Power 1990

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Power, Eugene. Edition of One: The Autobiography of Eugene B. Power Founder of University Microfilms, with Robert Anderson (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms Inc

“Every day sees fresh accumulations of new information released by legions of publishing houses, print media, research organizations, and educational institutions across the land. Over time, this steady flow grows into veritable mountains of paper. Much of it, for the purposes of the researcher is evanescent, being in the form of newspapers and periodicals or typescripts and computer printouts, all of which deteriorate relatively rapidly and are cumbersome to store and handle. (It must be noted that the paper used in modern books also deteriorates rapidly; instead of lasting for centuries, these volumes decay within fifty to one hundred years.) The glut of new materials also competes with scholarly works an historic books and documents for space in the various library collections, making the problems of storage and access increasingly difficult. My life’s work has been in preserving the ideas contained in this ever-growing mass of material and making them available, at a reasonable cost, in a form that is permanent, manageable, and accessible. This was the mission, the raison d’être, of University Microfilms” (2)

Began at Edward Brothers — printed limited-edition university textbooks, “usually draft manuscripts by professors who wanted to test them on students. The professors would make successive revisions based on experience in the classroom. In due course, they would be satisfied that the text was in final form, at which point they would submit it to a regular textbook publishers.” (8)

Rotaprint presses — printed on a continuous roll of paper called a web, 11” wide, cut into pages every 8.5”

Talking with Randolph Adams at library about facsimile of Hariot’s Virginia; printed 300 copies and sold them

Showed this to Charles Fries in UM English dept, was working on Early Modern English Dictionary and “he discerned in the facsimile process I was describing a method that might be a great aid in that effort” (13)

“His staff was faced with the task of copying entries from early books by hand, an approach that was both time-consuming and open to all sorts of transcription errors. The only other possibility was to cut up these rare old books, as Sir William Cragie, a former editor at Oxford, had done in order to mark the examples of usage and file them for compilation into manuscript form. Professor Fries’s idea was to photograph a carefully selected list of books from the Pollard & Redgrave Shor tTitle Catalogue of Books Printed in /England, Scotland, & Ireland from 1475 to 1640 (STC) and produce on hundred copies of each page, printed on one side fo the sheet. A lexicographer would take a stack of copies of a given page of a particular title and underline the first word of interest in the first sentence.” (14)

Inquiry from Robert Binkley, inquiring about “Methods for Reproducing Research Material” (15)

meeting in Cambridge, MA in 1931 to discuss “methods of production and distribution of scholarly information”

“That meeting had great significance for me, because it was there that the concept of somehow being able to produce copies of academic material in small quantities or one at a time, on demand, first formulated itself in my mind. This concept was to become my personal holy grail, which I would pursue all the rest of my publishing career. At that time, my concept seemed as remote as the moon. All known methods of reproducing information involved an edition process, which is to say that most of the expense or work of ag even printing was incurred ‘up f front’, before the first copy could be made, for such things as typing or setting type, proofing, makeready, and printing. This had long been accepted as a necessary condition. In publishing. There was no economical method of producing a single copy. With offset printing, for example, even on the extremely narrow webs and tiny plates we were using at Edwards Brothers, the absolute minimum edition we could produce at practical cost was 100.” (16-7)

William Warner Bishop, interested in the project — “because some years earlier he and a Yale librarian named Andrew Keogh had gotten together with the librarian of the NYPL to attempt to arrange for a photostatic copy of every STC book to be made and deposited in the US.” (18)

Microfilming checks, George L. McCarthy

“His work was backed by the Eastman Kodak Company, and in 1928 he finally came up with a ‘flow’ camera that would photograph checks rapidly on 16mmfilm. The term flow derived from the face that the material being photographed was fed into the device in a steady, uninterrupted stream and photographed while moving.” (23)

R. H. Draeger, new camera for copying books — “IT seemed that Draeger, a captain in the Navy, had been assigned to China and wanted to take a lot of book with him — more than he could afford to buy. So he designed a camera mounted on a mast over a flatbed, on which an opened book could be pressed flat beneath a glass cover.” (25)

Biblio-Film Service, a busidiary of Science Service, established by Watson Davis, “who had obtained permission from the Dept of Agriculture to photograph journal article and extracts from its library’s books and periodicals” (26)

