Summer Reading: Hag-Seed


Margaret Atwood
New York: Hogarth, 2016

A modern update to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, told from the perspective of a theater director who has been ousted from his post, and is plotting his revenge on his enemies while/through teaching Shakespeare-in-performance to prisoners, written by one of the best authors of our time. (And a good opportunity to revisit The Handmaid’s Tale.)

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

An open flow of ideas, energy at Berkeley’s East Asian Library

Exterior view of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library

The C.V Starr East Asian Library (Photograph by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

C. V. Starr East Asian Library director Peter Zhou envisioned a different type of library for Berkeley’s collection of East Asian materials. “I wanted an open flow of people, ideas, learning, and energy without a lot of partitions,” Zhou explains.

As the building heads into its tenth year, the success of the space can be measured by its popularity — Berkeley students rank the heavily-used C. V. Starr East Asian Library as one of the premier study spots on campus. And the library’s architects, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, recently garnered another big vote of approval when they were selected from more than 140 firms to design the Obama Presidential Center.

Tsien and Williams, a husband and wife team, focus on work for museums, schools, and nonprofits. They have each been awarded the National Medal of Arts, and have received more than two dozen awards from the American Institute of Architects.

The design of the Starr Library, which will have its ten-year anniversary in 2018, expresses an Asian cultural perspective in both large and small ways. From the outside, the monumental bronze screen that faces Memorial Glade, on the building’s south wall, is the most apparent.

Inside, a visitor is immediately struck by the open design of the space, the filtered yet abundant light, and the range of textures from concrete and stone to wood, fabric, and art.

The reading room of the C.V Starr East Asian Library

Students in the reading room of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library (Photograph by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

“The Gardner Stacks in Doe were one model for the open design,” Zhou notes. “In Starr, a multifaceted flow unites the collection stacks, reading rooms, and the reference and circulation areas.”

A central staircase uniting all four levels serves as the main artery of the building. On the ground floor, tapestries and art drawn from rare books in the collection soften the concrete walls.

Tsien and Williams worked to both fulfill the functional needs of the library together and to create an aesthetically satisfying building. University guidelines for this area of campus (known as the “classical core”) required a pitched clay tile roof, symmetrical façade and use of white granite.

A priority for the design was to avoid direct sun exposure while creating a building with an abundance of natural light. The bronze screens on the three sides of the building are part of the solution. An innovative skylight took care of the rest.

By adding angled drywall beneath the skylight, sunlight is reflected and diffused through the building. As Zhou puts it, “Our library is bathed in two layers of light, one coming through the skylight, the other cascading and bouncing down to different areas. I often see Berkeley architecture students drawing our interior.”

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library was funded primarily by private support, with additional funds from campus. Approximately 1,000 donors contributed to the $52 million dollar project. After opening in 2008, the LEED Silver-equivalent building won several architectural awards.

The top floor of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library

The top floor of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library (Photograph by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

Starr Library houses a renowned research collection of over 600,000 volumes in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other East Asian languages. Materials range from full-text electronic databases, books, periodicals, and newspapers, to block-printed maps, manuscripts, rare Chinese, Japanese, and Korean imprints, and rubbings of some of the earliest inscriptions in the Chinese tradition.

The full collection (some of which is stored off-campus) totals over one million volumes, making it one of the top two such collections in the United States outside of the Library of Congress. And the Library continues to acquire new treasures, such as the Paul Kendel Fonoroff collection of Chinese film studies materials.

Malcolm Margolin: “Such a goddamn beautiful life”: Conversations about Heyday Press and Everything Else

Photo of Malcolm Margolin, Courtesy of Kim Bancroft

Photo of Malcolm Margolin, Courtesy of Kim Bancroft

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library is pleased to announce the release of a new life history interview with Malcolm Margolin, author, publisher, and founder of Heyday Books in Berkeley. In twenty-two wide-ranging interviews, Kim Bancroft and Malcolm Margolin explore Margolin’s childhood in Boston, his education at Harvard, his travels, his friendships and family life, his work as a publisher, historian, and writer, and much more. These are conversations between friends, conducted from 2011-2013 in celebration of Heyday’s 40th anniversary in 2014, and the tone is warm. The 22 interviews were the basis for the book, The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of an Independent Publisher. We are thrilled to add the complete oral history, “Malcolm Margolin: ‘Such a goddamn beautiful life’: Conversations about Heyday Press and Everything Else,” to our collection.

