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Book honors philanthropist, printer, and publisher

"The marks so beautifully rendered in stained glass encourage reflection on the rich intellectual legacy that each of us has inherited from these early printers," says Winston Tabb
Posted December 21, 2015

In 1930, Mary King Carey funded through a bequest the creation of 19 stained glass windows, some as large as 15 feet high by eight feet wide. These spectacular, arched windows reproduce illustrations called "marks" or "devices" that 15th and 16th century printers used to decorate the title pages of their publications at the dawn of the Printing Revolution after Gutenberg.

As a memorial to her father Francis Thompson King, one of the original members of the Johns Hopkins Board of Trustees, she had the windows installed in the wings and central bay of Gilman Hall's Albert D. Hutzler Reading Room, affectionately known by generations of Hopkins students as the "Hut."

For many students, their memories of the Hut's King Memorial Windows represent countless hours of study and contemplation — and an iconic space within the university itself.

"The marks so beautifully rendered in stained glass encourage reflection on the rich intellectual legacy that each of us has inherited from these early printers," says Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums. "We are proud to possess in our Special Collections at least one work from each of the printers represented, and these items are used by our curators and librarians for hands-on instruction with our ‘digital native’ students."

The windows — which were restored as part of the renovation of Gilman Hall, supported by a gift from Louis J. Forster, A&S '82, SAIS '83, and Kathleen M. Pike, SAIS Europe '81 (Dipl), A&S '82, '83 (MA) — are receiving new attention now with the publication of Renaissance Printers' Devices: Essays on the Early Art of Printing & The King Memorial Windows of Johns Hopkins University, a new book written by Earle Havens, PhD, the curator of rare books and manuscripts in the Sheridan Libraries, and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

"2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Hutzler Reading Room to undergraduates shortly after its construction, though the stained-glass windows would wait almost another 15 years to appear, filled with magnificent Renaissance printers’ devices," Havens notes. "The point was to honor through philanthropy one of the original Trustees of the University, Francis Thompson King, and the parallel achievement of the university in spreading knowledge to the world on an unprecedented scale, just as it had first been at the invention of the printed book in the 1450s."

The publication is dedicated to R. Champlin "Champ" Sheridan Jr., A&S '52, and was published with support from gifts made in his honor.

Sheridan, who died in 2013, was a loyal alumnus, longtime trustee, and visionary philanthropist whose name now unites the university's Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the Hutzler Reading Room, John Work Garrett Library, George Peabody Library, and the Brody Learning Commons. He founded and ran the Sheridan Group, a printing and publishing business focused on scholarly journals, books, magazines, and catalogues.

With his wife, Debbie, the Sheridans helped to transform Johns Hopkins through gifts that greatly strengthened the university libraries and continue to enrich the humanities and the student experience. Today, Debbie is a tireless volunteer leader representing the Sheridan Libraries on the Rising to the Challenge campaign cabinet.

"Champ Sheridan was a bookman, a publisher, and a lover of the libraries at Hopkins," adds Havens. "It seems a truly fitting tribute to their greatest benefactor, to celebrate his impact on the university in a publication that unlocks the Renaissance riddles of these printer's devices through examples of each of their early printed books in the rare book collections of the Sheridan Libraries."

The new book is available for order on Amazon.