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Ohio State’s Special Collections Library

 Written by    February 25, 2019

Something I love about Ohio State is that no matter how long I’ve been here I’m always finding new things on campus. Today, I got a peek into the school’s special collections, which, as a lover of books and literature, is so freaking cool. They have exclusive and minimally-circulated works collected in the basement of Thompson, in a temperature-controlled room not open to the public—but you can reach out to them about what the library has and they’ll happily find it for you. The special collections and rare books and manuscripts libraries have everything from first editions of classic nineteenth-century works to personal historical letters to sheet music dating back to 1865. My publishing class took a little field trip to Thompson Library and to learn about (and see) some really amazing pieces in the collection.

First up is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, one of the first editions ever published. The book was huge because he printed it on his friend’s legal paper printing press, so it wasn’t a typical formatting. It was super cool to me that we got to see one of the first Leaves of Grass ever made, with its own quirks due to the situation Whitman was in at the time.



Next up, and my personal favorite, was E. E. Cummings’ poetry book No Thanks. This was one of only 90 of this edition ever published, each one signed by himself.
In the front is a list of all the publishers’ names that turned his book down in the shape of an urn, which I thought was a nice touch. Something about knowing that I was holding a book E. E. Cummings held, that he signed himself, was so cool to me. That might seem dumb, but there’s something special in knowing that the thing in your hands was in the hands of a man you now learn about in poetry lectures.



The curator we talked to also brought out an old work that was uncut, which, she reminded us, means that no one has ever read the book in its entirety. I was also drawn to the fact that costly mistakes in the past now lead to relics and rare pieces that are seen as desirable to collect. I love that issues with misprints or buildings with mistakes (I’m looking at you, Leaning Tower of Pisa) can become so important or their uniqueness.




There were a couple other interesting pieces, like beautifully worn editions of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Forerunner, a magazine she produced herself, consisting entirely of her own work (as well as ads for her other work). I just appreciated getting to see and touch and discuss pieces of literature from a time I couldn’t have ever experienced, but I can still interact with the physical items left over from an era. I appreciate that Ohio State has such an extensive and sought-after collection, and that they make those rare resources available for students.


Academics, Arts, Author, Classes, Research, Why Ohio State?

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