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Library Hand


Aunt Jill

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I do research at the Library of Congress in the History and Genealogy room. They still have an extensive card catalog, and the cards are written in library hand. Has anyone used it, maybe to practice legible writing, or is it too boring to bother with?

 

—Jill

 

Here's a little information about library hand.

 

Here are more samples

 

 

http://pic100.picturetrail.com/VOL738/3697721/7621625/384303832.jpg

 

http://pic100.picturetrail.com/VOL738/3697721/7621625/384304288.jpg

 

http://pic100.picturetrail.com/VOL738/3697721/7621625/384303831.jpg

Let there be light. Then let there be a cat, a cocktail, and a good book.

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Many thanks for the links and examples, they are very interesting. It always surprises me how vivid the ink colors are.

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very interesting style. It seems unusual to standardize the slant to a left-leaning slant - I wonder if there was any particular reason for this?

 

Also love the flexiness of the nibs in those examples!

 

Several of the other examples don't slant left. Also, I find that when I try to write straight there's usually a slight left slant, for whatever reason. —J

Let there be light. Then let there be a cat, a cocktail, and a good book.

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Never heard of library hand - very cool, those old catalog cards. Thanks for the links!

 

Karen

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/51/166782921_39063dcf65_t.jpg

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I did my MLS (Master's degree in Library Science) at the Library School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the 1960s.At the time, the Library School was in its own building with multi-drawer desks for the students. I found a 3x5 catalog card way back in a bottom drawer that had the model alphabet for Library Hand printed on it. Many years later I regret that I did not save the card. It was a real curiosity piece. As I recall, it also had instructions detailing the placement of title, author, subject, etc. indentations. When libraries used cards, the indentations were standardized for typewriter placement also.

 

I do not recall the specific bibliographic information, but some years ago there was an article in the New Yorker about the demise of card catalogs, and especially of the "shelf list." A shelf list is a catalog which has the cards arranged by call number order, i.e., the order in which the books are placed on the shelf. It is a cataloger's tool for checking on cataloging and classification information. But the shelf list also contained information about the number of copies of a title, acquisition information, and other data. The author of the article bemoaned the loss of the history of each book or volume contained on these cards. Electronic cataloging has replaced these historical artifacts.

 

By the way, my first professional job as a librarian was as as a cataloger in a public library. The shelf list cards where not "rodded." That is, the brass rod that holds the cards in the catalog drawer so they cannot be shuffled in the public catalogs -- the reason for the hole in the center bottom of a catalog card -- was not in place. Because the self list is maintained in the cataloging office, no need for the rod. As I was carrying a shelf list drawer into my supervisor's office I tripped. The drawer, filled with loose cards, fell to the floor. Catalog cards filled the space. My supervisor laughed for fully 10 minutes and told me that I was now an official cataloger! Apparently dropping a shelf list drawer is a rite of passage.

 

Edited to correct a sentence fragment.

Edited by Journaleur

There will be no crisis this week. My calendar is already full.

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I did my MLS (Master's degree in Library Science) at the Library School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the 1960s.At the time, the Library School was in its own building with multi-drawer desks for the students. I found a 3x5 catalog card way back in a bottom drawer that had the model alphabet for Library Hand printed on it. Many years later I regret that I did not save the card. It was a real curiosity piece. As I recall, it also had instructions detailing the placement of title, author, subject, etc. indentations. When libraries used cards, the indentations were standardized for typewriter placement also.

 

I do not recall the specific bibliographic information, but some years ago there was an article in the New Yorker about the demise of card catalogs, and especially of the "shelf list." A shelf list is a catalog which has the cards arranged by call number order, i.e., the order in which the books are placed on the shelf. It is a cataloger's tool for checking on cataloging and classification information. But the shelf list also contained information about the number of copies of a title, acquisition information, and other data. The author of the article bemoaned the loss of the history of each book or volume contained on these cards. Electronic cataloging has replaced these historical artifacts.

 

By the way, my first professional job as a librarian was as as a cataloger in a public library. The shelf list cards where not "rodded." That is, the brass rod that holds the cards in the catalog drawer so they cannot be shuffled in the public catalogs -- the reason for the hole in the center bottom of a catalog card -- was not in place. Because the self list is maintained in the cataloging office, no need for the rod. As I was carrying a shelf list drawer into my supervisor's office I tripped. The drawer, filled with loose cards, fell to the floor. Catalog cards filled the space. My supervisor laughed for fully 10 minutes and told me that I was now an official cataloger! Apparently dropping a shelf list drawer is a rite of passage.

 

Edited to correct a sentence fragment.

 

I read the article more than once, and I literally shed tears over it. That New Yorker may yet be in one of my unruly heaps of magazines.

 

Congratulations on your rite of passage. I hope tightly packed catalog cards saved you from complete catastrophe.

 

I took a semester of library science (back in punch-card and typewriter days), but all I wanted to do was cull the shelves, so I decided I wasn't cut out to be a librarian.

 

There's renewed interest in such artifacts as handwritten catalog cards, and there are a number of collections still extant that include both typed and handwritten cards. The two I know well are the Daughters of the American Revolution library and of course the LoC. It would be interesting to identify those in university collections, Carnegie libraries and others. I'm guessing some library science graduate student has found a lot of them.

