Birthday for October 27: Sylvia Plath

Today, October 27, marks the birthday of Sylvia Plath, the author and poet.

Born in Boston in 1932, Plath is known for writing confessional poetry and her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, which chronicles her experiences working as a guest editor for Mademoiselle magazine. Plath suffered from clinical depression throughout her life. She married writer Ted Hughes in 1956 and they had two children, divorcing before she committed suicide in 1963.

From Creative Commons.

From Creative Commons.

The University of Tulsa Special Collections has several of her poetry collections, some of which are listed here:

In addition, her handwritten correspondence appears in the Richard Murphy Papers collection, housed at our offsite location. The collection ID is 1988-014, and the finding aid listing letters from Plath, her husband Ted Hughes, and others, can be found here.

If you’d like to access Plath’s works or her correspondence in the Murphy collection, please contact Special Collections at or visit our offices on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library. Please note that offsite requests must be submitted 24 hours in advance.

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Special Collections closing at 2pm on Friday, October 23

Special Collections will be closed this Friday, October 23 at 2pm in preparation for the University of Tulsa Homecoming celebration and football game beginning later in the afternoon.

We will reopen on Monday, October 26 at 8am.

Go Golden Hurricane!

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Fellows Dinner and the Riveting Maureen Corrigan

This past Thursday, October 15th, the University of Tulsa Department of Special Collections and University Archives and McFarlin Fellows hosted a reception and dinner with a special appearance by book critic Maureen Corrigan. The evening began with a cocktail reception in the Ann and Jack Graves Faculty Study, followed by dinner in the Pat and Arnold Brown Reading Room.

After dinner, Corrigan challenged her audience on the assumptions about “Books that Changed the World.” Known for her important work as a book critic on NPR’s Fresh Air and a well-loved lecturer at Georgetown, she refreshingly presented the idea that books that become known are not always the best literature.

Corrigan offered unexpected examples of books that changed the world and best-sellers that have not changed the world. She mentioned the classics Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, and The Great Gatsby as books that top the “changed the world” charts, but noted that only Huckleberry Finn sold well. One world changing book mention which elicited a knowing chuckle from the audience was Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare. On the other hand, She, Who Ate My Cheese, and The Mark of Zorro  were best-sellers that nearly all would agree have not been world changers.

In essence, Corrigan challenged the often assumed precept that best-sellers are based on their literary quality. Her presentation was greeted with enthusiastic response and interesting questions about her talk and line of work. Corrigan’s address was the perfect end to a wonderful evening with the Fellows.

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Tiny Books at TU

Miniature books

One of the lesser known gems of the University of Tulsa Special Collections is the small collection of miniature books. There are close to 230 volumes in the collection. These diminutive editions include religious, fictional, non-fictional, and poetic works. Some more well-known titles include; Sherlock Holmes, War of the Worlds, Tales from Shakespeare, Paradise Lost, and Gulliver’s Travels; to name a few. Most of the books are printed in English, however some of the books are in foreign languages, French, Latin, Greek, Arabic, etc. The smallest book in the collection, a copy of the Qur’an from 1900, measures 26×19 mm.

Miniature books
The Library of Congress defines miniature books as four inches and smaller. Although many collectors state that a true miniature book does not exceed three inches in any direction. There are several distinctions between the miniature book sizes; a macro-mini is between four and three inches, a miniature is between two and three inches, a micro-mini is between one and two inches, and an ultra-micro-mini is smaller than one inch. The creation of texts, in smaller than average sized format, dates back to the Babylonian empire, with miniature clay tablets. During the early days of printing the small volumes were valued for their portability. Religious and classical Greek texts were the most widely produced.
During the mid-nineteenth century, the manufacturing of paper and the printing process became easier and cheaper. Publishers began to produce small texts as novelty items. The miniature volumes became very fashionable and popular as gifts and prizes. This small design format also became popular for the publishing of Children’s literature. The smaller books were believed to be easier for children to hold. Bookbinders continued to experiment with creating smaller and smaller books and today volumes can be smaller than half an inch and still have detailed pictures, text, and designs on the pages.

