Rare Book of the Month

A Northern Christmas, by Rockwell Kent (1941)

American artist Rockwell Kent spent Christmas 1918 in a small cabin on an island off the south coast of Alaska. More than twenty years later he recalled the experience in words and woodcut illustrations in a holiday gift book titled A Northern Christmas. The small book was published by the American Artists Group, an organization... more

Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, edited by Denis Diderot (1751-1780)

The Encyclopédie; ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers is a 28-volume monument to the French Enlightenment, combining a wealth of information about all aspects of  human thought and achievement with a subversive attack on the stifling old regime of religion, classical tradition, and superstition. Many hands contributed to the Encyclopedie, but the... more

Death of a Naturalist, by Seamus Heaney (1966)

When poet Seamus Heaney died last month at age 74, obituaries hailed him as the greatest Irish poet since William Butler Yeats. The New York Times noted that Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, was renowned for work that powerfully evoked the beauty and blood that together have come to define... more

Clotelle, by William Wells Brown (1867)

When William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter appeared in London in 1853, it was the first novel ever published by an African-American author. Brown’s novel was reissued four times over the next fifteen years, and with each edition the author made changes to the characters and the narrative. ZSR Special Collections recently purchased... more

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (1885)

On nearly any list of list of best American Novels you will find Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But it might easily never have existed.  Twain nearly abandoned his project midway through its writing, and its publication was temporarily derailed by a practical joke. Twain’s first novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was published... more

Smiling Through the Apocalypse, edited by Harold Hayes (1969)

Tom Hayes’s documentary film on the life of his father, Harold Hayes, is titled Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire in the Sixties. The film, which is currently showing at the River Run Film Festival, takes its name from a 1969 anthology of Esquire magazine pieces. Both works provide a view of the decade as chronicled by... more

Manuscript commentary on the gospels of Matthew and John, ca. 1240

What’s the oldest book in your collection? This is the question most frequently asked by visitors to ZSR’s Special Collections. Our oldest book is a manuscript codex dating from around 1240. Created two centuries before the invention of printing with moveable type, this book is a handwritten copy of a commentary on the Biblical gospel... more

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, by Phillis Wheatley (1773)

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is the first published volume of poetry by an African-American author. This fact in itself would make the book significant, but Phillis Wheatley’s Poems has a complicated and fascinating history of its own. Readers of the 1773 first edition would have been familiar with biographical details of Wheatley’s... more

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1813)

On 29 January 1813 Jane Austen (1775-1817) wrote to her sister Cassandra with exciting news: “I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London.” The “darling child” was a copy of her newly published book Pride and Prejudice. On this the 200th anniversary of its publication Pride and Prejudice... more

Ethiopian Psalter, 18th or 19th Century

Ethiopia, the oldest independent nation in Africa, has a unique Christian tradition dating back to the 4th century. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church developed largely in isolation after the Islamic conquest of Egypt in the 640’s. But Christianity remained the official state religion for many centuries, and the Ethiopian imperial family claimed to be descended directly... more