UCB Libraries


Past Exhibit:

Realia: Everyday Objects from Other Lives

exhibited 15 January 2010 - 9 February 2011


Special Collections welcomes visitors to view materials from past exhibits.

Guidelines for using the department are available here.



Special Collections Dept., University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries,
Norlin Library Room N345


Maps and parking information for the Special Collections Department are available at: http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/specialcollections/visitorsinformation/htm.


Special Collections is open Thursdays and Fridays from 1-5pm. Other hours are available by appointment; for scheduling, please contact spc@colorado.edu or call (303) 492-6144.



Motion picture camera, circa 1910. Donated by Dr. George Junne, professor in

Africana Studies at the University of Northern Colorado.


motion picture camera, circa 1910



"For a man who sees, sees not as a camera does when it takes a snapshot, not even as a cinema-camera, taking its succession of instantaneous snaps, but in a curious rolling flood of vision, in which the image itself seethes and rolls; and only the mind picks out certain factors which shall represent the image seen.  That is why a camera is so unsatisfactory: its eye is flat, it is related only to a negative thing inside the box: whereas inside our living box there is a decided positive."

Etruscan Places, D. H. Lawrence, 1932.

[Read the first edition of 'Etruscan Places' in Special Collections: DG223 L37 1932.]




Silver tea service. Roady Kenehan was Colorado state auditor and state treasurer, during which time he was considered to be a strong ally to labor interests. During his childhood in Ireland, he learned horseshoeing and blacksmithing, which led to his long association with the Journeymen Horseshoer’s Union. The tea service has both Kenehan’s and the Union’s monograms. His tea service was donated by Grace Kenehan and family.


antique silver water boiler


“We all know the appearance of that old gentleman, how pleasant and dear a fellow he is… how he gave silver cups when the girls were born, and now bestows tea-services as they get married- a most useful, safe, and charming fellow”

He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope, 1869, p. 6.

[Read the first edition of 'He Knew He Was Right' in Special Collections: PR5684 H5 1869 v. 1]



“She then took hold of the tea-tray, to draw it towards her, while her opposite neighbor -(opposite in more ways than one)- pulled it back again in a very spirited manner”

The Laughing Philosopher, Number 38, “An Embarassment of Riches,” 1777.

[Read it online via Eighteenth Century Collections Online.]




Western Asian tunic, hand sewn and embroidered.


Western Asian tunic


“The ball was opened by the Queen, who took Prince George of Cambridge for her partner in a quadrille entitled “Versailles.”  her Majesty wore a white satin petticoat, over which was a silver llama tunic, trimmed with silver and white blonde lace and agrafé on either side with maiden blush roses, studded in the centre with brilliants.”

The First Year of a Silken Reign, by Andrew White Tuer, 1838, p. 229-30.

[Read more about Victoria's first year as queen online via Google books.]




Afghani burka. Donated by Monique Hollis-Perry.


“Next is put on the ‘burko’,’ or face-veil, which is a long strip of white muslin, concealing the whole of the face except the eyes, and reaching nearly to the feet.  It is suspended at the top by a narrow band, which passes up the forehead, and which is sewed, as are also the two upper corners of the veil, to a band that is tied round the head.  The lady then covers herself with a ‘habarah,’ which, for a married lady, is composed of two breadths of glossy, black silk, each ell-wide, and three yards long”

An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians: Written in Egypt During the Years 1833-1835, Edward William Lane, p.38. 

[Read more of this writer's take on 19th-century Egyptians- find it in the Norlin stacks: DT70 L27 1890.]




Slavic Easter Eggs. These traditional Slavic Easter eggs are decorated in the wax-resist method, in which melted beeswax is painted onto the egg, which is then dipped in dye, and the process repeated with other colors. Finally, the wax is melted off to expose the magnificent decoration.


Slavic Easter Eggs


“They then begin to give Easter eggs, which continues for a fortnight, a custom as well among the great as the small, the old as the young, who mutually make each other presents of them, and the shops are every where full of them coloured and boiled, the most common color being a plum blue, though there are also such as are green and white, very neat; some are well-painted, and worth two or three rix-dollars, and, in short, many of them have these words upon them, CHRISTOS WOS CHREST, Christ is risen. 

Travels Into Muscovy, Cornelius de Bruyn, 1737, pp. 31-2.

[Read more of de Bruyn's travelogue via Eighteenth Century Collections Online.]





Rosetta Disk The Rosetta Disk is a nickel disk etched with images of pages with writing in 13,000 languages. It is an optical storage device, which can be read with a microscope of 100x power. Gift of Charles Butcher.


"The secret of understanding hieroglyphs was lost until the Rosetta Stone was discovered by a French soldier in 1799. I bought this booklet to help me recognize at least some of the more basic hieroglyphs."

