From 1974 to 1985, curators, librarians, and scholars at the University of Illinois collaborated on a annual journal that celebrated our special collections. Their articles brought to light discoveries, offered interesting stories behind our acquisitions, and reminded readers of the research opportunities that await them in our vaults. The journal was called Non Solus after the motto of the Elzevier printing family, one of the great presses of early modern Europe.
Now, as thoroughly modern bibliophiles, we are launching a blog, which we hereby dub Non Solus with a nod toward both our predecessors and the Elzeviers. Though the Elzeviers may have construed their motto as a sign of piety, we are sure they also understood it to mean that even when we are most absorbed in thought—like the contemplative man beneath the tree in the Elzevier device—we are not alone because our ideas are built upon the ideas of others. In a library, one is never alone. Here we gather together books by diverse thinkers, people who might have been enemies in life or whose cultures were as divergent as Lao-Tzu and Hildegard of Bingen. All come together in the library. It’s like the paradise imagined by Dante–a gathering place for thinkers, dreamers, doers, and characters from the whole span of human history. They are all here in the library, each professing their views, each trying to persuade you. And through you, the reader, they are in conversation with each other.
The goal of the new Non Solus is to bring you into contact with some of those characters and the books they created. We will write about interesting “finds” in the stacks, fascinating histories behind our books and manuscripts, and other bibliographic wonders we come upon. We’ll let you know about new acquisitions and new initiatives. And we’ll keep you up-to-date on the many cultural programs, exhibitions, and public events sponsored by The Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
This is a collaborative blog (how could it be otherwise with a name like Non Solus?) Every day, we work together, we share our discoveries, and we talk about books with one another. Now we will work together to bring you this blog. Curators, catalogers, teaching faculty, librarians, and students will contribute tantalizing tidbits. We’ll sign off with our initials and put up a list with our names, positions, interests, and email addresses, so that you’ll know who is behind each posting and where to turn if you want to know more.
And so, we’re off! The blog is launched. But it’s lonely here in front of my computer screen. I think I’ll go into the vault where I always feel so very ‘not alone.’ I’ll let you know about any interesting encounters. VH