“The idea came to me full-blown: If the film in Ted’s projector were a positive instead of a negative, it would be projected onto the screen black-on-white, reading exactly like the page of a book. I could photograph a page and print a positive-film copy for the customer, keeping the negative in my file to be duplicated over and over again in filling future requests. There would be no need, as there was in traditional publishing, to maintain a warehouse inventory of finished copies or to rephotograph the original material. Each copy made would be to fill a specific order. I could keep a vault full of negatives; therefore, no title need ever go out of print.” (27)

“I envisioned customers ‘reading’ the positive film by use of a projector like the REcordak machine” (27) — in practice “it did not provide the adequate substitute for the printed page that my idea would require” (28)

“With the aid of a machine shop in. Ann Arbor, we converted parts of two movie and still cameras into what was the second microfilm book-camera in existence.” (29)

“I announced the new service — the first use of microfilm as a publishing medium — at the Spring 1936 meeting of the ALA in Chapel Hill, NC.” (30)

Set up shop in a funeral parlor

“We cut the film into 100-foot rolls, each containing approximately 3000 book pages, and placed them in labeled boxes for shipment” (31)

By fall 1936, 6 libraries had subscribed to service of supplying STC books on microfilm — “Filling these orders required diligent effort in the darkroom every night of the week. I worked from 7:30PM until midnight, back there among the corpses. But I didn’t mind. I was enjoying every minute of the process of making ‘publication on demand’ a reality.” — Argus, Inc., an Ann Arbor camera maker, came out “with the first practical, inexpensive microfilm reader” (32)

attending ALA meetings, “at which there was always considerable interest in microfilm” — Vernon Tate there — “head of the microfilm laboratories at the National Archives, where he was already using microfilm negatives as a method of preserving certain holdings” — founding of Journal of Documentary Reproduction, 1938 (printed by Edwards Brothers) (33)

“Traditional publishing is geared to producing large quantities of a single title. Microfilm publishing, on the other hand, produces single copies of a large number of titles.” (34)

Pamphlet, A Plan for Publication f Scholarly Material Microfilm — opened with a sketch of the economics of traditional publishing (reprinted on 90)

UMI’s vaults at the time of writing were in separate air-conditioned buildings, where original negatives, “being extremely valuable, are used only to make duplicate negatives” (93)

Journal of Documentary Reproduction, 1938, came out. With Power’s article, “A Report of Progress on. Filming English. Books before 1550” (93-4)

By 1938, 16 libraries had subscribed to Early English Books service at cost of $500 (94)

Wrote articles, which “proved to be my most effective means of advertising” (95)

“In the fall of 1938, at the urging of Robert Binkley, the American Philosophical Society and the ACLS held a joint meeting at the APS’s headquarters in Philadelphia to discuss methods of publishing scholarly materials. I was invited and so were Vernon Tate” etc (100) — head of Carnegie Foundation was impressed and handed him a note, helped fund setting up cameras in major libraries in Europe to microfilm

101ff - libraries he visited, setting up cameras in European libraries — but on the way back, war started, “all my efforts … were for naught” (110)

“Mail service from England had grown erratic, and if the conflict became a shooting war, my flow of negatives of STC books — 80 percent of y business — would be cut off. I contacted American libraries that had STC holdings and arranged to do some alternative photographing with them so that, if the worst happened, we would still be able to continue our service, which now had 16 subscribers” (111)

Kodak, Microfile camera “specifically designed for photographing full-size newspaper pages” (112) — Power obtained one

“The Microfile Camera was a superior piece of equipment. It had a large bed with a glass platen which would press bound newspapers flat and hold them in place to be photographed. Its cradle would shift back and forth in order to get a complete page on each exposure.” (112)

“My discussions with Vernon Tate and Bob Binkley about future issues of Th eJournal of Documentary Reproduction often touched on the concern we shared over the safety of books and manuscripts in European libraries. We agreed that something should be done to preserve the irreplaceable volumes in England, at least. It seemed that nothing could be done about library materials on the continent. The Nazis had the reputation of being book burners.” (117)

Microfilming history of Americana — The American Culture Series, 69,000 pages of microfilm materials (118)

