Category Archives: Museum object collection

Sequential Magic Lantern Slides

On a recent visit from Fia Backström’s class VIS 311 The Photographic Apparatus, one of the things we looked at were sequential magic lantern slides. Here are a few examples together with our French magic lantern.


Soldiers going off to war / Soldiers returning from the war

Playing a joke on grandfather.

Prof. Backström’s class is described: “Since its inception, the technical development of photography has arisen out of specific historical and political circumstances that have “naturalized” its practice and ideologically coded its apparatus. Through critical discussions, material examinations, and studio projects, this seminar will take a reflexive approach to photographic technology past, present, and future. What can earlier periods of photography reveal about our current condition? How do lens-based technologies relate to determinations of race, class, and gender? What does it mean to be a photographer, to take photographs, and to agree or disagree with its apparatus?”

Disappearing apples below.


How Many Nippers Does It Take To Bind A Book?

Nineteenth-century nipping press from Leonard Bailey and Company, Hartford Connecticut.

Black and red cast iron book press, labeled World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893, The Cotton State’s Exposition, Atlanta 1895.

On a recent visit to our preservation lab, Mick LeTourneaux, Rare Books Conservator, pointed out the wide variety of nipping, standing, and other book presses they used. Although some are beautiful 19th-century originals, many others were purchased in the last twenty years specifically for our shop.

According to the Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology of Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books, the nipping press is “a small press consisting essentially of a fixed, horizontal iron base plate, and an upper, movable platen that is raised and lowered by means of a relatively long, vertical screw. The nipping press is used to apply quick and uniform pressure in a variety of bookbinding operations.”

“While the nipping press does not have the available daylight or the pressing power of the standing press, it is relatively easy to open and close which makes it very useful for a quick pressing operations. The true nipping press does not release its pressure until released by the turning of the screw; however, substitute ‘nipping presses,’ which are really ‘letter-presses’ or ‘copying presses,’ once used in business offices for ‘copying’ letters, are limited in their ability to apply pressure because they have a tendency to ease the pressure when the handle is released.”

Here are a few more, along with some of the standing presses in Princeton’s lab.

Standing wood press manufactured by Hampson Bettridge & Company Ltd., 2 & 4 Fann Street, London EC1 Great Britain


Several of our presses come from the W. O. Hickok Manufacturing Company, located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest remaining industrial plants in South Central Pennsylvania.

“In 1844, William Orville Hickok established the Eagle Works and became a manufacturer of bookbinders’ specialties. His brilliant inventions would soon revolutionize the paper ruling industry. Sometime between 1844 and 1850, Hickok’s ideas began to click. He invented an “Improved Ruling Machine” and his Eagle Works plant grew quickly. By 1853, the Ruling Machines were in constant use in every state of the Union.”

Rugs, Blankets, and Tapestries

For many years, we have known that the collection of Navajo rugs, blankets, and various other tapestries should not be folded and stacked but there was no alternative in our old vaults. Now there is.

Sixteen blankets have already been rolled and stored in the new dark, cool vault. More will follow.

Here are a few of the patterns.

New Western Americana acquisitions:

See the issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle dedicated to the Western Americana collection: chronicle

Turning still images into moving pictures

We were pleased to welcome Austrian filmmakers Gustav Deutsch and Hanna Schimek to RBSC today to view our collection of pre-cinema devices. Their first live-action film, “Shirley: Visions of Reality,” is showing at Princeton’s Garden Theater this evening. You should jump online and see if there are any tickets still available:

Taken from the website: “The film is one of those rare gems of artistic endeavour that defy categorization. Recreating 13 of Edward Hopper’s paintings, the movie charts over three decades of American history through the unfolding life of its protagonist, Shirley, a fictional red-haired actress who tackles the socio-political changes happening around her with the same fervour she handles her own personal affairs. Filtering history though the double lens of a contemporary painter’s viewpoint and a filmmaker’s re-interpretation of that viewpoint, in essence, Deutsch’s creation is a unique interdisciplinary art project presented as a feature film.
The film’s 13 scenes, each corresponding to a Hopper painting and extending to a period of six minutes either before or after the moment captured on that painting, are featured in chronological order from 1931 till 1963 with an introductory snapshot based on Hopper’s 1965 “Chair Car”. In these scenes—static tableaux vivants with little action or dialogue that take place on the 28th of August in the year the picture was painted—we glimpse through Shirley’s inner monologues and sparse lines to her partner, who remains silent throughout the movie, and the minor and major events in her life, we witness her playing the role of a bored blonde usherette in a movie, taking up menial jobs to secure her livelihood, retiring to the countryside and so on. In order to place each scene within a historical context, a radio news-broadcast precedes each scene depicting the Depression, WWII, the Cold War, Korea, JFK and Martin Luther King, all the way to Vietnam.” opticals

Sibyl Holding a Book

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A wood figure of a woman holding an open book has been with the department for many years, with little provenance or information. The back is not finished, indicating she was to be place or hung against a wall. The words on the book are no longer visible, if they ever were. The label on the back is below and slightly readable: “Statue [?] 16 = siecle [?]” Any help you might offer would be appreciated.


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Class of 1877 Plaque

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This site was occupied for sixty years by the class of 1877 Biological Laboratory. Here were nurtured generations of students in biology. The plaque at the left was situated above the entrance to the Laboratory.