Miniature books

Reference sites:

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F. Scott Fitzgerald ephemera

In this edition of the weekly blog, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives presents one of its many interesting collections of F. Scott Fitzgerald ephemera. The department acquired the ephemera as part of Robert L. Samsell collection purchased from J. Howard Woolmer, 1976. The ephemera are grouped into four subjects: Correspondence, Writings, Photographs and Miscellaneous.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American short-story writer and novelist. He had developed a keen interest in literature early in his life and pursued his literary ambitions at the expense of his formal education. He eventually dropped out of school to join the army. On one of his assignments as second lieutenant in Alabama, he met his Zelda Sayre whom he later married. The photographs in the collection consist of snapshots of Fitzgerald, Zelda and, daughter Scottie, as well as views of several of their residences.

Celebrated for his literary works, Fitzgerald started to gain fame as one of the country’s most promising young writers at the age of 24 when his novel This Side of Paradise was published in 1920. Some of his notable contributions amongst others include the “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”, and “The Beautiful and Damned”.


An exhibit marking the 25th anniversary of his death

Later in his career, he wrote what is credited as his greatest novel, The Great Gatsby. The collection also includes ephemera related to his several novels, including a film producer’s campaign book for the film adaptation of the novel. As part of the enormous posthumous success of The Great Gatsby, it went on to become required reading for virtually every American high school student, and has had a transportive effect on generation after generation of readers.


Reprint of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s handwritten draft of a promotion piece bound into copies of the 3rd printing of This Side of Paradise

The collection at McFarlin Library Special Collections [1976.003.1] also includes a reprint of Fitzgerald’s handwritten draft of a promotion piece bound into copies of the 3rd printing of This Side of Paradise among other writings.

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Henry B. Bass “Dear Everybody” Newsletters: An Oklahoman Point of View

Henry B. Bass was an Enid, Oklahoma contractor and an avid collector of poetry about Abraham Lincoln. Bass was elected into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1967. He was a nationally recognized authority on the Civil War.

He also wrote several books, including Bob’s Europe: A Chronicle of the Wanderings of Four Sooners in Post-War Western Europe (1949), Methodism in Enid (coauthored with his brother John Harvey Bass in 1959), Building for a Rugged Individualist (1961), and The First 75 Years: D. C. Bass & Sons Construction Company, 1893–1968 (1969). He was involved in the Enid community, known for his suggestions for bettering the community and serving on numerous boards.

His monthly newsletter, written over the course of 48 years, was intended for friends and relatives and covered topics and issues of interest to Bass. Each newsletter began, “Dear Everybody.” Special Collections has a diverse sample of his newsletters, dating between 1962 and 1975.


Henry B. Bass "Dear Everybody" Newsletters

Henry B. Bass “Dear Everybody” Newsletters

His detailed newsletters are a treasure trove of regional and national discussions and read like juicy editorials. He covers all subjects from gubernatorial and presidential elections to personal trips across the country/Europe to local and Civil War history to comments on personal, everyday life details.

Researchers and hobbyist alike can find valuable information about the personal life of an Oklahoman in the 1960s and 1970s. Bass offers political opinions on important campaigns and elections in those years. He also provides lively details about his trip to Europe during those years and delivers thoughtful commentary on issues of the day.

The collection is available to the public. It is housed off-site, so if you would like to peruse Bass’s “Dear Everybody” collection, please notify Special Collections at least 24 hours in advance.

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I, Libertine–Fake book and literary hoax

During a recent staff meeting at McFarlin Library Special Collections and University Archives, the topic of fake books and literary hoaxes came up. The one fake book that grabbed everyone’s attention was “I, Libertine” by Frederick R. Ewing. This book was eventually published in 1956 but the story behind the book started much earlier.

