Eye Book -- This copy of George Bartisch’s 1583 book “Ophthalmodouleia,” an ophthalmology book, is among the items at the current Morris Library exhibit “In the Beginning was the Word: A History of the Book, 1450-1960.” (Photo provided) Download Photo Here

October 20, 2009

Library display features rare, special books

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Throughout time, people have used the written word to preserve stories and history for future generations.

A special exhibit, “In the Beginning was the Word: A History of the Book, 1450-1960,” is on display at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Morris Library. You can view the historic exhibit in the Special Collections Research Center display cases located in the Hall of Presidents and Chancellors at the library.

The display features some very rare and special books dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries. There’s a single page from the famous Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed with moveable metal type. It dates to 1450’s Germany. There’s a copy of Georg Bartisch’s 1583 book on ophthalmology entitled “Opthalmodouleia,” notable for its use of plates you can lift to reveal the various layers of human anatomy.

An ornate copy of the William Morris printing of the The Kelmscott Press “Chaucer” is illustrative of the fine printing and book design of the British arts and crafts period. Featured too is a copy of an 1685 volume, known as the “Fourth Folio,” featuring a collection of William Shakespeare’s works.

There’s even an early example of Southern Illinois printing: Morris Birkbeck’s “An Appeal to the People of Illinois on the Question of a Convention.” Printed in Shawneetown, it dates to 1823.

“Many of the true gems and rarest books of Special Collections are present in this exhibit and I encourage all bibliophiles to come see these treasures. Many of these rarities have never been publicly displayed,” said David H. Carlson, dean of Library Affairs.

The exhibit also includes a history of illustration techniques, a timeline of Illinois printing and details about printing technology, including examples of printing press images, various type examples and other book components. You can study different printing techniques, typefaces and bindings used in the earlier hand-press period as well as the fine printing and private presses of the machine-press period.

“In the Beginning was the Word: A History of the Book, 1450-1960” will remain on display until year’s end at Morris Library.


Ornate Chaucer -- This ornately
illustrated copy of the William Morris'
Kelmsott Press "Chaucer" book is among
the books in the display "In the Beginning
was the Word: A History of the Book,
1450-1960, " at Southern Illinois University
Carbondale's Morris Library. (Photo
provided) Download Photo Here