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Princeton’s biology laboratory, donated by the Class of 1877 at its tenth reunion, was demolished in the summer of 1946. This terra cotta plaque from the second floor was saved and embedded in Firestone Library’s south wall. Harry Osborn is quoted in Fifty Years of Princeton ’77, describing the Greek quote on the plaque:

The motto of our Class was “Panta Kinomen Petron.” We have always laughed at that motto, and it has been paraphrased by such a learned and godless man as Billy Dunning. Some part of our success, the great keynote of movement in this world, is to turn over a stone and see what is under it — what we can do. In other words, education stands for a great many different things, but the keystone of education is construction, is to build up, is to build something new, and that has been the spirit of 1877. Construction is the idea — building up, not tearing down. That is the great secret of human progress. Our Class motto enjoins us to leave no stone unturned, but to build, in everything in which we are engaged — to build for truth, to build for science, to build in politics, to build in literature, to build in philosophy, and to build especially for old Princeton.

αφήνουν καμία πέτρα (leave no stone unturned)
πάντα κινηθεί πέτρες (always moving stones)

For more, see

Flying an umbrella plane to Washington DC

umbrella plane5For many years, the model of the McCormick “Umbrella Plane,” ca. 1910, lived in the tower at Firestone library under difficult physical and environmental conditions. Recently, it was transported to a secure location but remained unique among our object holdings.

towerIt has never been fully studied, conserved, or appreciated, until now…

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The model of the McCormick umbrella plane has been accepted into The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  Their collection holds in trust over 60,000 artifacts and more than 20,000 cubic feet of archival materials. Historic aircraft and space artifacts, such as the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, highlight the National Collection. Thousands of additional artifacts—including engines, rockets, uniforms, spacesuits, balloons, artwork, documents, manuscripts, and photographs—document the richness of the history of flight.


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The National Air and Space Museum is perhaps best known for their collection of rare and historically significant aircraft and spacecraft. The object collection also includes engines, medals, trophies, instruments, and equipment, models, artwork, spacesuits, uniforms, and much more. Altogether, the collection includes more than 30,000 aviation and 9,000 space objects.

Under their care, the Umbrella Plane model will receive the conservation, research, and interpretation it deserves, ultimately making it available to an international  public within the whole context of world aviation.
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Classics Department Installation

classics6Section of mosaic pavement, Roman Syria, Antioch-on-the-Orontes, 3rd century C.E. Gift of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch to Princeton University.





Four stone inscriptions have been installed and labeled for the Classics Graduate Study Room on Firestone Library’s 3rd floor. In addition, one of our Antioch mosaics is on view just outside the room. Thanks to everyone who helped with this project and in particular, thanks to David Jenkins, Librarian for Classics, Hellenic Studies, and Linguistics, who helped with this installation from the beginning to the end.




Niels Bohr

bohr2On December 5, 1923, The Daily Princetonian announced, “Professor Niels Bohr, the eminent physicist, will lecture on ‘The Structure of the Atom’ to-morrow afternoon at 5 in 301 Palmer. This will be the first Trask lecture of the present term. Professor Bohr received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922 and is responsible for a great part of the present day knowledge of the atom.”

The following day, The Prince reminded students, “’The Structure of the Atom’ will be the subject of the first Spencer Trask lecture by Professor Niels Bohr, the distinguished Danish physicist . . . At present Professor of Physics in the University of Copenhagen, Dr. Bohr has formulated important theories in regard to atomic structure and is largely responsible for the present day knowledge of the atom. . . . This theory has proved the starting point of all important progress in atomic and molecular calculations. –“Professor Bohr, Physicist, Will Give Lecture To-Day,” Daily Princetonian 44, no. 145 (6 December 1923).

And on December 7, the students wrote, “Niels Bohr, professor of physics in the University of Copenhagen, last night delivered the first Spencer Trask lecture of the year . . . ‘The atomic theory,’ declared Professor Bohr, ‘is the hypothesis that all elements are composed of a system of positively charged nuclei, around which negative electrons revolve as in the planetary system. . . . From then on, the search was merely to bring other elements under this definition. It is now possible, by means of the spectra, to find the position on the atomic scale, of any elementary substance, and to determine its chemical composition. And yet all these discoveries, probable and true as they may be, are still merely in a formulative state, and need vast amounts of experimentation to determine their validity.’”

bohr3 The German artist Kurt Harald Isenstein (1898-1980) had his first exhibition in Berlin at the age of nineteen. He found work teaching at the Reimann School of Art and in 1925 co-founded the People’s Art School in Berlin.

A cast bronze bust of Bohr was originally commissioned by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the 1954, near the end of Bohr’s life. One copy is on view on the first floor of Jadwin Hall, where Isenstein’s 1924 bust of Albert Einstein is also on view.


See also Hildegard Isenstein (1897-1960), Hildegard og Harald Isenstein, 1920-1960 (København: Host, 1960). Marquand Library (SA) ND588.I83 I83

Stammbaum des Königlichen Hauses Bayern

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ancestry chart4 Stammbaum des Königlichen Hauses Bayern = Family Tree of the Royal House of Bavaria (München: Michael Masson, 1855). Hand colored lithograph in 12 parts (each 550 x 520 mm), mounted on linen, measuring together: 2200 x 1550 mm. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2006- in process

The Graphic Arts Collection holds several large format family trees, printed in an almost life-size tree. This one depicts the ancestry of the Bavarian Royal House, lithographed by the Wild’sche Firm in Munich.

At the bottom of the trunk is Ernst I, Herzog von Bayern-München (1373-1438) and at the very top of the tree sits Ludwig II (Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm, 1845-1886), who was King of Bavaria from 1864 until his death in 1886. This was after the printing of our chart and so, Ludwig doesn’t yet have a crown on his name.
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See also: and