Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Authors’ Rights and the Relativity of Luckombe’s Plagiarism

January 23rd, 2017

Public Services Student Assistant Megan Fox considers printing history and changing notions of authorship in a favorite volume from the stacks.

Philip Luckombe, an eighteenth-century English printer and author, compiled the information in his book The History and Art of Printing with the express intention for it to be a reference to the general public about the history of printing from 1400 to roughly 1660 and the basic processes of historic printing. As he states in the introduction, “The entire motive which induces the Editor to this publication, is to promote the Theory and Practice of the Art of Printing… books on this subject are extremely scarce.”  Luckombe’s book contains many interesting features beyond its content, including an ornamental border on all the pages and numerous examples of typefaces. Additionally, Luckcombe includes illustrations printed by letterpress, rather than metal engravings, which were common at the time but which use a different printing technique. Luckcombe observes, “As this work treats of the Letter-Press only, we think it needless to apologize for not decorating it with Copper-Plates [engravings], judging it not pertinent in work of this kind to make use of the workmanship of any other authors than compositors.” However, a previous owner of the Spencer Research Library’s copy of The History and Art of Printing may have wished Luckombe had included more illustrations; he or she has pasted an extra illustration of printers in the printshop the end of the text.

Title page of Luckcombe's The History and Art of Printing (1771) To the public from Luckcombe's History and Art of Printing (1771)

Left: The title page of Philip Luckombe’s The History and Art of Printing. London: printed by W. Adlardand J. Browne for J. Johnson, 1771. Clubb C 1771.1 Right: The beginning of Luckombe’s “To the Public” preface. Click images to enlarge.

Luckombe describes all of this in his introductory “To The Public” note before the body of the text. In doing so, he also explains that the majority of the content is not actually his own, but rather “from whole works we have made copious extracts, several of which are in the author’s own words, though not pointed out as such.” As a college student, this line in the introduction struck me as ridiculous. If I tried to copy huge sections of others’ work in one of my papers with only a short note in the introduction stating I am doing so – and without even naming all of the authors from whom I am borrowing – plagiarism identification software such as SafeAssign would flag it immediately.  I would get a zero on the assignment and perhaps fail the class; I might even face university sanctions. In the twenty-first century a huge emphasis is placed on the value of authorship, and citing your work is paramount to good writing and scholarship. However, as Luckombe demonstrates, this was not always the case. Plagiarism, it seems, used to be acceptable.

Caslon's Specimen of Printing Types from Luckombe's The History and Art of Printing (1771)

Section title to Luckombe’s reproduction of William Caslon’s typefaces. Caslon is one of the few people Luckombe credits in his compilation of information about the history of printing.

Luckcombe’s use of others’ work brings to the forefront the interesting question of authorship and copyright in the eighteenth century. The idea that authors “own” their words after publication and distribution was developed through European print culture, which separated the idea of owning a physical copy of a book and owning said book’s intellectual or artistic content in order to establish author’s “rights” (Feather 520-21). It was only in the eighteenth century that the idea of an ‘author’ as a career became feasible in Britain – periodicals and novels began to be produced for the general literate public, and writers no longer necessarily needed a patron to live off their writing (Hammerschmidt 1). As authorship became a plausible career, copyright protections began to be codified into law, making it harder for contemporary works to be copied the way Luckcombe copies large sections of historical texts. One example is the Statute of Anne in 1710, which allowed authors to sell their copyright to publishers for a 14 year term, with the option of renewal. These laws were also enacted to protect publishers and their arrangements to sell artistic and intellectual content, but as a result of this a greater appreciation of authorship developed.

Luckombe was capitalizing on the fact that the works he was borrowing from, mostly published between 1440 and 1600, fell outside of copyright. Luckombe does not detail how he gained access to these works and was able to reprint them, but the mere fact of their inclusion, largely without attribution, demonstrates the difference between eighteenth-century and modern-day understandings of authorship and plagiarism. Some of Luckcombe’s contemporaries may have disapproved of this, but his compilation of other authors’ original writings still indicates how the general mindset of the culture viewed it as acceptable.

