th July, 1824

Pamphlets – literature published in an unbound, ephemeral format – are one of the strengths of Special Collections. The collections contain thousands of sermons, speeches, tracts, and political writings from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century, many of which are very scarce.   We'll share a pamphlet each week to highlight these holdings.

This week's selection comes from the Fourth of July Orations Collection. It's one of eight known copies, all in the United States, and contains exactly what it says it does – the text of a Fourth of July address given in 1824. 

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The Fourth of July Orations collection is a great source for studying the development of American identity and politics.  Many speeches, including this one, comment on contemporary world events and urge leaders to stick with the values and policies espoused by the country's founders. 







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Newburyport, [Mass.] : Printed at the Herald office [by Ephraim W. Allen], 1824. Find it in the MERLIN catalog.

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Posted in Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Winter meditations

Here in Columbia, we were greeted by temps of -10 (with wind chills of -25) during our morning commute.  A meditation on winter somehow seems appropriate today.      speccoll0594 John Shower (1657-1715) was a Presbyterian minister who published several works during his lifetime, mostly funeral sermons.  His Winter Meditations was first published in 1695, and was fairly popular – this is the third edition.  In this sermon, Shower sets out to illustrate the ways his parishioners could see winter as a blessing.


For instance, "In some Countreys, as in Lapland, not only doth the Snow abide all the Year on the Mountains, but durign the whole Winter the Earth is cover'd with Snow.  And considering that for some Months of Winter, the Sun riseth not above their Horizon, or not much above it, this is rather an Advantage than an Inconvenience.  For by the Light of the Snow they are enabl'd to work by Day, and to travel safely by Night."speccoll0599

"The good Effect of the Winter's Frost and Snow is perceiv'd very often the following Summer…  As when a Gardner is seen to pull up some delightful Flowers by the Roots, to dig up the Earth, and cover it with Dung, some ignorant Person may be ready to charge him with spoiling the Garden; but when Spring is arriv'd, there will be sufficient Ground to acknowledge his Wisdom in what he did."


And it could be a lot worse.


Our temperature should climb into the 20s tomorrow.  Perhaps winter really isn't so bad.  As Garrison Keillor put it, more than 300 years after Shower, "Winter is what we were meant for and we welcome it. We thrive on adversity and that’s just the truth. The snow shovel is the secret of happiness."

Find it in the MERLIN catalog.

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