Egyptology: Search for the Tomb of Osiris, Being the Journal of Miss Emily Sands, November 1926. [By Dugald Steer, 2004.]

[Read the first edition of 'Egyptology,' an interactive children's book, in Special Collections: DT60 S22 2004.]




Culpeper-type microscope, circa 1750.


"The Critic Eye, that microscope of wit,
Sees hairs and pores, examines bit by bit:
How parts relate to parts, or they to whole,
The body’s harmony, the beaming soul.
Are things which Kuster, Burman, Wasse, shall see
When Man’s whole frame is obvious to a Flea.”

The New Dunciad, Alexander Pope, 1742, p 15- book 4 l. 223-28.

[Read more of Pope's biting wit in Special Collections: PR3625 A1 1742.]




Purses of bakelite and other period materials. Gifts of Martha Sabin, 2004.


“Superficially, it is a composition, born of fire and mystery, having the rigor and brilliance of glass, the lustre of amber from the Isles... Those familiar with its possibilities claim that in a few years it will be embodied in every mechanical facility of modern civilization… Books and papers will be set up in Bakelite type. People will read Bakeliterature, Bakelitigate their cases, offer Bakeliturgies for their dead, bring young into the world in Bakelitters.”

Science: At Ithaca.  Time Magazine, Sep 22, 1924. 

[Read more about bakelite via Time Magazine.]




Author Jean Stafford's first Royal portable typewriter.

Royal portable typewriter

"Mina Harker's Journal, 30 October, evening--- I feel so grateful to the man who invented the the 'Traveller's' typewriter, and to Mr. Morris for getting this one for me. I should have felt quite astray doing the work if I had to write with a pen..."

Dracula, Bram Stoker, 1897.

[Read more of Mina's journal in Special Collections: Limited Editions 172, from the Norlin stacks: PR6037.T617 D7, or online via Project Gutenberg.]





Double tea caddy of wood inlaid with abalone shell, circa 1790-1830.


antique tea chest

“I have got a very neat tea-chest for Mrs. Yate, which shall be filled with tea, and delivered to her as your act and deed; I saw Mr. Yate at church this morning, and he wishes you much joy and happiness” (Mrs. Penarves to her sister Mrs. Dewes).

The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany, (1700-1788; published 1861,) v.2, p. 97-8.

[Read more about eighteenth century life in Special Collections: DA483 D3 A2 1st series, 1861x.]




London mortality scroll, 1842.


London mortality scroll, 1842


“The Spirits of the Air of Tuesday are under the East-winde: their nature is to cause wars, mortality, death and combustions”

Henry Cornelius Agrippa his fourth book of occult philosophy of geomancie, magical elements of Peter de Aban : astronomical geomancie ; the nature of spirits ; Arbatel of magick ; the species or several kindes of magick, translated into English by Robert Turner, 1665.

[Read about the spirits of the rest of the week at Early English Books Online.]



Writing case, circa 1900, formerly owned by Isabel J. Vickers. It is equipped with slots for writing paper and envelopes, a note slate, pencil, pens and ink well, a bone folder, a pencil sharpener, a letter opener, and blotting paper.


“I forgot - ungrateful as I am – to tell you that Mrs. Sneyd and Emma have given me a most convenient red morocco writing case much better than those with drawers at the end.  My father likes it almost as well as I do.”

Letters from England, 1813-1844, Maria Edgeworth, p.25. 

[Read all Edgeworth's letters in a volume from the Norlin stacks: PR4646 A52 1941.]



Nazi flag. Signed by the American servicement who captured it. Gift of an anonymous donor.


“On May 5, 1945, General George Patton’s Third Army liberated our camp.  There was an unbelievable feeling that we were free.  We asked ourselves, “What do we do now?”
I was happy the Americans and not the Russians freed us.
The Poles lowered the Nazi flag and raised Poland’s flag.”

Antoni Palmowski, in Forgotten Survivors, 2004, pp.113-14

[Read more from Palmowski and other forgotten survivors in this Norlin stacks book: D804.5 C47 F67 2004.]



Chess set, carved by a German WWII prisoner at a camp in Canada.

Aura Lockwood bequest, 1999.


chess set, carved by a German POW


“Thus the devil played at chess with me, and yielding a pawn, thought to gain a queen of me; taking advantage of my honest endeavours; and, whilst I laboured to raise the structure of my reason, he strove to undermine the edifice of my faith.”

Religio Medici, Sir Thomas Browne, 1643.

[This self-portrait by Browne was a controvecial work; an immediate bestseller, it was also quickly placed on the Vatican's list of prohibited books. Read more and decide for yourself in Special Collections: Vale, printed 1902, p. 24.]




