Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

‘Dead Coloring’ Revived Again: John Gould’s Hand-Colored Bird Lithographs

September 22nd, 2014

Over the centuries a number of techniques for creating graphic images have outlived their original technology, successfully migrating to new imaging technologies. I was recently reminded of this while planning Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s exhibition, “Ornithological Illustration in the Age of Darwin: The Making of John Gould’s Bird Books” (open September 11-November 15, 2014 on weekdays 9-5 and Saturdays 9-1, except October 11).

John Gould, an English ornithologist, published illustrated books about birds from 1830 until his death in 1881. The Library has recently digitized its holdings of Gould’s 47 large-format volumes, as well as nearly 2000 preliminary drawings, watercolor paintings, tracings, lithographic stones, and proofs.

When searching the new digital John Gould Ornithological Collection (accessible at the University of Kansas Libraries website at, I happened to compare the published hand-colored print of the Horned Lark or Otocoris alpestris with the black printing image on lithographic stone. “What a great example of dead coloring!” I exclaimed.

Image of Otocoris alpestris / Horned lark

Otocoris alpestris / Horned lark. Lithographic crayon on stone by
John Gould and Henry Constantine Richter.
Reference: ksrl_sc_gould_2387.tif.
Call number: Gould Drawing 2387. Click image to enlarge.

Image of Otocoris alpestris / Horned lark

Otocoris alpestris / Horned lark. Lithograph and watercolor by
John Gould and Henry Constantine Richter.
Reference: ksrl_sc_gould_gb_1_3 (n77).
Birds of Great Britain, 1st edition, volume 3, plate 18.
Call number: Ellis Aves H131. Click image to enlarge.

So what is dead coloring? It involves underpainting shapes in a neutral hue, then finishing the oil painting with transparent colored glazes, and was often used by late-18th-century English painters. Early painters in watercolor, a medium gaining popularity in England during the late 18th century, employed a similar approach.

However, dead coloring also had a place in European printmaking. Mezzotint and aquatint, new methods of intaglio printmaking capable of the tonal gradations necessary for dead coloring, were invented in the mid-17th century and increased in use thereafter. John James Audubon’s hand-colored aquatints of American birds published in the early 19th century were outstanding examples.

During the early 19th century yet another new printing technology, lithography, spread from Germany, where it had been invented in 1798, across Europe to England. Working with a waxy crayon on a block of lithographic limestone with a fine-textured surface was similar to drawing on rough-textured paper. The lithographic crayon caught on the tips of the grained stone surface, creating a random pattern of irregular dots. Viewed with the naked eye, the tiny dots merge into shades of gray.

Lithographic drawing was much easier to learn than mezzotint and aquatint and was the obvious choice for illustrating John Gould’s ornithological books. Elizabeth Gould (his wife), an amateur artist, rapidly mastered crayon lithography under the tutelage of Edward Lear, a younger but more experienced artist employed by Gould. She illustrated Gould’s books until her death in 1841, after which he employed a succession of professional artists.

Image of Melanopitta sordida

Melanopitta sordida. Watercolor and lithographic crayon drawing by
William Hart. Reference: ksrl_sc_gould_1264.tif.
Call number: Gould Drawing 1264. Click image to enlarge.

Image of Melanopitta sordida

Melanopitta sordida. Colored lithographic proof by
William Hart. Reference: ksrl_sc_gould_1265.tif.
Call number: Gould Drawing 1265. Click image to enlarge.

Artist William Hart executed his drawing of Melanopitta sordida in lithographic crayon and watercolor, thus rehearsing his final drawing on lithographic stone for printing and hand coloring. Colored by hand using watercolors, Gould’s lithographic prints are successful examples of dead coloring. By the time of Gould’s death in 1881, color printing was taking over the reproduction of graphic images, bringing the hand-colored lithographic revival of dead coloring to a close.

Karen S. Cook
Special Collections Librarian



Legacy of the White City: Revisiting the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893

May 16th, 2014

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, or the Columbian Exposition, served to showcase the transformation of America’s international presence from the wild frontier to a dominant world power. It also signaled Chicago’s rise to fame from the ashes of its Great Fire of 1871. Among the Fair’s major themes were architecture, women’s representation, diversity, and technology. From May 1 to October 31 of 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition attracted 27 million visitors—a quarter of America’s population at the time.