Linda Norton, Senior Editor
Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library
June 2017

New Books in Literature


More new books
English and American Literature Research Guide

Summer Reading: Nonsense


Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing
Jamie Holmes
New York: Crown Publishers, 2015

The very real perils and consequences of jumping to conclusions, of feeling total certainty and confidence, and the power of being able to handle ambiguity. (John Keats called this “Negative capability,” and he saw it most vividly in Shakespeare’s writing.) Told through a series of case studies ranging from the workplace to personal life. If our modern condition is one of unpredictability and increasing complexity, Holmes’ lessons for “how to deal with what we don’t understand” are particularly urgent.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

The hidden treasures in Italian Libraries

The ceiling in the reading room of the Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome.

The ceiling in the reading room of the Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome. Photo by Susan Wright for The New York Times

David Laskin’s article in yesterday’s New York Times gave a delectable overview of some of Italy’s historical libraries as not only keepers of intellectual treasures but as physical spaces to carry out research. While web portals such as Europeana or Internet Culturale are bringing us closer to Europe’s rare books and primary resources, conducting archival research in renaissance libraries such as the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice, the Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome, or the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana designed by Michelangelo in Florence will never be completely replicated online.

UC Berkeley may not have paintings by Titian or Veronese decorating its reading rooms, but it is home to one of the most significant Italian collections on the West Coast with medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and early modern works in The Bancroft Library, and an extraordinary collection of 19th and 20th century Italian books and journal runs in the Main Stacks. The Library collects in all divisions of Italian history and literature, from the medieval and renaissance periods to the present. For the 20th and 21st centuries, the collection tends to focus more heavily on new literature(s), literary and cultural theory, cinema, historiography, Italian colonial presence in Africa, national and regional identity politics, and comparative studies with other Romance traditions. The Art History/Classics Library in Doe, the Hargrove Music Library, and the Environmental Design Library are all places on campus where the Italian collection continues to thrive.

Biblioteca Marciana

Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. Photo by Claude Potts

1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition: Stories through Photographs

A guest posting by Seamus Howard, Student Archival Processing Assistant in the Pictorial Unit, Bancroft Library

What makes a photograph good?

As a student working in the Bancroft Pictorial Unit, I’ve been going through hundreds and hundreds of photographs daily. I’ve seen my share of good and bad photos.

One might stand out as “good” due to the lighting, crisp focus, correct staging, and exposure — good cropping perhaps, or just clarity of subject. Ultimately, the answer is a combination of factors, and can be completely subjective.

For me, the most important factor is moment.

The 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition was full of special moments captured in photographs which continue to shed light on the character and tone of the United States during the early 20th century.

One special moment was former President William Howard Taft visiting the P.P.I.E.

Working to re-house and inventory about 6,700 photographic prints in large, brittle ledger books, I’ve encountered numerous shots of this visit, thoroughly recorded by the Cardinell-Vincent Company, the exposition’s official photographers.

President Taft was an early supporter of the exposition, declaring in early 1911 that San Francisco would be the official home of the fair. He attended the groundbreaking eight months later and returned to San Francisco in 1915 to see the fair in all its glory.


Ex-President Taft and other men on the speakers' platform, PPIE

Figure 1: President Taft addressing a crowd on “Taft Day”, September 2, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)


Taft’s visit to the fair was seemingly a large event. He was accompanied wherever he went, soldiers or guards escorting him from building to building. Taft continued to be a very important person at this time. He had lost his reelection to Wilson in 1912, and returned to Yale as a professor of law and government.


Ex-President Taft giving speech at P.P.I.E.

Figure 2: President Taft giving speech at P.P.I.E. on “Taft Day”, September 2, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)


Taft visited many of the fair’s popular buildings and exhibits, including the Japanese Pavilion, Swedish Building, Norway Building, and the art gallery and courtyard of the French Pavilion. He met foreign representatives, fair officials, and experienced much of what the fair had to offer.


