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James Ford Bell Library

Welcome to the James Ford Bell Library

Advancing Knowledge : Enriching Lives

The Bell Library makes history come alive through its collection of rare books, maps and manuscripts that focus on the history and impact of trade and cultural exchange before ca. 1800 CE. Our premier collection illustrates the ways in which cultural influences expanded worldwide, with a special emphasis on European interactions. The James Ford Bell Library, its collection, and its innovative programs support scholarship and education at all levels, and enrich our community by advancing understanding of this global heritage, making the world we live in more meaningful.

Welcome to Fall at the Bell Library!

Our wealth of research materials is waiting for you. Just contact Curator Marguerite Ragnow for an appointment.

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Featured from the Collection


Although paper dials had been used for centuries to illustrate complex ideas, the first known use of them in early printed books was by German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436 – 1476).  Also known as Regiomontanus, he included four paper dials in his works on astronomical calendars ca. 1476.

Moveable dials called vovelles first appeared as woodcuts in the late 15th century.  They were made popular by German mathematician and geographer Peter Apian (1495 – 1552) in his work Cosmographia (1524), which included volvelles by Dutch instrument-maker Gemma Frisius (1508 – 1555).  This is just one of many examples of vovelles in the Bell Library collection, from a 1551 edition of Apian's Cosmographia.  Bell shelf mark 1551 Ap.

Marker in an upside down teardrop shape Location

Elmer L. Andersen Library / Suite 15
222 21st Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

A circle with lines representing a clock face Today's Hours / 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Analog phone receiver Phone / 612-624-1528

A closed envelope Email / [email protected]

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Digital collections

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