In addition to their fascinating content, older books such as The History and Art of Printing also can offer us a powerful reminder that nothing in society is static. The mindsets we regard as unalterable now may be perceived as simply a twenty-first century oddity by future generations. Concepts of plagiarism and authorial property were not the same in Luckombe’s time as they are today, and they will continue to evolve in the future.

Megan Fox
Public Services Student Assistant

Works Cited

Feather, John. “Copyright and the Creation of Literary Property.” Companion to the History of the Book. Eds. Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 520-530. Print.

Hammerschmidt, Soren. “Introduction: Between Geniuses and Brain-Suckers. Problematic Professionalism in Eighteenth-Century Authorship.” Authorship Vol 4.1 (2015) p 1-4.

Luckombe, Philip. The History and Art of Printing. London: printed by W. Adlard and J. Browne for J. Johnson, 1771. Clubb C 1771.1


Meet the KSRL Staff: Emily Beran

September 20th, 2016

This is the ninth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Joining us in July 2016, Emily Beran is Spencer’s newest team member; she’s the Library Assistant for Public Services.

Emily Beran, Library Assistant for Public Services

Where are you from?

I’m from Claflin, this little town in central Kansas.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I’m primarily responsible for running reception and assisting with the day-to-day running of things at the Spencer (helping with schedule, office inventory, working with students, etc.). I’m also learning more about the collection right now so that soon I can page materials for patrons and help with research questions.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I actually worked for KU Libraries for three years as an undergrad (Watson Cataloging Department). When I saw there was an opening at the Spencer for a library assistant, I knew I had to apply! Not only did the position bring me back to KU but it also gave me the opportunity to work in an environment that really prizes research and accessibility to the amazing resources available here.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

Narrowing this down is so hard! Right now I’m really excited about the facsimiles of The St Alban’s Psalter and The Relics of St Cuthbert that I stumbled upon just the other day! Those are at the top of my list of items to check out!

What part of your job do you like best?

Learning more about the collection! I can’t wait to explore more!

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I love to read – something I can do for fun again now that I’m done with my master’s. I also watch a ridiculous amount of Netlfix. Oh and I’m working on learning French!

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Never be afraid to ask questions! It’s the best way to learn!

Emily Beran
Library Assistant
Public Services


New Spencer Resource for National History Day

July 1st, 2016

The staff of Spencer Research Library is pleased to announce the addition of an online resource dedicated to aiding students and teachers with National History Day (NHD) projects. Our hope is that this new web page will not only direct NHD researchers to the resources of our library, but will also make valuable connections between students, teachers, and our knowledgeable librarians, curators, and archivists.

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Spencer Research Library’s new online resource for students and teachers
participating in National History Day. Click images to enlarge.

NHD began in 1974 as a small competition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, for students in sixth through twelfth grade. The program proved to be a great success, and it grew until it included not only Ohio, but the surrounding Midwestern states. Developing into a national organization by 1980, NHD moved its headquarters to the Washington, D.C., area in 1992. NHD now conducts year-round programs across the country and holds an annual national contest at the University of Maryland.

National History Day has grown from 129 students in 1974 to more than half a million students in forty-eight states today. Entering competition through their local schools, students develop entries individually or in groups. Choosing from one of five categories (Documentary, Exhibit, Paper, Performance, or Website), they compete in a series of competitions beginning at the local level; winners in each category advance to the regional, state, and national contests.

NHD’s stated mission is to provide students with a chance to study historical content, resulting in the development of research, critical thinking and improved communication skills through the study of history, and to provide educators with resources and training to enhance classroom teaching. The staff of Spencer Research Library hopes that this new web resource will provide a valuable research tool to assist with that mission.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Workshop Recap: Care and Identification of Photographs with Gawain Weaver

June 20th, 2016

Last week Spencer Research Library hosted a workshop on the care and identification of photographs, taught by photograph conservator Gawain Weaver. I was fortunate to attend the four-day workshop along with three other fellow Spencer staff members from Conservation, Public Services, and Processing, as well as archivists and conservators from Missouri, Texas, and elsewhere in Kansas.

