Special Collections Researcher Spotlight: David Purificato

Special Collections profiles researchers that have consulted collections in the department. David Purificato is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Stony Brook University, where he previously earned a B.A. and M.A. in History. 

David Purificato, February 2016

David Purificato, February 2016

My name is David Purificato and I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Stony Brook University, where I previously earned my B.A. and M.A. in History. I live with my wife and daughter on the south shore of Long Island with our Chug Chanel, a bright and energetic Chihuahua/Pug mixed breed dog. I am currently serving as a Senator to the University’s Graduate Student Organization, the President of Suffolk County’s Phi Theta Kappa Alumni Association, Vice President of the History Graduate Student Association, and the Treasurer of Put It In Writing, Stony Brook University’s creative writing club.

I am interested in nineteenth century American history, material culture, and the history of the book and currently researching gendered perceptions of books when depicted on a bookcase in antebellum American illustrations and fashion plates. For my previous project, I consulted the department’s 1652 edition of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote: The History of the valorous and witty-knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha, Translated out of the Spanish [by T. Shelton] now newly corrected and amended in order to trace the object’s life cycle.

My close examination of the 1652 physical copy of Don Quixote revealed the book’s material history as well as a fragmentary outline of the travels that the Special Collections copy made over the intervening 364 years. Although there is no record of how Don Quixote came to the University Libraries, clues in the marginalia and armorial bookplate tell us that this particular copy, which was published amid turmoil over piracy in the seventeenth century London book trade, passed between minor aristocrats in central England. The book surfaced into the nineteenth century historical record in Rocester, a small village 143 miles northeast of London. Then, after rebinding in the nearby town of Uttoxeter at mid-century, Don Quixote apparently remained in central England until an American expatriate and newly minted member of Britain’s peerage took possession in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The American connection at this point in the book’s history is intriguing. Even though I was unable to directly connect the book’s owners across the Atlantic, this link allows for the impetus of a cross-ocean transfer to Stony Brook University in the 1960s. This connection also helps to explain how Don Quixote went from the coveted possession of diverse minor English nobility, to mysteriously end up in an American university’s rare book collection, which facilitates access for the public.

During the entire research process, librarian Kristen J. Nyitray and Lynn Toscano provided a welcome and accommodating atmosphere for my research at Stony Brook University’s Special Collections. They were indispensable to this project by first walking me through the department’s procedures and then helping to discern minute details of centuries old faded text. I am indebted to Nyitray and Toscano for their enthusiasm and support for my project.

I advise anyone utilizing Special Collections to build into their research schedule additional time. The breadth and depth of what the rare book collection has to offer will surprise you.

For more information about Special Collections and University Archives, please visit the website for the department.  

Kristen Nyitray

Kristen Nyitray

Associate Librarian; Director, Special Collections and University Archives; and University Archivist at Stony Brook University Libraries
Contact her for research assistance with rare books, manuscript collections, historical maps, and SBU history. E-mail: kristen.nyitray@stonybrook.edu.
Kristen Nyitray
Posted in Special Collections & University Archives, Spotlight