Author Archives: Cindy Gillham

Chapters in the History of the Book–Hidden Treasures



From the Greek “palímpsestos,” to scrape again.
This was the ultimate in recycling. Roman writers Catullus, Cicero, and Plutarch all told of the practice of making palimpsesti  on papyrus and wax tablets. (Avrin. p. 168)  After the fall of the Roman Empire the practice continued, manuscripts which were no longer useful or contained material considered pagan would have their pages cleaned so they could be reused. This would save time and money since parchment was expensive. Why is this important?  Ink containing iron  leaves a ‘ghost’ in the substrate which can be obvious, or might require special techniques such as spectral imaging to discern. So it is possible to see the original work, even under two or three layers.  Sometimes these are previously unknown texts, or works that we know existed but no copies have been found, such as the Archimedes Palimpsest. Sometimes they are works which are earlier versions of known works, which then can show how a particular text has evolved.

Avrin, Leila.  Scribes. Scripts, and Books: the book arts from antiquity to the Renaissance.  ALA, 1991

Noel, Will.  Restoring the Archimedes Palimpsest

Palimpsests: The Art of Medieval Recycling:

Archimedes Palimpsest

Detail of the Archimedes Palimpsest

Chapters in the History of the Book–Book Curses.

Detail from the Lindisfarne Gospels

Detail from the Lindisfarne Gospels

This book belongs to none but me
For there’s my name inside to see.
To steal this book, if you should try,
It’s by the throat that you will hang high.
And ravens then will gather ‘bout
To find your eyes and pull them out.
And when you’re screaming “oh, oh, oh!”
Remember, you deserved this woe.
–Anonymous German scribe.

Before printing was invented, every clay tablet, scroll or book (manuscript) had to be written or copied out by hand. In order to protect such valuable and laboriously created materials, scribes would often include a few lines intended to prevent theft or damage, or even to curse those who might alter the text. These book curses often invoked the wrath of the gods, included inventive punishments or, by the Medieval period, excommunication or even anathema to discourage any would-be thief.

The oldest known book curse comes down to us from the ancient Assyrians:

The palace of Ashur-bani-pal, king of hosts, king of Assyria, who putteth his trust in the gods Asher and Belit…I have transcribed upon tablets the noble products of the work of the scribe which none of the kings who had gone before me had learned, together with the wisdom of Nabu insofar as it existeth [in writing]. I have arranged them in classes, I have revised them and I have placed them in my palace, that even I, the ruler who knoweth the light of Ashur, the king of the gods, may read them.  Whosoever shall carry off this tablet, or shall inscribe his name on it, side by side with mine own, may Ashur and Belit overthrow him in wrath and anger, and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land.

More Medieval examples:
Book of [the Abbey of] Saints Mary and Nicholas of Arnstein: If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.
From: British Museum, Ms. Harley 2798, folio 235 verso.


Whoever steals this Book of Prayer
May he be ripped apart by swine,
His heart be splintered, this I swear,
And his body dragged along the Rhine.


May he who steals you then be sent

A blow upon his fundament.


Twenty-first century librarians have to be content with applying a sticker in the back cover of every book, taken from the Michigan Compiled Laws: 750.364 Larceny from Libraries.


Book Curse.
Drogin, Marc. Anathema!: medieval scribes and the history of book curses. Allanheld, Osmun & Co. Publishers, 1983
Reitz, Joan. Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Libraries Unlimited, 2004. p.788

It’s Summertime!

Laughing Whitefish FallsOne week the weather goes from highs in the fifties, the next week into the eighties. It’s Michigan! For those seeking to escape from boredom, or wish to take a break from studies, there are plenty of activities in not so far away places.

Huron-Clinton Metroparks:
Thirteen parks in southeastern Michigan featuring all sorts of outdoor activities.
Farther afield, explore Michigan’s excellent state parks and campgrounds, but be advised, many require reservations for campsites.

For those looking for indoor activities, Michigan has many museums, large and small:

has an extensive list to choose from.


Gardner HouseGull Rock

The Ides of March


It’s the one of the most notorious dates in history; the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.

