THE INTERNSHIP: OR, THE SOMETIMES-LIFE OF AMANDA SOL, RARE BOOK CATALOGING APPRENTICE AT THE WOLFSONIAN – FIU LIBRARY

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn is single-handedly responsible for accessioning, cataloging, and creating the metadata that allows our patrons to access the bibliographic records and digital images from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection. The extensive (and growing) Sharf Collection at the Wolfsonian includes rare books, photograph albums, and other ephemera documenting the wars, colonial expeditions and projects of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also includes a treasure trove of rare materials on the rise of the Japanese Empire and her interaction with her neighbors in the Far East. Having been approached after class by a student enrolled in my History course who expressed an interest in Korea and the Far East and in pursuing an internship at The Wolfsonian, I was delighted to be able to direct her to Rochelle and the Sharf Collection. As Rochelle is presently organizing a library exhibition on the Panama Canal to mark the hundred year anniversary of its completion, I figured she could use the help of an intern-cataloguer. Here is Ms. Pienn’s report:

“How do I format a Korean name in the cataloging record?” My Florida International University student intern looked at me with some trepidation. “I know in Asian countries people put their last names first. But I noticed that in the book they formatted it Western style. What should I put in the 100 field?” Her anxiety was due, of course, to the fact that she had already anticipated my response.

“Check the Library of Congress Authority database,” I intoned predictably. “And take your time,” I added.

“LC Authority doesn’t agree with me,” she lamented, but dutifully began to search for the book author’s name in the sometimes convoluted online resource.

“This is cataloging,” I smiled. “It takes some mental adjustment.”

2004-01-01

Ms. Sol, an FIU student, found The Wolfsonian – FIU Library through her professor, Chief Librarian Francis Luca. After she expressed interest in historical materials on Korea and Japan, we decided to introduce her to rare book cataloging, using period imprints from the Sharf Collection, which were published during the time of the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars. Ms. Sol’s sharp mind, lively intellect, and experience with secular data systems are major assets in tackling the detail-oriented, sometimes counter-intuitive complications of cataloging rich, accurate records for special collections materials.

After giving Ms. Sol basic training in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging) and RDA (Resource Description and Access) rules, the standard coding and style platforms for research university cataloging, we introduced her to the finer points of descriptive metadata (how to correctly format and impart keyword searchable terms when describing scanned images). Below are some examples of the types of books with decorative publishers’ bindings that are in Ms. Sol’s cataloging queue:

123089 (2)

GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

British colonialism evoked a near obsessive interest by those in the West of the mysterious Orient. The cover of this 1888 description and travel account by Henry Faulds features the Japanese koi fish, a symbol of good fortune, mounted by a youth. The yellow color of the cloth book cover was also commonly used to indicate something of Asian nature, along with the Asian-style font.

123091 (2)

GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This 1892 publication by New York’s Charles Scribner and Sons describes the flora, fauna and people of Japan. Birds are also featured prolifically in publishers’ decorative bindings of Japanese themed books. In Japanese culture, cranes, which mate for life, were admired for their fidelity.

123085 (2)

GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The cover of this 1894 Baker and Taylor Company book, published in New York and London, depicts a Japanese rickshaw, stamped in gold gilt. The human-towed rickshaw was the quintessential method of quick, economical transportation in the crowded city streets.

123087 (2)

GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Onoto Watanna’s real name was Winnifred Eaton. This made up Japanese-style pseudonym capitalized on her mixed Chinese and British ancestry. The popular cherry blossom motif is used on the cover this edition of her enormously well-received story. Adaptations were seen on both Broadway and film in the early 20th century.

123086 (2)

GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

A gilt-stamped depiction of an elegant Japanese woman in a kimono illustrates the cover of Lord Redesdale’s The Garter Mission to Japan, published after the Russo-Japanese War. It is possible that the woman is meant to represent an enigmatic and alluring geisha. The subject of geishas continues to fascinate the West today.

123088 (2)

GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The cover of this illustrated guide shows a silhouetted man reading and writing, surrounded by vignettes of iconographic Japanese scenery. The art of Japanese calligraphy and the Japanese alphabet of pictographic characters attracted much interest in the West.

123090 (2)

GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This 1906 novel was the only book by Mary McNeil Fenollosa not published under her pseudonym, Sydney McCall. Mrs. Fenollosa married her third husband, the renowned Asian art scholar Ernest Fenollosa, after their much publicized affair that resulted in Ernest leaving his first wife for Mary. The scandalized pair moved to Japan where both their careers flourished. An adaptation of The Dragon Painter premiered on the silent American movie screen in 1919.

To answer our intern’s earlier question about formatting Asian names in the MARC 100 field of a cataloging record, according LC Authority’s practice, it’s normalized in the order of “last name, first name” (usually, as-most-often-applied, and for now). The Library of Congress remains a dynamic organization. Along with the Cataloging Committee of the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the American Library Association, plus other professional groups and governing bodies, the art and skill of rare book cataloging continually evolve.

~ by "The Chief" on March 8, 2014.

One Response to “THE INTERNSHIP: OR, THE SOMETIMES-LIFE OF AMANDA SOL, RARE BOOK CATALOGING APPRENTICE AT THE WOLFSONIAN – FIU LIBRARY”

  1. Beautiful post!

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