Collection Scope and Content Note
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Scope and Contents Note
The Philip Mills Arnold Semeiology Collection, perhaps the most
diverse and comprehensive of all the Washington University Libraries
Special Collections, brings together a broad range of materials dealing
with or exemplifying the nature and characteristics of communication.
Placing particular emphasis on early printed materials that appeared at
early stages of the development of interest in topics relevant to
semeiology, the Arnold Collection had especially strong holdings in the
fields of cryptography, artificial memory, decipherment of unknown
languages, early development sin stenography, Braille, deaf and mute
languages, and various forms of nonverbal communication.
Complementing the more than 2,000 volume in the Arnold book
collection that forms the largest component of the Semiology Collection
is a small, yet select, group of manuscripts and printed ephemera,
including materials relating to cryptography, sign languages,
telegraphy, accounting, paleography, mnemonics, philosophy, stenography,
and other topics.
The sign languages section contains numerous single printed sheets
from the nineteenth century depicting different systems for deaf-mute
communication in many languages, probably published as teaching aids.
The three items on telegraphy emphasize its use for the military,
focusing on secretly communicating sensitive offers for maneuvers. Items
included in the Accounting and Paleography sections demonstrate the
variety of early forms of alternative numerological systems and
alternative scripts, both of which indicate that communication is based
on an ever-changing use of various signs.
An important work on mnemonics, Raymond Lull’s Ars demonstrativa et ars brevis , highlights this
curious and frequently mystical system of logic, metaphysics, and the
intricate workings of the communicating mind. Manuscripts depicting many
of the thousands of separate languages of the world are also included in
the collection, mostly relying on biblical texts to illustrate the
complex nature of human communication. One other example of alternative
means of communicating is a shorthand version of the Psalms.
Finally, included as an illustration of the early evaluation of
printing, are 52 specimens of early typography, dating from 1477 to
1674. Taken as a whole, the manuscript collection reveals the
interdisciplinary nature of semeiology and reflects the eclectic range
of Arnold’s important collection.