Monthly Archives: February 2010

Currently on Display – Japanese Illustrated Books from the Charles Nelson Spinks Collection

Charles Nelson Spinks began collecting books when he lived in Japan.  He donated over 1,000 books to American University Library in the 1970s.  The books cover a variety of subjects including art, history, philosophy, recreation, and travel during the Edo Period of Japan (1603-1868).

Japanese printed books on secular themes date from about 1600.  Some of the earliest books were produced using moveable type but by the middle of the 17th century all commercially produced books were printed from woodblocks.  Many of the schools and styles of Japanese art are represented in illustrated books.  There are a number of different types of books such as gafu ‘drawing books’ which were usually produced by a single artist to give didactic examples of his style.  Artists could also combine with poets, novelists, and travelers to produce illustrated poetry collections, comic illustrated novels, travel guides and erotic books.  Popular titles were probably printed in ‘editions’ of thousands, and were regularly reprinted if there was demand.  Most Japanese books were printed on kozo, paper made from mulberry bark.  Rare Japanese books are defined as those predating 1867.  Numerous earthquakes and fires over the years and the allied bombing of World War II destroyed many old Japanese libraries.

On display are three examples of illustrated books including a gafu and two examples of albums of woodblock prints.  To limit exposure to light, the pages are turned every two months.   The exhibit will be on display through the end of April 2010.

American University’s Web Harvesting Project: A Work in Progress

As we recently completed our first year of web harvesting, it seems a fitting time to make a progress report. The original scope of this project was to document the online presence of student organizations and to collect web only publications. We presented our proposal in the fall of 2008 just as AU was finalizing plans to launch its new website the following spring. In light of this, we expanded our scope to cover the University’s entire website.  American University selected the Internet Archive’s Archive-It service for this project. Archive-It has a user friendly web interface through which you can set up and schedule crawls. The Internet Archive stores the web sites collected, generates reports, and offers technical support. Because of the evanescent nature of the web, it is important to review the reports generated by Archive-Its crawler. These reports document the success/failures of the crawl. By reviewing this data, we can identify crawler traps and write code to prevent future problems. Over the course of the last year, we have conducted four major crawls and several smaller ones. We reaped the benefits of this project within several months of starting. We have already received inquiries from students seeking copies of articles they had written for an online publication. The publication’s web site was temporarily down and the harvested version was the only source of their work. The archived version of AU’s website is available through the Archive-It site. I invite you to browse the archives. Start at the following site: and select one of AU’s Collections. For those of you familiar with the Wayback Machine, it only has data for from 1996-2008.