History Has a Scent

Working in a special collections library I've often thought to myself, "If I just took a random book off the shelf, I'm sure it would be fascinating somehow." Here's a quick post to demonstrate that. On Tuesday, while preparing for one of our twice-monthly Library architectural tours, I decided to put one of our whaling logbooks on display, so I turned to a shelf and pulled down a logbook I'd never opened before, the journal of the ship Marcus, which set out in 1844. By the time I got to the first page the volume was already proving interesting:

Marcus journal, p. 1

Look closely and you'll see the page is encoded in some kind of substitution cypher. (According to a cataloging note, it's a "serenade." Anyone looking for a challenge is welcome to submit their own decryption in the comments.) Next, after a few pages of fairly standard logbook entries (wind, weather, etc.), the volume turns into a storehouse for pressed flowers and other plants:

flower1

Some, like this lady slipper, include the plant's root structure:

lady slipper

By my count there are 42 specimens, not counting the flying fish wings: flying fish wings

And it's all rounded out with a bit of poetry: poetry

 

But my favorite part is that the author of this journal apparently included spices. Spices that still retain their scent after 170 years. (I think it might be oregano, but I haven't gone through them all to find out what the spice is yet.)

 

Just another reminder that rare materials require the use of all five senses. (Well, maybe not taste. I wouldn't recommend actually eating 170-year-old plants found in books.)

 
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Jordan Goffin

Special Collections Librarian Jordan Goffin has been mining the wonders in the Library’s Special Collections since early 2011. If you’d like to stop in and spend some time with the historic and noteworthy books, manuscripts and ephemera at PPL, contact him by email at jgoffin@provlib.org or by phone at 401.455.8021. Also, visit the Notes for Bibliophiles blog (http://pplspcoll.wordpress.com/) to read more about the exciting materials in Special Collections and to keep up with events and announcements.


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