Turning the Book Wheel
A tumblr of semi-random stuff from the stacks of the Smithsonian Libraries
19 of September, 2014

Arrrr, guess what day it be?

From A general history of the pyrates, from their first rise and settlement in the Island of Providence, to the present time. With the remarkable actions and adventures of the two female pyrates Mary Read and Anne Bonny … (1724)

Posted 1 day ago
Tags:  #pirates  #talk like a pirate day  #Blackbeard  #Mary Read  #Anne Bonny  #typography  #18th Century

853 notes
18 of September, 2014

Gross insect fact o’ the day: the Cicada-killer wasp

A female flies out and inspects trees until she finds a cicada. After she stings it, the cicada becomes paralyzed within one minute. The wasp then grasps the base of the wings of the cicada with her middle legs, and flies with the cicada in an upside-down position back to her burrow. ….
The cicada killer’s venom preserves the cicada, which will live in a paralyzed state twice as long as an unstung, unfed cicada. Within two weeks the [wasp] larvae have eaten the paralyzed cicadas and grown into prepupae, the form in which they will spend the winter.

Description of Sphecius speciousus behavior from eol.org

Image from Field book of insects, with special reference to those of the Northeast United States….(Lutz, 1918)

Posted 2 days ago
Tags:  #parasitic wasp  #cicada killer  #wasp  #insects  #parasites  #BHL

125 notes
17 of September, 2014

About a year ago, we posted a gif of hover whales. This, however, was our original creation—at the time too big for Tumblr but now able to be posted.

from Suggestions to the keepers of the U.S. life-saving stations, light-houses, and light-ships; and to other observers, relative to the best means of collecting and preserving specimens of whales and porpoises. By Frederick W. True.

Posted 3 days ago
Tags:  #whales  #gif  #hover whales

467 notes

Transcribing "Mary The Mystery": Mary Smith transcription tips


Have you worked on Mary Smith’s Commonplace Book Concerning Science and Mathematics - or perhaps you are stumped as you’re reviewing?

Great news - smithsonianlibraries staff have created this helpful guide to ease your consternation.


  1. S can sometimes look like f, especially when…

Posted 4 days ago
Tags:  #reblog  #transcription  #mary smith commonplace book

18 notes
16 of September, 2014

So I said, “If you know of any better fish puns, just let minnow!”

Historiae naturalis de quadrupetibus libri VI (1650)

Posted 4 days ago
Tags:  #thank you very much you've been a lovely audience we'll be here all week  #mermaid  #cryptozoology  #17th century  #pun

258 notes
12 of September, 2014


The aurora at the southern pole, in all its psychedelic glory. From v.14 of The Works of Jules Verne, this illustration is for his story The Sphinx of Ice, which starts on p. 263. (also known as An Antarctic Mystery.)

We hear you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from the northern tier of the US tonight. Don’t expect them to be quite as showy as this image of the aurora australis we posted last year, however…

See NASA’s Aurora page for more info. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center might have the scoop, too.

Happy viewing!

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #aurora  #gif  #psychedelic  #jules verne  #science fiction  #Aurora Australis  #northern lights  #repost

883 notes
12 of September, 2014

Royale with cheese??

Image of “Haematornis holospilus” (possibly Spilornis holospilus the Philippine serpent eagle) from “Zoologia typica" (1849)

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #eagle  #raptor  #scientific illustration  #Pulp Fiction  #BHL  #is it that the eagle has the intense expression reminiscent of Samuel L. Jackson or that Jackson has the acting intensity of a badass eagle?  #discuss  #badassery

411 notes
11 of September, 2014


In response to the September 11 tragedies, twenty Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery constructed a sand mandala (sacred painting) at the Sackler in 2002. This seven-foot-square mandala, one of the largest ever created in the West, was offered for the healing and protection of America.

Learn more about this project and Tibetan mandalas. 

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #reblog  #mandala  #september 11  #tibetan  #buddhist  #healing  #freersackler  #smithsonian

5,627 notes
11 of September, 2014


Ken C. Hamilton, Dust Covered Transit Police, 2001. New-York Historical Society, here is new york collection

Read more about here is new york, a collection of 6,200 photographs documenting 9/11 and the days that followed.

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #reblog  #September 11  #History  #9/11  #New-York Historical Society  #New York City  #NYC  #NYC History

153 notes
10 of September, 2014

Someone went to the Freer Sackler Library yesterday and look what they pulled out of the Rare Book vault!
Hokusai - Manga (傳神開手北齋漫畵) [1828-1878]

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #jealous  #manga  #Hokusai  #hokusai katsushika  #Japanese printing  #rare books  #FSG

327 notes
9 of September, 2014

In 1916 the U.S. had not yet entered WWI, but volunteer aviators were in France serving in the French Air Service. Because of the U.S.’s neutrality, a memo was sent forbidding the use of the phrase “Escadrille Americaine” and instead use the more diplomatically acceptable “Escadrille des Voluntaires.” That memo is included in the manuscript Journal des marches et operations….

