Borrowing Books during the Early 19th Century

In our fifth and final assignment for the semester, we utilized a tool called Kumu. Kumu is a tool that builds and presents diagrams that shows connections between concepts, people, etc. For this assignment, we used Kumu to connect books and library borrowers. In order to find the information, we used the Dissenting Academies Online. The Dissenting Academies Online is a website that has a wide variety of information about dissenting higher education during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.

For the purpose of challenging myself, I chose a slightly different time from the tutorial given to us to see if I could accomplish this assignment on my own. I decided on the dates between August 1, 1825, to July 31, 1826, in order to cover the length of a school year. I stuck with Manchester Academy because the Dissenting Academies Online website gave me a lot of listings to work with.

The process of searching the virtual library on the Koha Online Catalogue and using Zotero to scrape the data needed into Google Sheets tested my patience. I was overwhelmed with joy when I completed the mapping process, I must say. By doing this, we are able to look back at a time period and easily see who borrowed a book, at what date, and how many times, if applicable.

On my map, the yellow dots indicate the borrower. The turquoise dots indicate the books they borrowed from the library. The thicker the line attached to the dots, the more times they borrowed that particular book. The yellow dots on the outside which are not connected to anyone else simply means that one person borrowed a book or books that no one else during that time borrowed.

Kumu provides a fun way of searching for a certain person and enables us to learn their book loan history. Whether they borrowed books for school education or personal curiosity, we can learn a lot about their habits. By clicking on any of the dots on the map, you can learn either about the book borrower or the book itself.

This assignment was my absolute favorite. I’m a very visual person and Kumu is the type of visual tools I enjoy looking at and using.


1. About the Dissenting Academies Online

Locating Jefferson’s “Notes on the States of Virginia”

Our fourth assignment was to identify a work published before 1800 that the English Short Title Catalogue shows to have been published in at least three different places and create a map showing those locations.

While searching the English Short Title Catalogue for Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia I found myself perhaps a bit distraught. Not so much at the overwhelming abundance of printed books, but rather the underwhelming amount. For this project, I was hoping to find many, many copies of said book and map them accordingly. I pictured many location markers illustrated on the map and hoped they would land all over the world. This is not so. Thomas Jefferson’s book was only listed six times on the ESTC, but amid technical problems, I was only able to successfully grab three of the listings.

Zotero is the tool we used which helped us scrape and gather data from the English Short Title Catalogue. From there, we inputted the data into a Google Sheets page and used that information to map our findings using Google Maps.

I found this task to be daunting, but I welcome any task that is challenging. Jefferson’s book was located in Baltimore, Maryland, Paris, France, and London, England. Perhaps someone from Virginia read the book, later traveling to Baltimore and left it there. Perhaps a curious Marylander wanted to read up on their neighboring state. Maybe Thomas Jefferson himself brought along a copy of his own book. For the other two places outside of the United States, I do not have any great guesses about why they were located there.

Without further ado, here is my map showing the distributions of Notes on the State of Virginia.

Words Passed Through Time

The experience of actually diving into a book and recreating the history of it was more challenging than I expected. I made it a point this time to jot down some notes pertaining to the information I needed for this assignment. Things like the book’s publication city, who the publisher was, the genre, the book’s purpose, and where the book is today filled up my notebook as I searched for the perfect book. I met up with Kelly Brown again and we went to the archives in search of a book that had provenance in it. She informed me that most schools’ libraries keep records of whether or not a book has marginalia in it – ours does not do this. So the task got a bit harder as I had to individually search each book from the archive shelves. Instantly I found myself searching for older books that I assumed people would write in. To my disbelief, I found only two books within the hour and a half I spent there that had any form of writing in them that wasn’t just on the inside cover. Finally, I laid my eyes upon a rather worn book and pulled it from the shelf. A New Political Economy was the title and as I frantically flipped through the pages, I found just what I was looking for. There were all sorts of evidence of provenance throughout the book and I felt extremely relieved.

After I managed to find the book, I talked to Kelly about the family as I recognized the donor’s name in many other books we had. She informed me of their history in Chickasha and the woman’s history at the college. Mary Hewett Bailey was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma. The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) was originally called Oklahoma College for Women (OCW). She earned a degree in English and mathematics at OCW and taught for 42 years. It seems she was the sole owner of the book unless it was passed down through her family. This book along with many others was donated to USAO. Our school is so small that I am beginning to realize that the books in our collection are not that old. They will just be collections of those who lived here or had a history at the university. While there is nothing wrong with that, I felt disappointed that more people did not write in their books. This project did make me think differently about marginalia. I do it quite often in my books. I feel as though it’s a way of communicating thoughts that one person had about a certain text. The wonderful thing about those markings is that another person might feel differently – and that’s okay. That’s why they were written. While I wish I found more books that had provenance, I am simply happy to have found the one I did and connect it back to my university.

*Note: Clicking on the images opens up the full-size image