Two pen cases, one signed and dated Masha Najafi, 1225 (1857 C.E.), and one unidentified.


Masha Najafi pen case

“The King… was speechless with surprise; so I took the pen-case and, drawing forth a reed, wrote on the board these two couplets: Two hosts fair fighting thro’ the livelong day Nor is their battling ever finishèd,
Until, when darkness girdeth them about, The twain go sleeping in a single bed.”

The Book of the Thousand and One Nights, Richard F. Burton, trans., 1885.

[See a charmingly illustrated set of the tales in Special Collections: 96-4-38, printed 1900; this quote is from  v. 1, p. 132.]


“Presently they appointed him a great Sophister-Doctor, called Master Tubal Holophernes, who taught him his ABC, so well, that he could say it by heart backwards… And did ordinarily carry a great Pen and Inkhorn, weighing above Seven thousand Quintals, the  Pen-case whereof was as big and as long as the great Pillar of Enay; and the Horn was hanged to it in great Iron Chains, it being of the wideness to hold a Tun of Merchand Ware.”

The works of F. Rabelais, M.D., or, The lives, heroic deeds and sayings of Gargantua and Pantagruel… done out of French by Sir Tho. Urchard, Kt., and others. 1684.

[Read more about Gargantua's education via Early English Books Online.]




Dance card, 1921. Donated by Camille Cummings.


“For those words, Stephen: love’s bitter mystery.

Where now?

Her secrets: old feather fans, tasseled dancecards, powdered with musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer.  A birdcage hung in the sunny winder of her house when she was a girl.”

Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922, pp. 10-11.

[Read a first edition of Ulysses in Special Collections: Plume PR6019 O9 U4 1922.]




Arrowheads. Collected by Colorado pioneer Anne Ellis, and possibly her family members.


Gold hair'd Apollo did bestow
His mightie-sounding silver bow,
With musick instruments great store,
His harp, his cithar, and mandore,
His peircing arrowes and his quiver:
But Cupid shot him through the liver
And set him all up in à flame,
To follow à Peneïan Dame:
But being once repudiat
Did lurk within this Cabinet,
And there with many a sigh and groane,
Fierce Cupids wrong he did bemoane"

Adamson, The Muses Threnodie, 1638.

[Read more of 'The Muses Threnodie' via Early English Books Online.]



Porcelain pipe with brass filigree.


porcelain pipe


“The fume taken in a Pipe, is good against Rumes, Catarrhs, hoarsenesse, ache in the head, stomach, lungs, breast; also, in want of meat, drinke, sleepe, or reste.”

Dyets Dry Dinner, Henry Butts, 1599, P5v.

[Read more of Butts' suggestions for optimum health via Early English Books Online.]




Spanish pillar, 1794, Carolus III; Mexican peso, 1871; Straits Settlements coin, 1904; Hubei Province coin, between 1895-1911.


“The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes
With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at eye,
It wolde rather breste atwo than plye.”

The Clerk’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer, late 14th century.

[See a facsimile of the Ellesmere Chaucer, the most beautiful copy of the Canterbury Tales, in Special Collections: OS2 PR1866 W762 1995.]




Kewpie doll, 1910, designed by Rose O’Neill. Aura Lockwood bequest, 1999.


kewpie doll, 1910


“It’s a hell of a lot of fun – her crackin’ jokes all the time, like she says one time, she says, 'I’ve knew people that if they got a rag rug on the floor an’ a kewpie doll lamp on the phonograph they think they’re running a parlour house.’”

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, 1937.

[Read the first edition of 'Of Mice and Men' in Special Collections: PS3537 T324 O3 1937a c.7.]













Two tasseled seeds: a pumpkin seed and an unidentified seed.


“Sophronos: Tis to me a mystery, I understand it not.

tasseled seeds

Aretas: Nor I.”


The Louers Melancholy Acted at the Priuate House in the Blacke Friers, and publikely at the Globe by the Kings Maiesties Seruants, John Ford, 1629, p.64.

[Read more of Ford's play via Early English Books Online.]




Heiroglyph squeeze. Squeezes were popular travel souvenirs in the Victorian era, as well as a method for archaeologists to create a copy of inscriptions for later study; their manufacture is less damaging than taking a rubbing. Cotton rag paper is soaked in water, then carefully pressed into the inscription. Donated by Mrs. George A. Stowe.


In the September of 1879 Professor Sayce visited these sculptures.  He made careful squeezes and copies of the inscription, on one of the figures, which he found to consist of the same kidn of characters as those of Carchemish and Hamah. 

The Empire of the Hittites, William Wright, 1884, p.58.

[Read more of Wright's work on Google books.]