The University of Kansas

Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

The Art of Nature

July 31st, 2018

Just how heavy is an African elephant? What insects hang out together on milkweed plants? Satisfy your curiosity by visiting Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s summer 2018 exhibition before it closes on August 30.

Image of the T-Shirt Design by D.D. Tyler, "One African Elephant Is as Heavy as…" Milkweed Village T-Shirt design by D. D. Tyler

D.D. Tyler. “One African Elephant Is as Heavy as…” t-shirt and
“Milkweed Village” t-shirt. D. D. Tyler Collection.
Call Number: MS QA 22, Box 4. Click images to enlarge.

The pictorial T-shirts displayed in “The Art of Nature: Natural History Art and Illustrations by D.D. Tyler” answer such questions in the nicest possible way. These beautiful T-shirts selected from nearly 200 designed by natural-history artist D.D. (Diana Dee) Tyler charm the eye while they stimulate the mind. The same is true of her natural-history illustrations for periodicals, guidebooks, and children’s books.

Color drawing by D. D. Tyler of Mother Bear and Cubs for book Bears in the Wild by Ada and Frank Graham, 1981
D.D. Tyler. Mother Bear and Cubs. Color drawing for book
Bears in the Wild by Ada and Frank Graham, 1981.
Addition to the D. D. Tyler Collection received 12/17/2017. Click image to enlarge.

The detailed and scientifically accurate pen-and-ink drawings breathe life into each book author’s written descriptions of animals and their lives. In the exhibition, her impressive original drawings, never meant to be seen, can be compared with the published versions reduced photographically to half-size.

Ink and crayon drawing by D. D. Tyler of a Mother Squirrel Carrying Baby Squirrel for the book We Watch Squirrels by Ada and Frank Graham, 1985

D.D. Tyler. Mother Squirrel Carrying Baby Squirrel. Ink and crayon drawing
for book We Watch Squirrels by Ada and Frank Graham, 1985.
D. D. Tyler Collection. Call Number: MS QA 22, Box 1, Folder 30. Click image to enlarge.

A native Kansan, D.D. Tyler completed a Fine Arts degree at the University of Kansas in 1970. After backpacking around the world, she settled in Maine, where her career as an artist developed in tandem with her interest in the natural world. Now semi-retired, she recently donated her artistic archive representing forty years of work to Kenneth Spencer Research Library, where anyone using our reading room can request and view items from the D.D. Tyler collection, along with the many other books and manuscripts in the library’s collections.  Kenneth Spencer Research Library, located in the central KU Campus on Poplar Lane between Strong Hall and the Campanile, is open Mondays-Fridays 9-5 and (after fall semester classes begin August 20) Saturdays 9-1.

Karen Cook, DD Tyler, and Hank Tyler in front of the main exhibition title for "The Art of Nature," July 12, 2018

The artist, D.D. Tyler (center), and her husband, Hank Tyler (right), at the exhibition
with Karen Cook (left), curator of the exhibition. Click image to enlarge.

Karen Severud Cook
Special Collections Librarian

The Young Poisoner’s Handbook

October 18th, 2013

Sir Joseph Fayrer’s account of the Thanatophidia is important as a classic, systematic account of the venomous snakes of India. This second edition (the first was in 1872) was improved with the addition of text, even though the 31 lithographs (including 28 chromolithos) are identical in both editions.

Fayrer conducted extensive studies of the poison apparatus in Indian snakes and was responsible for many advances in the treatment of snakebite, including the use of potassium permanganate, of which he was the originator.

Image of a cobra, Ophiophagus Elaps (plate 8) from Fayrer's the Thanatophidia of India

Above:  Plate 8 (Ophiophagus Elaps) from Joseph Fayrer’s The Thanatophidia of India,  second edition. London: J. and A. Churchill, 1874. Call Number: H199. Click image to enlarge.

The venomous snakes, and by extension all snakes, get a bad rap for what is primarily an extremely efficient food-getting mechanism, only secondarily defensive.  Unless they are themselves attached, they kill other animals only for food.  How else to get supper without either arms or legs?  For a snake, there’s constriction or there’s fangs, although the spitting cobras of Africa send their poison by air-mail, blinding their victim.  There is some question among herpetologists about whether the black mamba (the largest venomous snake in Africa) or the cobra, shown here in a very striking pose, will actually attack a human.  Most snakes will try to escape a predator. In the United States, some species, such as the cottonmouth, will stand their ground and strike if the unwary come to close.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger
Adapted from her Spencer Research Library exhibit and catalog, Slithy Toves: Illustrated Classic Herpetological Books at the University of Kansas in Pictures and Conservations