John Mustain, Rare Books Curator, to retire

March 29, 2019
Robert G Trujillo
John Mustain, copyright: L.A. Cicero Stanford University

John Mustain is retiring as the Rare Books Curator for the Stanford Libraries at the end of April, 2019. John has been with the Stanford Libraries for 35+ years both as a Rare Books Cataloger and subsequently as the Rare Books Curator. John is a bit of a legend within the Libraries and amongst the Stanford faculty and graduate students … and deservedly so.

During John’s tenure at Stanford he has organized and/or led over 1734 class sessions and presentations in Special Collections from 1997 to the present. Classes have been for graduates, undergraduates, donors, and visitors. John has both taught, lectured in, and otherwise participated in classes with Stanford faculty and visiting scholars.

Another metric for John is that he acquired approximately 4500 books and manuscript materials for Special Collections, each of the specifically selected for Stanford’s teaching and research programs. Additionally, John has acquired more than 25,000 titles (monographs, serials, and databases) in Classics; and an additional 2200 titles for the Classics library on campus (a departmental library).

John has spoken of what he considers highlights of his career at Stanford, and, unsurprisingly, he wrote “what has been most rewarding for me, I would highlight the building of strong relationships with dealers, reviving an aggressive acquisitions policy for rare books (we really had not done much since the early 1990s), expanding aggressively the typography collection, contributing to the huge increase in class sessions and outreach, identifying and filling large gaps in our holdings, and acquiring with an eye to teaching in Special Collections.”

Over the years, John has taught at Stanford University in the following departments:

  • French & Italian: History of the Book (2006/2007)
  • Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages: The Early Printed Book (2016/2017)
  • Departments of English and History: Materials and Methods: Medieval and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts (2007/2008)

John has also taught through Stanford’s Continuing Studies program the following:

  • CLS 50 (The History of the Book, 1050-1800)- Spring 2015
  • WSP 89 (A Day in Special Collections with Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil, & Friends)- Spring 2006
  • HIS 124 (The Book Arts Revival in Great Britain)- Spring 2005
  • HIS 118 (A History of the Book in Europe, 1500-1800)- Spring 2004
  • HIS 80 (History of the Book, 1500 - 1800)- Summer 2003
  • HIS 105 (The History of the Book in England & the United States, 1700-1930)- Summer 2002
  • HIS 80 (History of the Book, 1500 - 1800)- Summer 2001
  • HIS 80 (History of the Book, 1500 - 1800)- Summer 2000
  • HIS 80 (History of the Book, 1500 - 1800)- Summer 1999

Additional teaching has occurred through Stanford’s Master of Liberal Arts Program wherein he co-taught (with Professor Emertius George Brown): Paleography: the Study of Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts MLA 311 (2015) and also co-taught (with Professor Emertius George Brown): Early English Literature: Manuscripts and Texts  MLA 318 (2015). John then also co-taught (with Professor Emertius BlissCarnochan): Belief & Doubt in the British Enlightenment MLA 225 (2006).

John Mustain

John’s teaching is one thing, but to become the senior curator for Rare Books is another, and it really has been a lifelong enterprise for John. John’s own study, post his own graduate degrees, has included all of the following:

Through Stanford’s Continuing Studies:

CLA 127        The Aeneid, Fall 2011

CLA 108        Virgil’s Aeneid: Anatomy of a Classic, Fall 2005

HIS 122        Handel’s London, Fall 2005

ART 167        Masterpieces of Baroque Rome, Summer 2004

MUS 118       Handel and Georgian England, Spring 2004

HIS 115        Scottish Enlightenment & Scottish Romanticism, Summer 2003

CLA 04          Greek Tragedy II, Winter 2003

ART 35          Printmaking: Techniques and History, Fall 2003

LIT 129         Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Spring 2002

LIT 109         Four Long Poems and How to Read Them, Winter 2001

CLA 100        The World of Ancient Greek and Roman Poetry, Fall 2001

EGL 223        Dante’s Paradiso, Spring 2000

CLA 15          The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, Spring 1999

HIS 74          The Invention of Liberty in the English Revolution, Spring 1999

EGL 88          Edward Gibbon: The Man and the Historian, Spring 1998

HIS 43          William Morris, Spring 1997

EGL 60          Samuel Johnson, Winter 1997

CLA 21          Roman History: Augustine’s Views of the Ancients, Spring 1996

Through Rare Book School (Columbia, NY; later Charlottesville, VA)

  • American Historical Bibliography (George A. Miles & William S. Reese, 1990)
  • History of Publishing in Britain 1775-1830 (Michael Turner, 1989)
  • The American Book in the Industrial Era, 1820–1914. (Michael Winship, 1996)  

Through Stanford University

  • Books and Society (1988; audit)
  • Materials and Methods in English literature (1989; audit).

