Tufts Libraries: Giddy-up, Renaissance Style

The Webster Family Library at Cummings School has the best veterinary collection in New England—and very old equine books
old book with illustration of a horse on one page
An Italian book about horses published in 1571 from the archives at the Webster Family Library at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Photo: Anna Miller
April 11, 2019

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Ray Bradbury once said in an interview, “Without libraries, what have we? We have no past and no future.” For a series on libraries at the university, we’ve asked the librarians at Tufts’ many libraries to tell us about their collections—their most unusual items and best-kept secrets. Read about Tisch Library, Ginn Library, the SMFA Library, the Hirsh Health Sciences Library, Digital Collections and Archives, and the Lilly Music Library, too.

At the Webster family Library—housed at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine—librarians did a deep dive into the collection to fill us in.

Focus of the collection. With the largest collection of clinical veterinary medicine literature and resources in New England, the Webster Family Library provides access to books, journals, and audiovisual materials related to the fields of medicine and surgery for large, small, and exotic animals; animal welfare; wildlife diseases and ecology; zoonotic diseases; conservation medicine; laboratory animal science; and veterinary practice management. The library also is home to the John A. Seaverns Equine Collection, with more than 6,000 books on equine topics published between 1571 and 1994—1,461 items of which have been digitized and made available to the public through the Internet Archive.

Oldest item in the collection. Ordini di cavalcare, et modi di conoscere le nature de’ caualli, di emendare i lor vitij, & d'ammaestrargli per l’uso della guerra, & giouamento de gli huomini: con varie figvre di morsi, secondo le bocche, & il maneggio che si vuol dar loro by Federico Grisone, from 1571.

“They used very long titles at that time,” explained Library Manager Betsy Like. She added: “According to Google translate, the title is: Orders to ride, and ways of knowing the natures of horses, of amending their vineyard, & of training them for the use of war, and the joy of men: with various figures of bites, according to mouths, and handling who wants to give them. We have a translated copy of the book; the translator, Elizabeth Tobey, calls it, The Rules of Riding.”

Most requested/checked out item. Laptops.

Most unusual item: “Take your pick,” Like said. “We have Equine Trivial Pursuit, fox-hunting music scores, a record album of fox-hunting songs, postage stamps featuring horses, puzzles, and games. We also have books and items in seventeen different languages, including Greek, Arabic, Icelandic, Russian, and Hungarian.”

Best-kept secret in the collection: “I try not to have any secrets,” Like said.

Most interesting new additions to the library: Two titles that explore pet behavior: The Science Behind a Happy Dog: Canine Training, Thinking and Behaviour by Emma K. Grigg and Tammy M. Donaldson (5m Publishing, 2017) and Cat Wrangling Made Easy: Maintaining Peace and Sanity in Your Multicat Home by Dusty Rainbolt (Lyons Press, 2007).