By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
This April and May, two miniature book exhibitions will be on display simultaneously in the Pearce Lobby of the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library: the Kate Webb Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection and the Miniature Book Society’s traveling exhibition.
The Kate W. Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection contains a diverse selection of ninety-six items representing the diminutive art form. Placed in chronological order, the collection spans nearly 230 years, beginning with The Bible in miniature: or a Concise History of the Old & New Testament (1780) and ending on Sidney E. Berger’s Wine by a nose at the finish (2008). A wide variety of American presses, including Somesuch Press from Dallas, Texas and Sunflower Press from Mill Valley, California, represent the art of miniature book during the late twentieth century. However, the Kate W. Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection does not just contain American books; it also includes an assortment of volumes from Europe, eleven books of which are written in Hungarian. A series of miniature editions of Shakespeare and a number of British and American almanacs from the early twentieth century are additional emphasis areas within the collection.
The Memorial Miniature Book Collection was created to recognize Kate Ragsdale’s life and career following her death in February 2013. Kate Ragsdale was born on January 28, 1940. She grew up in North Carolina, graduating from high school in Raleigh. Ragsdale earned a B.A. from Sweet Briar College and a M.L.S. from The University of Alabama. Afterwards, she began her career as a Program Coordinator in the College of Business and Commerce at UA before joining the Libraries administration team as a planning officer in 1987. Here, she managed construction and renovation projects, including the building of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall and the Library Annex, during her over twenty years of service at the Capstone. Ragsdale frequently served as an officer in organizations such as the Alabama Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). In 2004, she received the UA Library Leadership Award for faculty. In 2012, she won the UA School of Library and Information Studies Alumni Award.
Kate Ragsdale belonged to the Christ Episcopal Church in Tuscaloosa; was a member of the Friends of the Library, Colonial Dames, and the Junior League; and served on the board of the Tuscaloosa Public Library and West Alabama AIDS outreach. She is survived by her sons, Hugh Appleton Ragsdale III and James Webb Ragsdale as well as her three grandchildren: Hugh Appleton Ragsdale IV, Samuel August Ragsdale, and Eliza LaGarde Ragsdale.
Kate and her granddaughter Eliza both shared a love for miniature books. After Kate and Eliza visited the Miniature Book Society’s display together, Kate bought Eliza a few miniature books for Christmas in 2012. So when Dean Louis A. Pitchmann wanted to honor Kate’s legacy at UA, he decided to purchase a collection of miniature books in her honor.
Now students can enjoy this unique art form all year.
When not on display, the Memorial miniature book collection will be housed on the third floor of Gorgas in the same area as the Williams Collection. This Wednesday, Cool@Hoole will discuss the history of miniature books as an art form.