John has additionally served the Libraries as an editor for the Library Bulletin(1983-1986) and Imprint: A Journal of the Associates of Stanford University(1999-2009) and provided editorial assistance for the following works:

  • The Barchas Collection at Stanford University (Stanford, 1999)
  • Leonardo’s Library (Stanford Libraries exhibition catalogue; forthcoming, May 2019)
  • Beasts & Books (Stanford Libraries exhibition catalogue, 2015)
  • The Tanenbaum Collection at the Stanford University Libraries (2014)
  • A Vast and Useful Art: The Gustave Gimon Collection on French Political Economy (Stanford, 2004)
  • Stanford University Libraries Annual Report, 2000-2008

John’s own publications include the following:

  • “Hidden Treasures: Nicholas of Lyra at Stanford University.” Shelflife1 (2006).
  • “Bibliography of works by and related to Athanasius Kircher at the Stanford University Libraries” (with Barry Hinman) in The Great Art of Knowing: the Baroque Encyclopedia of Athanasius Kircher (Stanford, 2001).
  • “Eighteenth-Century Highlights of the Kline/Roethke Collection at Stanford University.”  The East-Central Intelligencer n.s. 16:3 (September, 2003)
  • In Folio. Rare Volumes in the Stanford University Libraries: Catalogue of an Exhibition (2004)
  • Monuments of Printing: Gutenberg through the Book Arts Revival (2013)
  • “Notes on the Stanford Albums.” inCarleton Watkins: the Stanford Albums(Cantor Art Museum, 2014) 
  • “A Selected List of Books from Ewald Flügel’s Library in Stanford’s Special Collections.”  Imprint (21:1).
  • “The James A. Healy Collection at Stanford University.”  Imprint (20:2).
  • “A Keepsake for George Hardin Brown.”  Ex Libris 13 (2005)
  • “Charles Tanenbaum, Book Collector” in The Tanenbaum Collection at the Stanford University Libraries (2014)
  • “The Foulis Press Legacy at Stanford.”  Ex Libris11:1  (1999)
  • “Nicholas of Lyra on the Psalms.”  Imprint24:2 (2006)

John Mustain

John was the curator for three major exhibitions for the Stanford Libraries that included:

  • Monuments of Printing: Gutenberg through The Book Arts Revival (2013)
  • In Folio: Rare Volumes in the Stanford Collection (2004)
  • A British Panorama (Pacific Coast Conference for British Studies, 2001)

 Distinct from the exhibitions for which John was the solo curator are a host of exhibitions for which John was a contributor that included:

  • Beasts and Books (2015)
  • Writing in Books (2013)
  • Green Library Re-opening (1999)
  • New on the Shelf (2018)
  • Leonardo’s Library (2019)
  • Australia Bicentennial Exhibition (1988)
  • The Title-page (Cantor Art Museum, 2011)
  • Russian artists’ books (Hoover, 2003)
  • World War I poetry (Hoover, 2007)
  • From Early to Modern: New Acquisitions in Special Collections and Stanford University Archives (2003)

 During John’s tenure at Stanford he served as director for four interns, including:

  • Daniel Levy (U. of Washington, summer 2018)
  • Larissa Brookes (San Jose State University, 2011)
  • Samuel Deputy (Stanford), 2005
  • Steven Johnson (U.C. Berkeley Library School, 1991/1992)

 John participated with some regularity at a number of professional conferences that included the following: 

  • American Library Association / Rare Books and Manuscripts section: Dallas, San Francisco (2), Santa Cruz, New Orleans, Montreal, Chicago
  • Book History Conference (Edinburgh, 2006)
  • Primary Sources (Stanford, 2015; moderated panel)
  • UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies' 9th Annual History of the Book Lecture (2002)
  • Athanasius Kircher (Stanford, 2001)
  • Medieval Association of the Pacific (Santa Clara, 2012; moderated panel)

John’s work as a colleague within the Libraries included committee work and special projects:

  • Created two web pages for Presidential Lecture series: Alexander Nehemas, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" (1999); Peter Brown, "Scholarship and Imagination: The Study of Late Antiquity," (2003)
  • Worked extensively on forty-one loans to other venues
  • Serials Acquisitions Advisory Council
  • Information Desk, 1984-1986
  • Library Cabinet recorder
  • Directors of libraries recorder 
  • Authored Guidelines for Bulk Cataloging, 1986 (Stanford University Libraries, Catalog Dept.)
  • Corpus Christi Parker Library Collaboration Team, 2004-2007 
  • Liaison with Continuing Studies’ “Discovering Conan Doyle,” January-April, 2006 
  • Map Advisory Board, Stanford 
  • Directed Beautiful Booksscanning project 
  • Special Collections Acquisition Committee
  • Stanford University Library Staff Association
  • Stanford University Library Association
  • Associates of the Stanford University Libraries
  • Stanford representative for California Center for the Book, 2004-2006
  • Nominated for Amy J. Blue Award, 2006

John has been a member of the following associations in support of his roles at Stanford:

  • The Bibliographic Society
  • American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • The Grolier Club 

And finally, in his role as a regular staff member within Stanford’s Technical Services division, John served from 1980-1981: Stanford Union List of Serials cataloguer: input ca. 6000 government document serials; 1983-1984 Serials cataloguer for HEA IIC project: 2216 titles catalogued and input; 1984-1986 Early American Imprints project: 4376 titles catalogued and input; and1986-1999 Rare Book Cataloguer: 7515 titles catalogued; 659 transfers effected.

By almost any measure John has demonstrated his professionalism, commitment, and grace as one of the organization’s most valued staff members. Thirty-five plus years for one organization is a long time. John has shared much of his life with the Stanford community and the regard with which Stanford Libraries staff, faculty, and students hold John is nothing short of amazing. John, thank you for your service, your friendships, and the difference you have personally made to Stanford.


Roberto G. Trujillo

Associate University Librarian 
& Director of Special Collections