More than 120 years after the Columbian Exposition, the Fair’s American legacy can be seen in this exhibit. We invite you to explore this period of rapid change, innovation, culture, and ingenuity.

Image of museum studies graduate students installing the exhibition.  Image of installed case on architecture at the Fair

Image of people at the exhibition opening.

Top: Installing a case Bottom: Conversations at the exhibition opening

This exhibition, which opened on May 8th, 2014, features original literature from the Fair.  Most displayed objects originate from Spencer’s Thomas D. and Sharon Perry Galloway Collection. The exhibit was designed and executed by students Rachel Gibson, Alissa Meehan, Meg Schwend, and Sabrina Shafique as part of a an exhibition planning and design course (MUSE 703).

Image of the four exhibition curators in front of the exhibition sign

Exhibition curators (from left to right): Alissa Meehan, Sabrina Shafique, Rachel Gibson, Meg Schwend.

Meg Schwend
Museum Studies Graduate Student

The Magic of Oz: A Collection Celebrating a Classic

January 24th, 2014

Like many people, I suspect, my knowledge of The Wizard of Oz has been limited to the 1939 MGM movie, which turns seventy-five years old this year. However, in recent months I’ve had the opportunity to learn a great deal more about the topic from Jane Albright, an Oz collector in Kansas City, Missouri, with an impressively comprehensive knowledge of all things related to the beloved story.

Image of Jane Albright in front of Oz exhibit at KSRL, 1977

As a student at KU, Jane Albright won the Snyder Book Collecting Contest
for her Oz collection in 1977. She is shown here with some of her books,
which were then displayed as a year-long exhibit in the Kansas Collection
at Spencer Research Library. From the collection of Jane Albright.

Jane and I have been collaborating to develop Spencer’s current exhibit, “The Magic of Oz: A Collection Celebrating a Classic.” The exhibition features books and other items from Jane’s wonderfully extensive collection of Oz materials and uses them to explore some of the contexts in which The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) was created and enjoyed by readers. Jane and I also hope that visitors will come away from the exhibit excited by the “fantastic host of characters, marvelous adventures, and strong sense of place” found within the Oz stories, much as Jane fell in love with them as a young girl growing up in Topeka, Kansas.

Image of the cover of By the Candelabra's Glare 1898

By the Candelabra’s Glare (1898) is a collection of Baum’s
own verse. He printed and bound each of the ninety-nine copies
himself. This copy is marked No. 2 and inscribed to his oldest son.
From the collection of Jane Albright.

Included in the exhibit are early editions and more-recent foreign-language translations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; examples other works written by L. Frank Baum or illustrated by W. W. Denslow, two men who had prolific careers beyond the Oz stories; ephemera from the 1903 stage musical based on the book, which was the greatest Broadway hit of its time; and copies of Oz books written by Baum and other authors. Noteworthy are the several exceptionally rare pieces from Jane’s collection that are included in the exhibit.

Image of Wizard of Oz postcard 1906

This postcard showing a scene from The Wizard of Oz stage musical has been
time-stamped and annotated. It was postmarked in Milwaukee on February 8, 1906,
and sent to a Mrs. Parish in Delavan, Wisconsin. From the collection of Jane Albright.

“The Magic of Oz: A Collection Celebrating a Classic” is free and open to the public in the Exhibit Gallery during Spencer’s regular hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and (when KU classes are in session) Saturday, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The exhibit will run through Saturday, April 19th. For additional information, please contact Caitlin Donnelly at (785) 864-4456 or

KU Libraries will host a reception and lecture by Jane Albright later in the spring. The event is scheduled for Thursday, April 17th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Spencer Research Library. More information will soon be available at

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Books Will Speak Plain: Creating a Design Binding

November 15th, 2013

The Guild of Book Workers (GBW) is a national organization whose members are bookbinders, book artists, book conservators, calligraphers, and other book enthusiasts. The Midwest Chapter of GBW recently hosted a jurying of design bindings for a traveling exhibition, which opened at Spencer Library on Monday, November 11. Entrants were required to bind a copy of Julia Miller’s Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings (Legacy Press, 2010).