 

—Jill

Let there be light. Then let there be a cat, a cocktail, and a good book.

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  • 13 years later...

I just wanted to say hi and that I appreciate the section on Library Hand as someone who loves fountain pens and library history.

One of my students did a paper on Library Hand that appeared in our state Library association's newsletter. You can see Kylee's article on p. 23-24 of the Summer '23 issue of Kolekole. 

 

I'd love to hear from anyone who is a graduate student or faculty in an Library School or iSchool who wants to do a research project someday.

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Thanks for posting the link.  I hadn't run across this thread before now, and of course at this point none of the links in the earlier posts work any more.  

I worked part time in my local library when I was in high school but was not familiar with this at all... (the cards in the catalog were all typed, not hand-written).

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Definitely old enough here to remember, and have used, the card catalogue, my city public library as I recall pretty much had typewritten cards but my grade school library definitely has handwritten cards.  The main (Suzzallo) library at my Alma mater University of Washington had a massive catalog when I was there,  there must have been on the order of 1500-2000 drawers of cards.  When the catalogue went digital they sold the old card holders, there’s a part of me that would have loved to have kept one.

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Thanks @inkstainedruth and @antares1966. I'm happy others can enjoy her study too.

 

Yes, I remember card catalogs in my school libraries when I was growing up. The Minneapolis (Hen. Co.) public library catalog was on microfiche when I was young. The first library I worked still had printed and typed cards, but that was because Hebrew was harder to upload and search, and many of our books were in Hebraic languages.

 

The Suzallo Library at UW is still an amazing collection! It really feels like entering a cathedral for research. I spent some time in the Special Collections there. Nice used bookstores and record shops near campus too. I imagine things keep changing though. 

 

When I was getting my own MLS, I had a professor (Josefa B Abrera )who learned how to do library hand when she was studying in the Philippines. It is kind of amazing that it was within a generation or two, although she might have been quite young when she was a student there... and she was teaching her final semester before retiring. 

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Thanks @nigelg for the nice article.

 

Many large research libraries in the US still have photolithographic reproductions of such cards in the National Union Catalog of Pre-1956 Imprints. Before we had library databases like OCLC that was how people could look for books to inter library loan. It also helped catalogers to do copy-cataloging. The British Museum (now British Library) probably has a similar printed catalog, as I imagine they also adopted library hand before typewriters were commonplace since there was a large influence of American librarianship in the establishing of the Library Association.

 

I started wondering about the spread of "library hand" to the continent and found this interesting article:

François LAPÈLERIE, « La qualité essentielle du bibliothécaire », Bulletin des bibliothèques de France (BBF), 1998, n° 6, p. 68-74.
En ligne : https://bbf.enssib.fr/consulter/bbf-1998-06-0068-010 ISSN 1292-8399.

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Hi @Tasmith, I don't know if that was library hand per se. Melvil Dewey loved setting standards for things that were later adopted beyond libraries, such as filing systems that were adopted by government agencies and companies for record-keeping, but don't know if library hand was another export from Dewey's "Library Economy." I

 

I've haven't read much about handwriting in America, but since I'm into print culture history, I found a list of books on the subject referenced at the Library of Congress, and ordered a copy of "Handwriting in America: A Cultural History." One of those listed books is titled "Court-hand," which makes me wonder if notaries public, lawyers or legal assistants and court transcriptionists were (at least sometimes) taught their own handwriting for legal purposes. This led to find an interesting post on the history of notaries, which was interesting.

 

As a personal aside, your post made me smile as I had a side part time job a quarter-century ago when I was a graduate student in Madison, helping genealogists / researchers with quests at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. I looked at a lot of such records, so the handwriting and style brought me back to some happy evenings in their gorgeous library / archive physically struggling with how to copy microfilms or bulky folio-sized legal registers.

 

For the point of record, I am not a lawyer, professional genealogist, handwriting expert or the like, and these views (along with my messy handwriting) do not reflect the viewpoints of my employer. :)

 

 

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16 hours ago, Prof Drew said:

Hi @Tasmith, I don't know if that was library hand per se. Melvil Dewey loved setting standards for things that were later adopted beyond libraries, such as filing systems that were adopted by government agencies and companies for record-keeping, but don't know if library hand was another export from Dewey's "Library Economy." I

 

I've haven't read much about handwriting in America, but since I'm into print culture history, I found a list of books on the subject referenced at the Library of Congress, and ordered a copy of "Handwriting in America: A Cultural History." One of those listed books is titled "Court-hand," which makes me wonder if notaries public, lawyers or legal assistants and court transcriptionists were (at least sometimes) taught their own handwriting for legal purposes. This led to find an interesting post on the history of notaries, which was interesting.

 

As a personal aside, your post made me smile as I had a side part time job a quarter-century ago when I was a graduate student in Madison, helping genealogists / researchers with quests at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. I looked at a lot of such records, so the handwriting and style brought me back to some happy evenings in their gorgeous library / archive physically struggling with how to copy microfilms or bulky folio-sized legal registers.

 

For the point of record, I am not a lawyer, professional genealogist, handwriting expert or the like, and these views (along with my messy handwriting) do not reflect the viewpoints of my employer. :)

 

 

Grew up in the Madison area.  Just got a craving for a brat on the Union Terrace!

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