President Taft and entourage leaving a building at the PPIE

Figure 3: President Taft leaving building, September 2 or 3?, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)

President Taft viewing busts in Swedish Building of the Panama Pacific International Exposition

Figure 4: President Taft viewing busts in Swedish Building, September 3?, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)


And President Taft experienced the unique blend of cultures and stories the fair provided. Here, in my favorite photograph of Taft’s time at the fair, he walks through a hall lined with busts in the Swedish building, flanked by guards. Taft seems enveloped by the art and is perfectly framed between his escorts and the lines of busts, drawing your eye towards Taft at the center. This moment makes a great photograph.

The Bancroft Pictorial team continues to house and describe through the collection, and will update this blog with more photographs and details as we progress. Stay tuned!


Conservation and Craftsmanship: Brian Considine, Senior Conservator of Decorative Arts & Architecture at The J. Paul Getty Museum

As a mere museum-goer I have often longed to touch one of the beautiful artworks on display only to be stayed by a watchful security guard or cordoned off to my appropriate space by a prohibitive velvet rope. It’s in that very moment that a set of questions emerge. Who gets to know these objects on a more intimate scale? Whose hands actually get to touch these works of art? The answer to both these questions is resoundingly the museum’s conservator.

In continuation of the Oral History Center’s ongoing collaboration with The Getty Trust we are pleased to release our interview with the J. Paul Getty Museum’s longtime Senior Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Brian Considine.

Considine recently retired from the Getty Museum, but his legacy lives on. In his over twenty years of service, Considine oversaw the creation of the museum’s decorative arts conservation laboratory, consulted on the preservation of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt, ensured the structural integrity of the museum’s many textiles, sculptures and 18th French cabinets, and managed the installation of the Getty Museum’s historical panel rooms.

A furniture maker with professional training in gilding and marquetry, Considine is an expert in the connoisseurship and conservation of 18th century French furniture and decorative arts. In other words, it’s his hands that have gilded countless furniture items from Louis XIV’s reign and felt for the rough unfinished bottoms of authentic period pieces. Conservation and craftsmanship are, after all, incredibly tactile practices.

Drawing from his experience as a furniture maker, Considine describes how he engages with furniture objects:

“You touch it. You rub it. The feel of the wood on the palm of your hand is so important. Any furniture maker will tell you—. Except like Knoll or something. But I mean any hand furniture maker will tell you that rubbing it is just so important. And the smell. The smell is a combination of the wood and the finish, but—. If the finish is a really nasty synthetic lacquer or something, it’s got this sharp, biting smell. Whereas if it’s linseed oil and wax, which is what I used, it’s got this soft, natural, rich smell.”

Considine’s interview is an important addition and resource for anyone interested in 18th century French furniture, the shifting practices of arts conservation, and the larger importance of preserving material culture from around the world. We invite you to watch the following excerpt with Considine talking about the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Ledoux panel room and read his complete oral history at the OHC website.

The Ledoux Paneled Room at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Photo courtesy of the Getty Trust.

New Release: Robert Irwin with Jim Duggan on the Getty Central Garden

We are thrilled to release our latest interview in partnership with the Getty Trust: the artist Robert Irwin on his Central Garden for the Getty Museum. Joining Irwin for the second interview session was Jim Duggan, the master gardener who facilitated Irwin’s vision for a garden that has become a living, breathing, evolving piece of sculpture — not to mention one of the most visited and popular pieces of art at the museum.

Robert Irwin was born in Long Beach, California, in 1928. As a young man, he worked as a lifeguard and professional swing dancer while creating his early paintings. In the 1950s, he became a pioneer of the “Light and Space” movement popular with a handful of now very influential southern California artists. Later in the 1960s and 1970s he moved away from painting and developed what he called “conditional art,” or art that was created in direct response to various physical, experiential, and situation conditions. In the early 1990s, he was brought in by the Getty Trust to design the new Getty Museum’s garden. Although the museum’s architect, Richard Meier, was not a fan of Irwin’s imaginative creation, the Getty Central Garden has proved to be extremely popular with visitors and is now regarded as a masterpiece of landscape art.

New Books in Art History

You can find these titles and other recent acquisitions on the Art History and Classics Library’s New Book Shelf.





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