Thomas G. Lannon of the New York Public Library has posted “A History of the Library as Seen Through Notable Researchers” at the Library blog:

One unique way to trace the history of the Library is through call slips. In order to use books in the research collection, patrons request specific titles by filling out a call slip, which includes the following information: author, title, and call number. Not all call slips have been saved over the years, but some have been preserved for posterity. Here are their stories.

Read about Max Eastman and Aristophanes (1920), Lewis Mumford and Moby-Dick (1928), and other relics of bygone research, each with an image of the bit of paper by which the books were requested, which has changed pleasingly little over the years. (I’m sure I have some of them around the house; I filled out more than I ever actually turned in.) Thanks, Leslie!


  1. It is astonishing that any call slips were saved.
    The Petersburg Public Library (“Publichka”) has a similar system, but there’s also a reader register attached to the case or cover sheet for each manuscript. When I was reading 16th c. chronicles, I could trace the genealogy of scholars who had requested them for study for the past 50 years (and add my name to the list).

  2. dearieme says
  3. marie-lucie says

    I agree with the first commenter on this article. Until further notice I would take the Japanese results with a grain of salt. Nicholas Wade is an enthusiastic reporter but unqualified in historical linguistics.
    The apparently innovative method used by the authors (who are not linguists) is a version of glottochronology: it couples a simplistic linguistic method (a small number of “homologous words”, which the researchers call “gene-like”) with a theoretically untenable assumption of a constant rate of “word replacement”. Languages do not change at a fixed rate, and language change is thoroughly bound up with the history of the speakers. Both approaches therefore present problems (see a similar discussion here not too long ago).
    The amazing convergence of their dating results with the archeologically known onset of the Yayoi culture sounds suspicious: how did the authors decide how fast or slowly the original language changed? Japanese language history is well-known (from texts in Old and Middle Japanese), and so are the Japanese and Ryukyuan dialects, and it is therefore possible to extrapolate from these to reconstruct the forms of the words in the original language (“Proto-Japonic”) prior to those attested periods, but it is another thing to arrive at absolute dates for those earlier forms (this is one problem also for the dating of Proto-Indo-European and even reconstructions of later language stages such as Proto-Germanic).
    The arrival of the Yayoi culture (presumably Proto-Japonic speakers) and the assimilation of earlier inhabitants (whether or not all were Jomon) would no doubt have caused rapid linguistic change in the incoming language, skewing the results towards a more recent date than the actual one.
    I also doubt Wade’s general conclusion that the adoption of agriculture necessarily brings with it the adoption of the language of the agriculturists. The expansion of the Bantu languages in Africa and of Turkic languages in Eurasia (including the replacement of Indo-European languages in Anatolia and Hungary) occurred when mobile peoples swept through the territories of settled agriculturists.

  4. dearieme says

    Interesting stuff, m-l. Thank you.

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