1941 MLA meeting, listed 6 UMI series: 1. English Books before 1600 2. 2. American Periodicals before 1800 3. 3. Selected Americana before 1800 4. 4. Indian Art Exhibit 5. 5. Survey of American Painting 6. 6. Doctoral Dissertations

“In the summer of 1940, Waldo Leland of the ACLS called a 2-day conference to discuss possibilities for microfilming large blocks of European materials that were needed by American scholars and to protect them from war damage.” (122) — at the end, Archibald MacLeish (poet, Librarian of Congress), moved to appoint committed to select materials for Rockefeller grant to support photographing them, and recommended “that the Biblio-Film Service Atson Davis was operating in the Department of Agriculture do the filming” (122)

“In November that year, Bob Binkley had the idea of sending ten cameras over to England and photographing all the books held by the British Museum in order to protect them from possible war damage. I did not realize it at the time, but Binkley was not well — he was suffering the onset of cancer of the throat, which would kill him within a few months. Perhaps the illness gave his proposal letter a more officious tone than he normally would have used. In any event, there was an unfortunate phrase in it alluding to ‘mopping up’ the British Museum in a single year. Sir John Forsdyke, director of the institution, took offense at the suggestion and replied frostily, ‘Thank you very much, but the BM can take care of their own holdings.’” (122-3)

Binkley died, Herbert Keller took over determining which collections needed to be preserved; RockefellerFoundation gave 30k for the work, UMI was asked to do the filming

“It became increasingly clear that mobilizing the microfilming project in England was going to require my presence” — people asking him to microfilm things, German documents, etc — “I believe that such demands were likely to increase, so I made provisions for that eventuality by having three Kodak Model D Microfile cameras shipped to London. Unfortunately, the vessel carrying them was torpedoed by a German submarine, and the three cameras went to the bottom.” (128)

Providing microfilm for COI — they could get news 6 days after printed instead of 6 weeks

Hired Lucia Moholy and “a crew of women” to microfilm in London; “We had been assigned a space in the V&A for our camera room, and each morning a courier from the Foreign Office would deliver the previous day’s collection from the British operatives on the continent. If there was a mistake made in filming, we had no second chance. The work had to be done in 24 hours — period. One negative of the periodicals stayed in England, and two negatives were sent to Ann Arbor daily by diplomatic pour via Washington, D.C. At UMI, the negatives were inspected, cut into 100-foot lengths, and one negative and one positive were sent to COI headquarters in Washington.” (135-6)

July 1942, Donovan “sent word that he wanted me to place a photographer in Stockholm to work with the Norwegian Underground, which was intercepting sacks fo German mail between Berlin and Oslo.

“The revival of microfilm during WWII was not restricted to intelligence or the kind of scholarly work we were doing with Esdaille’s help under the Rockefeller grant … Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Seventh Symphony, the Leningrad, during the siege of Leningrad in 1941. Getting the complete orchestral score out of the country was deemed impossible until someone thought of putting it on microfilm. The negatives were sent to the US, where the premiere of the work outside the USSR was a great propaganda triumph.” (139-140)


Bidding on other jobs with government — e.g. making positives for the US Air Force of designs, that would be sent to mechanics and projected on walls “this obviated voluminous shipments of paper, of course” (142)

“I estimated we photographed some 13 million pages of enemy materials for the OSS and about 6 million pages of manuscript materials.” (142)

Set up Microfilms, Incorporated, to deal with German periodicals after the war to limit liability (143)

Projected Books, 1942, not-for-profit — made prototype projector so wounded soldiers could read in bed

1944, ACLS grant to University of Michigan to catalog the 6m pages of manuscripts filmed in England under the Rockefeller Grant (147)

After the war, hard to keep up business — asked “What are the problems of libraries?” (154) — technology was not there yet; finally hit on reduction ration of 17:!, 36 pages per foot of film — at this rate could be sold for less than the cost of binding the periodicals — so microfilm substituting for binding and storing periodicals — did a study of periodical use and saw that declined after 3 years

“Now the rationale I had been seeking began to emerge. Why not have the library continue to subscribe to paper copies, but instead of sending them off to be bound — which invariably occurred during the period of their greatest use — keep them in circulation and, at the same time, purchase copies on microfilm with the money that would have been spent for binding? When demand for an issue tapered off, the library could substituted the film copy and discard the originals.” (156)

Obtained agreements with magazine publishers

tried to talk about idea to librarians at ALA, they were horrified — he placed some articles about it, still horror — “over time, however, the value of our service began to sink in and the logic of disposing of paper copies in favor of microfilm files became obvious” (160) — some librarians objected they didn’t want to pay for the same materials twice!

