Shakespeare’s first folio. Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC Library is delighted to announce a new exhibition:And there’s the humor of it”: Shakespeare and the Four Humors.

Blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. These four humors were once thought to shape a person’s mental and physical health, behavior and even personality. Initially borrowed from Ancient Greek thinkers like Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen, the theory of the four humors was so ingrained into the common wisdom of Shakespeare’s time that references to melancholic displays and choleric outbursts fill his most popular plays. The interplay between medical theory and theatrical language forms the basis of a fascinating exhibition, created by the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, now at UBC Library.

The traveling exhibition, “And there’s the humor of it”: Shakespeare and the Four Humors, has been supplemented with additional materials from UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, exploring topics including Shakespearean theatre in British Columbia and Shakespeare in children’s literature. More information about the National Library of Medicine display and the materials at RBSC is available through the UBC Library website.

Many thanks to co-curators of the UBC Library collections materials Patricia Badir, Professor of English, Anthony Dawson, Professor Emeritus of English, and Department of English students Karol Pasciano (MA), Aiden Tait (BA Hons.), and Ana Maria Fernandez Grandizo (BA Hons.). Thank you also to John Christopoulos, Assistant Professor of History, for lending his subject matter expertise. UBC Library co-curators for the exhibition included Charlotte Beck, Chelsea Shriver, and Helen Brown.

The panels on loan from the National Library of Medicine will be on display at Woodward Library through July 14 and the books on display at Rare Books and Special Collections will be available through August 3, 2018. The RBSC reading room is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For Woodward Library’s hours, check their website. The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or

Due to an upgrade to the Library’s Catalogue, patrons will not be able to request materials from ASRS starting Sunday May 13, 2018 at 6 p.m. Full service is expected to resume May 19, 2018.

A recent UBC Library service bulletin has more information about the scheduled outages and their impact on the UBC Library system more broadly.

While RBSC will not be able to retrieve materials from the ASRS (any item with the location listed as RARE BOOKS & SPECIAL COLLECTIONS ASRS storage in the catalogue record), we will still be able to retrieve materials stored in the RBSC vault (any item with the location listed as RARE BOOKS & SPECIAL COLLECTIONS in the catalogue record). Materials stored in the ASRS generally include textual archival materials and contemporary books.

If you have questions about whether an item might be available, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or



Charles Spring

Charles Spring

Last summer, we processed a very interesting new fonds here at RBSC. The Charles E. Spring (1859-1938) fonds provides great insight into the sealing industry of British Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the on-going campaign of one man to receive restitution for the loss of his business. The son of a pioneering sealer and trader in British Columbia, Spring was educated in Victoria and worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company before taking over the family sealing business at the age of 24 upon the death of his father. Spring’s business suffered when, in 1885, United States cutters began seizing vessels caught sealing in the North Pacific in order to protect their sealing interests in Alaska. Later, in order to ease tensions between the United States and Great Britain over the Bering Sea controversy, a temporary agreement (the “Modus Vivendi”) prohibiting pelagic sealing in the Bering Sea was put in place for the 1891-1892 and 1892-1893 seasons. The resulting loss of revenue financially ruined Spring. Although Spring received a settlement for financial losses caused by the seizure of one of his ships and the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1891-1892 season, he continued to pursue claims for losses suffered due to the extension of the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1892-1893 season. He also became an active spokesman for other sealers in their claims.

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

The Charles E. Spring fonds contains records spanning the period 1888-1937 relating to the sealing industry and Spring’s claims for financial losses. A number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds have been digitized and are now available through the Adam Matthew research database “China, America and the Pacific: Trade and Cultural Exchange”. The database is available to UBC students and faculty with a campus-wide login, or to the larger community by visiting a UBC Library and logging on to a UBC networked computer. Database users will be able to view high-resolution scans of a number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds, including the ledgers of several schooners, crew agreements, petitions, memoranda and memorials, correspondence, court papers, log books, photographs, and more. We’re so happy to be able to share these materials and this fascinating look into B.C.’s sealing industry with all of you.

Due to a facilities issue, the reading room for Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives will be closed on Friday, August 30. We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to seeing our patrons when we resume reading room open hours.

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