It’s been immortalized by Shakespeare:

Soothsayer: “Beware the Ides of March.” Act 1 Scene 2

Caesar: (To the Soothsayer) “The Ides of March are come.
Soothsayer: “Ay Caesar, but not gone.
Julius Caesar: Act 3 Scene 1
Almost everyone has heard the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” and they know it means certain doom, but where does all of this come from?  What are Ides anyway?

Ides refer to the days in the ancient Roman calendar that mark the middle of the month. Since it was a lunar calendar, this marked the full moon.  For most months this was the 13th, but the 15th for the longest months.  March would also have been the beginning of  the Roman  New Year.  In addition to the usual sacrifices, other celebrations were observed during this time–such as the feast of Anna Perenna: the goddess of the circle, or ring, of the year.

But what about the rest of it? How do we know about Julius Caesar’s assassination?

One source comes down to us from Plutarch.  In his Parallel Lives, beginning at chapter 63, all the signs point to a bad end:*.html

Another is Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, written about A.D. 121*.html

For articles on the Ides of March see JStor:


It turns out other unfortunate things have happened on March 15th

Meleagris gallopavo

Audubon Turkey

Turkeys are native to North America and were first domesticated by the Aztecs. Turkey was probably not the main dish at the first Thanksgiving; it was more likely venison and small game were on the menu. Benjamin Franklin questioned the choice of the Bald Eagle as the national symbol and seems to think the turkey a better choice.

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country.

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Read more:


Turkeys have a reputation for being really stupid, at least the domesticated variety (Wild turkeys on the other hand, are very canny.) The word ‘turkey’ has entered our vocabulary to mean “someone or something of little appeal; dud, loser, or a naive stupid, or inept person.
Inevitably the turkey appears in political cartoons as far back as the 19th century.

1850s election turkey

This one from the Library of Congress digital collections, refers to the contest between Franklin Pierce and Winifield Scott.

More recently,  the satirists are alive and well:


Turkey voters

For other interesting facts see the following:

For those with an economic bent, statistics on the annual production of turkey can be found at the USDA Economic Research Service:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has basic information about wild turkey: range, behavior, habitat, even a sound recording.

An episode of Nature sheds light on turkey behavior in My Life as a Turkey:

The library has access, through the Library of Michigan, to the Culinary Arts Collection,  where one may find recipes for cooking turkey.

Lastly, just for a chuckle, a droll Gary Larson cartoon:


Larson turkey dinner


Where to Find Chemical Information

ACS Logo
UDM Libraries have a number of databases which are good for finding journal articles in chemistry:

American Chemical Society Journals: this database contains the full text of all ACS journals from their beginnings to the present.

Medline: a medical database which includes material on biochemistry

Science Direct:

SciFinder Scholar:  a tool to access the world’s research on chemistry.  For more information and instructions on creating your own account see

Wiley Online Library


As always, if you are having trouble finding what you need: ask a librarian.



Copyright Free Images.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress


Including a few images can make a presentation much more interesting.  Several sites come to mind:


The Library of Congress collections are a good source of such material–photographs, and posters such as the one above:


For scientific subjects one can go to:


Note: you should always acknowledge the source of the material even if it is free of copyright restrictions.






Need to take a break?

stressed out

Go for a walk and get your blood moving again, or, if the weather is nasty (its spring in Michigan after all), get away from it all for an hour or two with a movie. You can check the catalog for your favorites, or you can browse by entering “feature film” in the keyword search box. Pick a comedy or a fantasy, watch it with your friends. Taking a little break from studying will help your eyes uncross, and your brain won’t feel so overloaded.  Good luck on all your finals!

IEEE Xplore Digital Library

Need to find information in electrical and computer engineering? Even information on medical or dental applications? Try IEEE Xplore. This database offers basic and advanced searching in almost four million records, including conference publications, standards, journals, and magazines published by the IEEE. Only abstracts are available.
Topics include:
Communication, Networking, and Broadcasting
Components, Circuits, Devices, and Systems
Engineering Materials
Engineering Profession
Fields, Waves, & Electromagnetics
General Topics for Engineers
Nuclear Engineering
Photonics & Electo Optics
Power Energy & Industrial Applications
Robots and Control Systems
Signal Processing and Analysis

Go to

Welcome Back!

To our new freshman, returning students, faculty, and staff: welcome to the UDM libraries. We look forward to seeing you and are here to help with any questions you may have about the library’s many resources.

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