Getting To Know the Ropes Family through the Books

Over the past several months, the Phillips Library has shared in the excitement of discovering the stories of the Ropes family in preparation for the reopening of the Ropes Mansion on May 23rd—after the recent restoration of the interior. Here, I’ll share some highlights uncovered during the cataloging of the Ropes family book collection.

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How to Find Books You Can’t Read

Japanese book and Japanese dictionary

In my last post, I briefly explained the differences between two types of bookbinding. Interestingly, both object books that I chose needed a little catalog record TLC. The first, an anonymous journal from the first voyage of Captain Cook, simply needed to be linked to its twin elsewhere in the collection. The second, however, required investigation. You see, no one on the current library staff reads Japanese. Newer books come complete with ISBNs and standard modern publication data, making them nearly effortless to match to existing records despite the language barrier. So how do you track down a book whose information is not only in an old-fashioned format but printed in a language (and writing system) you don’t understand?

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A Day in the Life of a Manuscript Processor at the Phillips Library

Orders from Elias Hasket Derby for Stephen Phillips, Jr., master of the ship Eliza for Bilboa, July 9,1794

The Phillips Library provides access for scholars and researchers to a remarkable collection of unique and rare materials.  Its patrons are curators and staff of the Peabody Essex Museum, scholars and researchers from around the world, local historians, and general readers.  The library collects printed materials and manuscripts related to the major collection areas of the museum, and it builds on traditional strengths developed over more than two centuries of collecting.

Many people are curious about what a manuscript processor or archivist in an art museum library does. Let’s start with what a manuscript is. Read more