Hardback and paperback 1st editions of I, Libertine.

Hardback and paperback 1st editions of I, Libertine.

In the early 1950s, there was a radio personality named Jean Shepherd who worked covered the midnight to 5:00 AM shift for WOR in New York City. Shepherd believed he had a different type of listener at that time and so decided to be more spontaneous with his programming. This was a new concept at the time as most radio deejays used a scripted format. Shepherd became a fan favorite, even calling his followers the ‘night people’ and developed a way that listeners could identify each other by using the passwords ‘Excelsior’ and ‘Seltzer bottle’. Shepherd felt that his night people were better because they were more creative and paid less attention to rules and restrictions.

The development of the literary hoax behind ‘I, Libertine’ began sometime in April 1955. Shepherd went into a local NYC bookstore and tried to purchase a copy of an old radio script. At the time, bookstores had printed lists of published books and if the book wasn’t in that list then it must not exist. This was the case with the old radio script that Shepherd was looking for. An argument ensued between Shepherd and the clerk, which led to Shepherd’s topic of discussion on his own radio show that night.

While ranting about how a ‘night person’ would not have been restricted to using the printed list of published books, Shepherd made a comment about how his listeners should start going to bookstores and asking for books that didn’t exist as a kind of practical joke. Many listeners called in and soon a title and author who created for this nonexistent book. ‘I, Libertine’ by Frederick R. Ewing was born, supposedly written by an English author who specialized in eighteenth-century erotica. The listeners even added extra information about the author. They said Frederick R. Ewing was a retired Royal Navy Commander and had done a series on BBC about ‘Erotica of the 18th century.’

In the next few weeks, Shepherd’s listeners went to various bookstores and started asking for ‘I, Libertine’. The request of this book even began in other countries due to listeners who tried for their work. Booksellers became confused and started to contact publishers about this book that their customers kept asking for. The demand for the book even pushed the New York Times Book Review to add it to the their list of newly published books.

The literary hoax continued to grow. Some ‘night people’ created card files for the book and placed it in card catalogs in libraries around the East Coast. A Columbia University college student even received a B+ grade on a paper he wrote about Frederick R. Ewing. The Legion of Decency in Boston banned the book and a gossip columnist in New York reported having lunch with Freddy Ewing.

After about a month, the Wall Street Journal reported on the literary hoax and informed readers just how it all started. By this point, the hoax had gone international as well as grabbing the attention of the publishing world. Ian Ballantine from Ballentine Books got in contact with Jean Shepherd and they created a plan to actually write ‘I, Libertine’. With the help of science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, the book was written in 30 days.

130,000 copies of the book were published on September 30, 1956. The picture of Frederick R. Ewing on the back of the hardcover edition is actually Jean Shepherd. Sales of the book were rather slow but it is now considered a collector’s item.

Special Collections acquired two copies of ‘I, Libertine’. One in hardcover and one in paperback form. The dust jacket for the hardcover book actually has a print error in the ‘About the book’ section, listing the main character’s name as Lance Corday. The correct name of the main character is Land Courtenay. This error makes the hardcover even more of a collector’s item.


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Birthdays for October 2: Wallace Stevens and Graham Greene

Today, October 2nd, marks the birthday of two authors who are part of the University of Tulsa’s Special Collections.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) was an American Modernist poet born in Reading, Pennsylvania who

"Wallace Stevens". Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

“Wallace Stevens”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

attended law school and then worked for an insurance company before winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1955. Stevens was recognized for his flair for vocabulary and the challenging themes and underlying currents of his poetry, which has been described as almost abstract in nature.

Special Collection has several of his books of poems and essays as translated into a variety of languages, as well as song cycle scores to which his poetry was set.

