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JUNE 2003
Volume 95, Issue 5
 

Classified Knowledge
WRITTEN BY MARY RUTH YOE
CAPTIONS ARE DRAWN FROM EXHIBITION DESCRIPTIONS BY NAOMI HUME, A GRADUATE STUDENT IN ART HISTORY

Between the boards of a Chicago collection are bound the fruits of a human impulse to catalog the world—and share it.

Twenty-some years after the University acquired the John Crerar Collection of Rare Books in the History of Science and Medicine, the collection’s 20,000 titles—including first editions of such landmark texts as Copernicus’s De revolutionibus—have all been cataloged, with information on each added to international online databases. Completion of the cataloging project, funded by Chicago trustee and bibliophile Harvey B. Plotnick, AB’63, was marked by a spring exhibition at Regenstein Library. “Between the Boards” showcased lesser-known “collections, compilations, and curiosities,” including some of the 1,800 editions and works unrecorded by any other library or collection.

The show also emphasized how bound volumes can mimic or mirror libraries, playing an active role in collecting, classifying, and conveying knowledge. Looking anew at that everyday object librarians know as the codex (folded sheets of paper, parchment, or other materials attached at the spine and usually protected by a cover or binding), “Between the Boards” presented books as catalogs of collections, as the collection themselves, as starting points for annotations and alterations, and as artistic or scientific tools.

And though the exhibition closes June 20, the project—cataloging, classifying, and conveying—means that the John Crerar Collection has been given a life beyond the boards.

—M.R.Y.

 

 

 


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