What follows is a description of how I bound my copy of Books Will Speak Plain. I gained inspiration for my binding by examining historic bookbindings from Special Collections at Spencer Library. Because Miller’s book covers the history of bookbinding, it seemed logical to create a book that touched on book history in some fashion. In my role as conservator, I am fortunate to have the chance to closely examine books and have long been interested in evidence of past repair. I found various examples in Spencer’s stacks of books that had been repaired by sewing on loose parts, such as a detaching spine or cover board. I decided to use this concept as the driving force in the design of my book.

Detail of sewing repair on Sunderland, La Roy. Pathetism; with practical instructions. New York, 1843. Call number B6443. Special Collections, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Detail of sewing repair on Sunderland, La Roy. Pathetism; with practical instructions. New York, 1843. Call number B6443. Click image to enlarge.

The 500-page book arrived in folded sheets of paper. The textblock paper was dense, which ruled out certain styles of bookbinding that could not support the weight of such heavy paper. The book was sewn on three sewing supports made out of the fiber ramie. The book was sewn on a sewing frame, using a link stitch.

Image of folded gatherings of paper, copy of Julia Miller's Books Will Speak Plain (Legacy Press, 2010).    Whitney Baker's design binding of Books Will Speak Plain (Legacy Press, 2010).

Left: Book in sheets. Right: Sewing book on a sewing frame. Click images to enlarge.

I sewed silk endbands in cream and orange. The silk bands were sewn around a core of linen thread. Next the book’s spine was lined to provide some rigidity and set the round spine shape. I first applied a layer of Japanese paper with wheat starch paste, then a layer of Western paper, and finally airplane linen.

Whitney Baker's design binding of Books Will Speak Plain (Legacy Press, 2010).   Whitney Baker's design binding of Books Will Speak Plain (Legacy Press, 2010).

Left: Sewing endbands with orange and cream thread. Right: Spine linings of paper and airplane linen. Click images to enlarge.

Next the ramie bands, around which book was sewn, were frayed out and adhered to the book boards.

Sewing supports attached to board of book

Boards attached to textblock via frayed-out ramieband sewing supports. Click image to enlarge.

Once the boards were on, it was time to cover the book. I decided to use two contrasting colors of morocco (goatskin) leather, sewed together with coarse thread.

First I cut out templates for the leather pieces. The edges of the leather were pared to a thin edge, especially where the two pieces overlapped in the middle of the book.

Cut out pieces of leather   Whitney Baker's design binding of Books Will Speak Plain (Legacy Press, 2010).

Left: Cut leather pieces with templates. Right: Joined leather pieces wrapped around textblock. Click images to enlarge.

The leather was attached with wheat starch paste.  Here you see the headcap tied up with thread in a finishing press to help give the leather a good shape where the boards and spine meet.

Whitney Baker's design binding of Books Will Speak Plain (Legacy Press, 2010).

Book covered with leather, with headcap tied up with thread. Click image to enlarge.

Once the leather was applied to the book, next came labeling. I used individual brass letter tools, heated on a hotplate. (A stove designed for the purpose is preferable, but I didn’t have one at my disposal.) Each letter is “branded” individually in the leather. When it is left like that, with no gold leaf or foil applied over it, it is called “blind” tooling.

W. Baker Plainly Spoken Exhibit entry: heated tools on stove   Whitney Baker's design binding of Books Will Speak Plain (Legacy Press, 2010).

Left: Tools resting on hot plate. Right: Detail of finished book with blind tooling. Click images to enlarge.

This book was accepted into the blind juried show. You can see it and other fine bindings in the Plainly Spoken exhibit at Spencer Library through January 6, 2014. If you are near Lawrence, please come to the Gallery Talk on November 21, from 3-4 PM. The Spencer exhibit features both the design bindings as well as historical examples from Special Collection that complement them.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss Destruction and Survival

September 6th, 2013

This week we present you with two labels from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s current exhibition: “Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss, Destruction and Survival.”  The exhibit, curated by Sheryl Willliams, Spencer’s Curator of Collections, commemorates the 150th anniversary of the infamous attack on Lawrence and draws on materials from the Kansas Collection‘s holdings to illuminate this significant chapter in Kansas history.