Our group met in Spencer’s Johnson Room and jumped right into things on day one by preparing paper to make our own salt prints. We coated paper first in a sodium chloride solution and, once dry, in a silver nitrate solution, then we placed leaves on the coated paper and exposed them in the sunlight over our lunch break. This simple exercise was a fun and engaging way to demonstrate the fundamentals of photographic chemistry.

Salt print (photograph)

The salt print I made in the workshop…it isn’t pretty, but the exercise was very useful!

Over the four days, we divided our time between Gawain’s incredibly information-packed lectures on the history of photographic and photomechanical processes, and lively hands-on sessions examining examples of many of the processes we’d learned about. The workshop fee included a small 60x-100x handheld microscope and a binder filled with the lecture slides, reference guides for identifying various processes, articles and recommended reading lists, and lots more useful information. Participants also had the option to purchase a sample set of photographic and photomechanical prints – a great addition to an archivist’s or conservator’s reference library.

Hand-held microscope

This microscope is small, inexpensive, and very handy for identifying photographic & printmaking processes.

Photographic sample set provided by Gawain Weaver

Photograph sample set of eighteen different photographic and photomechanical prints.

In addition to covering photographic history and technique, Gawain also discussed digital prints and issues of photograph deterioration, storage conditions, and proper housings. I enjoyed this workshop a great deal, and I came away with a clearer understanding of how photographs are made as well as greater confidence in my ability to identify photographic processes and to better address the particular preservation needs of photographs in the collections I work on. Many of the guides and resources in the workshop packet are available for purchase or to download for free from Gawain’s website, along with links to many more resources and information about this and other workshops that Gawain offers.

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services

There’s an App for That: Scanning and Organizing Research Materials

May 31st, 2016

Readers who have conducted research at Spencer Research Library know that on-site patrons have the option to use a phone, camera, or tablet – or the overhead scanner in the Reading Room – to scan or digitally photograph collection materials.* Here, Spencer student assistant Katie Lynn shares some information about apps that can take your scanning to the next level.

Screenshot of TurboScan app    Screenshot of FineScanner app    Screenshot of CamScanner app

Screenshots of the scanning apps TurboScan (left), FineScanner (middle), and
CamScanner (right). Click images to enlarge.

There are a number of productivity apps by which you can use your mobile phone or tablet as a scanner to digitize just about anything, including some books, documents, and photographs in the collections of Spencer Research Library.* Most of the apps described briefly below have both free and pro options and are available for mobile devices with iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android operating systems, though there is one for Microsoft devices. Other apps that are less powerful or flexible include Evernote Scannable (iOS only), Google Drive (Android only), and Scanner Pro (iOS only).

All of the following apps offer auto edge detection (auto-cropping a document) and some kind of auto-enhancement for each image. Most allow you to save images in color, black and white, or in the original photo version, and some allow you to further edit the contrast, rotation, brightness, and color of images. They all allow you to create multi-page PDF files or save images in other formats. They all store these scans and allow you to upload them to the usual cloud services, such as DropBox, Evernote, Google Drive, etc. You can also use most of them to print documents.

By far the most powerful of these apps are CamScanner and ABBYY FineScanner. These apps have a variety of paid plan levels above there free versions to add their many features bit by bit. The options that set them apart from other apps are the abilities to annotate, tag, OCR, collaborate with others, and save documents in a variety of formats. ABBYY’s FineScanner boasts their powerful OCR software that works in 193 languages (though it doesn’t translate them), has a BookScan feature that splits book scans into two pages and straightens any curved text lines, and allows you to save files in many more formats, while CamScanner can be used on iOS, Android, and Microsoft devices and provides a few more editing features than FineReader. To gain access to their advanced features, however, can be costly.

To get many of the same basic options, though not OCR, TurboScan (Google Play, iTunes), Tiny Scanner (Google Play, iTunes), and Microsoft Office Lens (Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Store) offer free and low-cost pro versions.

Chart comparing scanning apps

A comparison of selected scanning apps.
Click image to enlarge.

*Please check with a Spencer reference librarian before scanning or photographing any collection materials.

Katie Lynn
University Archives Student Assistant