Inside Ivy Tech: Of ancient texts & text messages

College exhibit of early-edition works connects to modern day

Mathemata mathematicis scribuntur. (Mathematics is written for mathematicians.) ~Nicholaus Copernicus, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres)

First-edition books.

Published in the 1700s.

Pages so old, they crackle.

One “book” so aged, it pre-dates the printing press.

The Remnant Trust is a collection of first- and early-edition manuscripts and works housed at Texas Tech University. Universities and institutions across the country can host a selection of the more than 1,200 (and growing) works owned by The Remnant Trust. This spring, Ivy Tech Community College Northeast will host 50 works as a part of Text Messages. The books were chosen by College faculty and staff.

“They provide a historical perspective to some of the political and social discussions of the day,” says Chancellor Jerrilee K. Mosier, Ed.D. “Several of these works are particularly appropriate for Indiana’s bicentennial this year.”

Text Messages includes books in five categories:

  • Philosophy/religion
  • Government/history/economics
  • Fiction/literature
  • Civil rights
  • Science/math/discovery
A Sumerian terracotta tablet with a religious inscription, 2200 B.C.

A Sumerian terracotta tablet with a religious inscription, 2200 B.C.

The oldest Text Messages work, the Sumerian Terracotta Tablet, is dated from 2200 B.C. The tablet is the size of your palm and features cuneiform carvings on either side. The translation? It’s a religious text. A sampling: … from your birth you were a man of might whose name was proclaimed by Nanna! Cu-Suen, heroic son of An, beloved of Enlil, head held high in the lapis-lazuli e-kur, given birth by Urac, chosen by the heart of Urac, you have been elevated over all the lands.

What makes the collection so special goes beyond the books’ age: Unlike other similar exhibits, where viewers must study the art or artifacts from behind glass or at a distance, hands clasped safely behind their backs, The Remnant Trust invites patrons to handle the collection. Those who visit Text Messages will not only have the opportunity but be encouraged to touch, hold, and study these works.

It might not appeal to the Kindle crowd, but for anyone who appreciates books and history, Text Messages is a rare experience.

“You can feel the book. You can feel the heft of the book, the texture of the pages, and the binding, how the pages actually feel. They’re not like modern books,” says Ward Price, Ivy Tech Northeast librarian and chair of the College’s Remnant Trust committee. “They may have a scent to them.”

Knowledge is power. ~Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

The idea behind Text Messages is to take these works that have been around for hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years and show their importance and relevance to a modern audience. The works provide a foundation for many current issues and conversations in today’s world, Mosier says, in topics ranging from race relations to gender equality.

Those who visit Text Messages will be encouraged to consider the works in front of them; a series of large white boards ask general questions related to the exhibit, and attendees will be able to write their responses:

  • What is a Text Messages book that has grown in importance since it was written?
  • What traits do the religious texts in Text Messages share?
  • If you had to live in any other time period, which one would you choose?

“We’re connecting old texts with modern text messaging of cell phones. That’s an attempt to make it relatable to people today,” Price says. “We want to make the audience think.”

He points out that the ideas for many science fiction and fantasy movies come from these kinds of dated books and manuscripts: Consider the film Victor Frankenstein, which came out in November.

“It’s the umpteenth version of the movie,” Price says, “and we happen to have the original.”

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. ~Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Ivy Tech Northeast professors are encouraged to incorporate any of the 50 Text Messages books into their classes. Therese Leone-Unger, assistant English chair and a co-chair of the Remnant Trust committee, plans to use George Orwell’s 1984 and Susan B. Anthony’s An Account of the Proceedings on the Trial of Susan B. Anthony on the Charge of Illegal Voting at the Presidential Election in November, 1872 in her ENGL 111 English Composition and ENGL 112 Exposition and Persuasion classes. The idea is that first- and early-edition works show how the writing process evolves over time.

Text Messages features 50 first- and early-edition books and manuscripts including, clockwise from top, the Emancipation Proclamation, 1864; the Torah, printed on deer skin, 1600; and Frankenstein, 1869. (Click on images to zoom.)

Leone-Unger relates the experience to time travel: Studying “tangible language”—the lines that create words, book binding, special paper, fonts, and book condition—“are the only working mechanism of time travel that humans have found reliable in understanding the past, present, and future,” she says.

Want to schedule a tour with your club or school group? Contact librarian Ward Price at cprice55@ivytech.edu or 260-480-2033. Visit the website to find out more about Text Messages, including the list of 50 books in the exhibit.

Which book in Text Messages are you most excited about?

Lincoln–Douglas Debates and Startling Facts for Native Americans Called “Know-Nothings”

“Given the current political discussions and the public and media focus on the interaction between the candidates in the presidential debates and the seemingly outrageous statements of some, I think the Lincoln–Douglas Debates is especially relevant. While Lincoln and Douglas were not running for president at the time, the topic of the seven debates was slavery in the United States. Today the main topic is immigration.

“There is one work in the collection that is focused on a political party in the United States in the mid-1880s that operated on a national basis, promising to purify American politics by limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants. That group was empowered by the fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, and therefore, they wanted to curb immigration and naturalization. It is titled Startling Facts for Native Americans Called “Know-Nothings,” by Enoch Hutchinson. What I am excited about is the learning and the subsequent dialogue that will take place given the relevance of the issues and current situation in our country today. It is interesting to note how our understanding and our behavior of how we respond to people and ideas that are different than are own haven’t evolved as much as we might have hoped throughout the years.” ~ Jerrilee K. Mosier, Ivy Tech Northeast Chancellor

Bhagavad-Gita

“I grew up in the capital city of Pakistan, Islamabad, which isn’t far from India. I vividly remember watching Indian TV transmissions of Mahabharata, which is part of Gita, but I never had a chance to see, touch, or smell the actual book. The Mahabharata TV show always mesmerized me. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.” ~Andaz Ahmad, Ivy Tech Northeast Director of Media Services, Instructional Design, and Online Technologies

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