Exhibition Title Wall for Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss, Destruction and Survival

Title wall for the exhibition featuring a photograph of the 50th anniversary of survivors of Quantrill’s Raid.
August 21, 1913. Courtesy of KU Libraries.  Click image to enlarge or travel to KU Libraries Flickr Stream.

Visitors at the opening reception for Curator of Collections Sheryl Williams speaks to the audience about Quantrill's Raid

Left: Visitors at the opening reception for “Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss, Destruction and Survival”
Right: Curator of Collections Sheryl Williams speaks on Quantrill’s Raid.
Click image to enlarge or travel to KU Libraries Flickr Stream

The exhibition is open to the public in the Spencer Research Library’s gallery through the end of October and available online at  We encourage readers to explore its moving stories of loss and resilience.

Hell Let Loose

On August 21, 1863 Quantrill and some four hundred men rode into Lawrence, on a dawn raid, catching the citizens by surprise, in spite of earlier rumors of possible attack. At the end of four hours at least 143 men and teen aged boys, most unarmed and unresisting, were known dead, many killed in front of their wives and children. Most of the business district was destroyed by fire, and many homes were plundered and burned. Lawrence was in ruins and its remaining citizens in shock and despair.

According to an account of the raid written shortly afterwards by Rev. Richard Cordley:

No one expected indiscriminate slaughter. When it was known that the town was in their possession, everybody expected that they would rob and burn the town, kill all military men they could find, and a few marked characters. But few expected a wholesale murder. … A gentlemen who was concealed where he could see the whole , said the scene presented was the most perfect realization of the slang phrase, “Hell let loose,” that could ever be imagined.

Destruction of Lawrence, an artist's sketch from Harper's Weekly. September 5, 1863

Destruction of Lawrence, an artist’s sketch from Harper’s Weekly. September 5, 1863. Call Number: RH PH 18:L:8.5. Online Exhibition item link.

The Horror And Sorrow

Excerpted from “William Clarke Quantrill and the Civil War Raid on Lawrence, Kansas, August 21, 1863, an Eyewitness Account,” Rev. Richard Cordley,  edited by Richard B. Sheridan, 1999.

As the scene at their entrance was one of the wildest, the scene after their departure was one of the saddest that ever met mortal gaze.  Massachusetts Street was one bed of embers.  On this street seventy-five buildings, containing at least twice that number of places of business and offices, were destroyed.  The dead lay all along the side-walk, many of them so burned that they could not be recognized, and could scarcely be taken up.  Here and there among the embers could be seen the bones of those who had perished in the buildings and had been consumed.  On two sides of another block lay seventeen bodies.  Almost the first sight that met our gaze, was a father almost frantic, looking for the remains of his son among the embers of his office.  The work of gathering and burying the dead soon began.  From every quarter they were being brought in, until the floor of the Methodist Church, which was taken as a sort of a hospital, was covered with dead and wounded.  In almost every house could be heard the wail of the widow and orphan. The work of burying was sad and wearying.  Coffins could not be procured.  Many carpenters were killed and most of the living had lost their tools.  But they rallied nobly and worked day and night, making pine and walnut boxes, fastening them together with the burnt nails gathered from the ruins of the stores. It sounded rather harsh to the ear of the mourner, to have the lid nailed over the bodies of their loved ones; but it was the best that could be done.  Thus the work went on for three days, til one hundred and twenty-two were deposited in the Cemetery, and many others in their own yard.  Fifty-three were buried in one long grave. Early on the morning after the massacre, our attention was attracted by loud wailings.  We went in the direction of the sound, and among the ashes of a building, sat a woman, holding in her hands the blackened skull of her husband, who was shot and burned at that place.

Photograph of Reverend Richard Cordley Image of William Elsey Connelley's  “Map of Quantrill's Route,” 1819.

Left: Reverend Richard Cordley, no date. Call Number: RH PH 18:K:205(f). Online exhibition item link.
Right: William Elsey Connelley’s map showing the route followed in pursuing Quantrill after the Raid, no date. Call Number: RH Map P7. Online exhibition item link.

Sheryl Williams
Curator of Collections and Kansas Collection Librarian