Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vesalius in the classroom

Frontispiece, De humani corporis fabrica

Tomorrow's History of Medicine class is another great opportunity to bring rare books to our students. For the lecture on Renaissance medicine, I'm bringing one of the highlights of our collections, a 1555 edition of Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica. I also invited library staff to drop in and visit the book while we have it on hold for class - I was delighted to share it with some colleagues who had heard we had this monument of Western medicine, but had never seen it themselves.

As Sara noted in 2007, something that often seems to impress viewers of rare books is the condition and quality of the paper. Many are surprised to find that you can easily turn the pages without doing any damage. Our centuries-old Vesalius, while not in tip-top condition, has held up much better than, say, your average 1950s paperback book - primarily due to the quality of the paper they were each printed on.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kempelen digitized!

We're very pleased to announce the completion of our latest digitization project:

Wolfgangs Von Kempelen, Mechanismus der menschlichen Sprache nebst der Beschreibung seiner sprechenden Maschine.

Illustration, page 110

The digitized book is available to the public online via our Digital Resources Library.

Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734-1804) was a Hungarian inventor best-known for the infamous chess-playing automaton known as "The Turk," and revealed to be an elaborate hoax. However, Kempelen also conducted legitimate, pioneering research on phonetics and speech synthesis. His 1791 Mechanismus der menschlichen Sprache nebst Beschreibung einer sprechenden Maschine (translated as The Mechanism of Human Speech, with a Description of a Speaking Machine) describes in detail his design for a human voice synthesizer, as well as his research on the human vocal tract.

The book itself is owned by Richard W. Sproat, Professor at OHSU's Center for Spoken Language Understanding. Prof. Sproat made this project possible by kindly loaning this book to the library on a long-term basis. Bibliographic information is available via the library catalog.

I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of several different OHSU Library staff members for their work on this project. Sara Piasecki, former Head of Historical Collections & Archives, arranged with Prof. Sproat for the loan of this important book to the library. Karen Peterson collaborated with Prof. Sproat, as well as with HC&A assistant Jeff Colby and Cataloging and Metadata Librarian Friday Valentine to scan the item and create metadata. And we are especially grateful to Friday for shepherding us through the challenges of compound objects in CONTENTdm!

A demonstration of a reconstruction of Kempelen's speaking machine can be seen in this video from Saarland University in Saarbr├╝cken, Germany.