“One of the things I liked best about the service, however, was the way in which it bore out our basic idea of publication on demand. If a library wanted a back file of a given periodical, we could produce the entire file or any segment of it as ordered. In this way, a new library or an existing collection that needed to expand could immediately obtain a representative collection of periodical materials at a reasonable cost. Accumulating a comparable file in paper copies would be an extremely slow and expensive process.” (161)

Some justifications for why commercial companies should be allowed to profit off providing library services (!66)

National Microfilm Assocation, founded 1943; to be “a combination of scientific and professional interests, as opposed to the commercial interests that characterize most trade associations. We established various types of awards, as academic societies do.” (191)

(Vernon Tate bio in footnote on 189)

In 1975, became National Micrographics Association; in 1980, The Imaging Processing People; in 1983, the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) — is today “a fairly typical trade association”

“UMI had one black employee, an automatic developing machine operator named Dick Jewett.” (202)

Views on unions (213)

Became regent of University of Michigan — conflict of interest with business, began giving UM services for free

Idea of making paper books — “occurred to me while watching a Xerox Copyflo II machine in operation.” (228-9) — it enlarged 35mm film and print it electrostatic ally onto paper at a speed of 20ft per minute

“By the end of that day I had worked out a system for handling the continuous web of paper, printed on one side, as it came out of the Copyflo machine, cutting and folding it into pages that could be trimmed and bound to make a book. … I realized immediately that our new approach made it unnecessary to allow any book to go out of print. This thought opened a vision of a whole new field of service we could perform: helping publishers eliminate inventories of books for which demand was not great enough to justify conventional reprinting.” (230) — print-on-demand

Footnote on 230 — had to make a book from a long sheet with pages side by side; would fold page at center to create an accordion — but “This was not an entirely satisfactory approach, since all the left-hand pages in the original book became right-hand pages in our copies. We later devised a means of cutting individual pages and collating them so that all pages were right-hand pages, and this, though it added bulk to the final product, was much better.” (230)

“Within 2 years UMI became the largest reprint publisher in thew world.” (231)

Donald Wing (231)

Liked that his offices had cafeteria, wanted to install daycare and rec center too — made employees work harder

Microfilm Research Foundation, “one of the first projects w should address was to establish a system to preserve deteriorating books, which meant most of the books printed since 1870” (238)

Footnote on 238 mentions microfilm revival during brittle books craze in 80s

ALA, Xerox, “Libraries of the Future” exhibit at World’s Fair 1962 in Seattle

Controversy about conflict of interest, being on board of regents and working for UMI (265)

Caxton manuscript of translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses from French; Pepys owned X-XV, first half of manuscript only later found in collection of Sir Thomas Philipps and sold at auction in 1966; Magdalene College, which owned the Pepys part of the manuscript, wanted to prevent manuscript from going to an American collector or library but was having trouble raising funds

— same year as Florence flood

Plan of going to monasteries, filming medieval manuscripts held there

America benefits from technological innovation — doesn’t have tradition but has facsimiles — pg. 287 “the project was in line with our mission of using microfilm to bring to the United States materials that would otherwise be unavailable to scholars worldwide.”

Size of manuscripts presents a problem for photographing — pg. 311 — Tibetan manuscripts

“Instrument manufacturers have repeatedly pointed out that the problem of the small low-cost instrument is insoluble until definite use specifications are evolved. Once the requirements are known, the production of a suitable model is not a matter of great difficulty.” (398)

Using microfilm to help with Florence flood restoration efforts

pg 308, on abortion, Sadye’s interest

Size of manuscripts presents a problem for photographing — pg. 311

313 — trips to Africa

Knighted by Queen for help microfilming English books

Appendix A, B — Journal of Documentary Reproduction; Power article, “A Plan for Publication of Scholarly Material by Microfilm”

App D - “Microfilm as a Substitute for Binding” — not dependent on any machine