As you can see, the print is faint — too faint for the OCR software to interpret it and make it searchable. But not so the marvelous human brain. The above memo can now be searched, because it’s been transcribed!

Grand Quartier General
de l’Aéronautique aux Armées.

Le 13 Novembre 1916.

Le Général Commandant en Chef
au Général Commandant de Groupe d'Armées du Nord.

Par décision No. 9763/D, le Ministre de la Guerre a décidé que, pour des raisons diplomatiques, l'escadrille N. 124 serait appelée: "Escadrille des Volontaires", et qu'il convenait de renoncer à la dénomination: "Escadrille Américaine", actuellement usitée.

Je vous prie de vouloir bien communiquer cette décision au Commandant du Groupe de Combat No. 13 et de donner des ordres pour que les termes: "Escadrille des Volontaires" soient uniquement employés.

Signé: Poindron.

Thanks to all the lovely volunpeers who’ve been making our manuscript collections come to life through transcription!
Journal des marches… has been completed, but we have three other projects in the works, and there are even more from other parts of the Smithsonian in the Transcription Center

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #Transcribe Tuesday  #WWI  #World War I  #Great War  #Transcription  #Lafayette Escadrille  #Escadrille Americaine

127 notes
8 of September, 2014


Every Fossil Counts

  • by Dr. Briana Pobiner

Fieldwork is glamorous. Well, at least in the sense of discovering things first-hand; not usually in the sense of glamourous living conditions! However, paleontologists and archaeologists often make exciting discoveries in museum collections too. My name is Briana Pobiner, and I’m a prehistoric archaeologist in the Human Origins Program in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. I just returned from Kenya, studying fossils in the Paleontology Division of the Nairobi National Museum excavated from the Smithsonian-National Museums of Kenya prehistoric research site of Olorgesailie.

The Smithsonian excavations at Olorgesailie have taken place over nearly the past 3 decades, so part of what I get to do is open bags with fossils in them that have not been opened since the day the fossil was excavated in, say, 1988 – when I was 13 years old! 

My main research focus is on prehistoric human diet, so I’m examining the animal fossils for evidence of human butchery in the form of marks left by stone knives. But part of the overall research at Olorgesailie is trying to understand how early human behavior – including animal butchery, plant processing, and stone toolmaking – varied over a larger landscape. To do this, the team excavated many sites in a single time horizon – in this case, that horizon is 990,000 years old. Part of reconstructing what that landscape looked like involves identifying the species of animals found in the excavations. I have been studying these fossils since 2004, and according to my Excel database, I have already studied 56,856 fossils before this year’s research commenced!

Every bone is important in these kinds of analyses. Out of the dozens of thousands of animal bones from the 990,000 year old layers of sediments at Olorgesailie, we have only identified one giraffe tooth” (read more).

(Source: Smithsonian NMNH)

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #reblog  #Smithsonian  #NMNH  #archaeology  #archeology  #human evolution  #palaeoanthropology  #zooarchaeology  #anthroposlogia

155 notes
8 of September, 2014

The Reddingtons were in the worst kind of marriage. Love meant nothing to them.

For everyone watching the US Open and dreaming about playing but unable to procure an actual tennis court, we’ve got you covered with Table tennis and how to play it (1902).

How did tennis get its quirky scoring system? No one is quite sure, but this NYT blog post from last year takes an interesting look at it.

Posted 1 week ago
Tags:  #tennis  #usopen  #gif  #table tennis  #ping pong  #love  #get it?  #love meant nothing to them because love means nothing in tennis

162 notes
5 of September, 2014

100 years old, and still looks chic. Fashion plates from “Journal des Dames et des Modes” (1912-14)

Posted 2 weeks ago
Tags:  #IFTTT  #fashion  #fashionweek  #illustration

284 notes
4 of September, 2014

George Eastman was issued a patent September 4, 1888 for his box camera and trademarked the name “Kodak.” This is a Kodak ad from the early 20th century, from the National Museum of American History Library’s trade literature collection.  

The National Museum of American History has two of these box cameras from 1888: one with serial number 540 and the other with serial number 2443. You can also see the patent itself on the US Patent & Trademark Office site.

While the box camera may have ushered in an era of photography for the general masses, sadly no definitive answer has yet been given as to when the duck face became de rigueur. 

Posted 2 weeks ago
Tags:  #kodak  #film  #advertising  #photography  #library  #trade literature  #history  #eastman  #otd  #patent

213 notes