  • Stevens, Wallace. The necessary angel essays on reality and the imagination. (810.81 S846N 1960)
  • Stevens, Wallace. Opus posthumous. (810.81 S846O 1959)  
  • Persichetti, Vincent. Harmonium song cycle for soprano and piano. / Poems by Wallace Stevens. (M1621.4.P477 H37 1959)
"Graham Greene". Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

“Graham Greene”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) was an English novelist best known for writing a mixture of what he called “entertainments” and “serious novels”. He worked as a journalist, wrote crime thrillers and screenplays (including 1949’s The Third Man, starring Orson Welles), as well as books with themes related to Catholicism, to which he converted as an adult.

Special Collections owns a large selection of books from Greene’s private library, including foreign translation editions of his own works and works with his penciled marginalia and notations.

  • Greene, Graham. The End of the Affair. ( GRN 000239)
  • Greene, Graham. Our Man in Havana. (GRN 000911)
  • Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. (GRN 000444)

Come visit Special Collections on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library to view works related to these authors.

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TU Special Collections owns an impressive assortment of Playbill theater programs gathered from several donor gifts and acquisitions, related to productions that ran in theater houses from across the U.S. Currently we are organizing and taking inventory of the individual volumes. This magazine is comprised of ads, interviews, short stories, advice, etc., and of course the particular show credits. Some of the more famous show programs include The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, The Lion King, Hello Dolly, and Brigadoon, just to name a few.



So far the oldest program in the collection dates to 1938. The ads in the 1930s Playbills are a step back in time. And interestingly, lingerie seems to have been a common type of ad in the older publications. And of course the tobacco and liquor ads were much more prevalent. The fashion and car ads have been popular throughout the publication’s history and transformations. Here are some style tips for the modern 1930’s man…

Playbill was first published in 1884 and has continually produced programs for Broadway and off- Broadway theaters, though at times under different titles and owners. The publication has gone through many stylistic changes and has moved with the fashions and ideals of the eras. In 2009, the magazine celebrated its 125th anniversary. In that same year it was estimated that Playbill would print around 3.9 million theater programs for the various theaters across the U.S. (Viagas, 2009).
Viagas, Robert. “Playbill Magazine Celebrates 125 Years in the Biz Sept. 21.” Playbill. September 21, 2009. Accessed September 24, 2015.

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Art of 3D images mastered

It is common to think that three-dimensional images were an invention of the very recent past. However, the art of producing 3D images seem had been mastered decades back. The first patented stereoscope was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. Other early 3D image dates back to the mid-19th century with David Brewster’s improvised version of the Stereoscope in 1844. The stereoscope could take 3D photographic images.

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives proudly houses stereoscopic libraries of World War I, World War II, and Tour of the world: A trip around the world through the telebinocular, and the Stereoscopic studies of anatomy prepared under the University of Edinburgh. The images are enhanced in their three dimensional quality by providing the eyes of the viewer with two different images, representing two perspectives of the same object, with a minor deviation equal or nearby equal to the perspectives that both eyes naturally receive in binocular.

The collections 1000.094 and 1000.095 consists a total of 700 images documenting the events of World Wars.


Trenches of the Allies

This stereocard showcases the deep trenches of the Allies among the Dunes and brambles on the coast of Flanders. It captures the furious efforts during the first desperate battles of the winter 1914-15.


IMG_20150916_105312005 copy

Our Boys in France Learning to Correctly Use Gas Masks

This stereocard captures the thorough drill of learning to correctly use the gas masks that the soldiers underwent under the instruction of their squad officer in France.

The Department also has other collections of stereocards, Mollie Colwell collection of handmade stereocards [2008.033] is worthy of mention here. The Department of Special Collections also added a collection stereocards on the life of Native Americans recently over this summer.

The stereocard collection at the Department of Special Collections and University Archives is open to TU researchers and the public. The newest exhibit at the Department also houses selected stereocards as a part of the History of Photography exhibit on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library.


IMG_20150916_105746582 copy

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