Did you know that today is National High Five Day? This is a particularly good year to celebrate, as a 2014 medical study found that high fives (and fist bumps) spread fewer germs than handshakes, according to Wikipedia.
by Jacinta Johnson, Associate Conservator, Mellon Initiative
Zapalote, also known as The Goose Woman is one of nine known lithographs by Kansas artist Mary Huntoon. Based on Huntoon’s notations, we know that this single edition print was made in 1923 while she attended the Art Students League in New York, NY. Zapalote is a mysterious image depicting the silhouette of a seated woman contrasted by a bright full moon surrounded by dark clouds. Huntoon used broad, arching lines to hint at the woman’s surroundings, which are generally abstract, and allude to a rippling pool at her feet.
This work is part of a large collection of prints, drawings, and watercolors by Huntoon at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Along with the Huntoon collection at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, this collective holding at KU is regionally significant, connecting KU to other regional and national collections (e.g., Alice C. Sabatini Gallery in Topeka, Kansas; Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art).
I prioritized this print for conservation treatment during a condition survey of Huntoon’s collection of works because the print had sustained significant pest damage (see images 1-2). The entire upper right corner was lost as well as a few other smaller areas across the top edge. Tiny bite marks were visible along the edges and a long strip of the remaining top edge of the sheet was at risk of tearing off during handling.
Conservators use several techniques for filling paper that is lost. The most common approach is to attach a new piece of paper with a similar thickness, color, and texture that is cut to fit inside the loss like a puzzle piece. The downside to this approach is that the search (and creation) of such a fill is often time-intensive. Even when the edge of the fill is beveled or butt-joined, a small seam is usually visible. The rough and jagged edges created by the hungry pest along this particular loss further complicated the shaping and stabilization process.
I had an opportunity, however, to use a simpler approach that would help stabilize the jagged edges and save time searching for the perfect fill paper: pulp fills. Pulp fills are a great method for filling paper because unlike the method described above, there is a much smoother transition between the original sheet and the fill. In this technique, wet paper pulp is dropped into the area of loss as a slurry, and can be built up to the same thickness as the print. This type of filling method can only be done if the entire print can be washed in advance because the print needs to be wet during this process. Fortunately, my testing confirmed that this print would be safe to wash.
Next, I consulted my small collection of pre-cast paper pulp, all from high quality papers that had been previously washed. I selected two different colored paper pulps to mix together to make the best possible color match (see image 3). Then the pulp was reconstituted into a slurry with water and mixed thoroughly (see image 4).
After the pulp was ready, I used a pipette to drop small amounts into the area of loss. This was completed on a light table so I could match the thickness of the pulp with the thickness of the paper. I used a vegetable scrubber and curved tweezers to tamp down and shape the pulp into a smooth mat. A sheet of cotton blotter and clear polyester sheeting was also used to control the amount of water in the pulp slurry and anchor and cast the pulp. In about thirty minutes, I had already filled the entire upper right loss (see images 5a-c).
Once all the fills were completed, I dried the print between cotton blotters under moderate weight. After the print was fully dry, I assessed the pulp fill. Since the loss was in an area that would be used to attach it for display and/or handling, I decided to reinforce it with a very thin piece of Japanese paper, called tengucho. This would add extra strength to the area, but not change its visual effect. Finally, the edges of the pulp fill were toned slightly with graphite pencil and colored pencils to match the color of the rest of the sheet. Now that the treatment is finished, the pulp fills help to complete the print and bring the viewer’s eye back to the image area and away from the damage.
Zapalote will be on view this fall 2021 at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library for the exhibit, Mary Huntoon: Artist and Art Therapist, and will feature several more examples of conservation treatments in this collection. We look forward to seeing you there!
This week we’re honoring the one-hundredth birthday of Charles Sheldon Scott, a native of Topeka, Kansas, and a prominent lawyer who focused on civil rights. The most famous case he argued was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. Scott, then only thirty-three years old, was one of the attorneys arguing for the plaintiffs. In this landmark case, argued before the United States Supreme Court, the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The case became a foundation of the civil rights movement and set the precedent that the doctrine of “separate-but-equal” in education, and other such services, was discriminatory and not equal at all.
In May 1984, thirty years after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Charles Scott visited McCarter Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas. He spoke to the second- and third-grade classes about the case. These letters illustrate the importance of passing on the significance of that decision to future generations. What follows are a few of the thank you letters he received from the students. Private information has been redacted.
Charles Scott was born in Topeka, Kansas, on April 15, 1921. His father was attorney Elisha Scott, who argued several prominent civil rights cases throughout his career. Charles attended Topeka public schools and graduated from Topeka High School. During World War II, he served with the 2nd Cavalry Division and the Red Ball Express Transportation Unit of the United States Army. After his war service, he returned to Kansas and earned his Bachelor of Law degree in 1948, and then later his Juris Doctorate in 1970, both from Washburn University in Topeka. Charles joined his brother, John, in their father’s law firm Scott, Scott, Scott, and Jackson. During his law career, Charles Scott worked for the integration of schools in Johnson County, Kansas, and equal access to theaters, restaurants, and pools in Topeka. Throughout his law career Scott volunteered his legal services to the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, and in this work he traveled to Mississippi to assist the civil rights workers. He provided legal services to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He served as a staff attorney and hearing examiner for the Kansas Civil Rights Commission. In addition to his law practice, Charles was a part-time instructor for the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and served as chair of the Topeka Branch’s Legal Redress Committee. Charles was married to Louise Crawford, and together they had two children. Charles died on March 3, 1989.
N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings.
Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS D40 consists of two gatherings that contain parts of the Gospel of Matthew in French. The first gathering is made up of a bifolium, possibly missing six leaves, whereas the second gathering seems to be more or less intact, with all eight leaves still surviving. We have no information on the history of MS D40, but it is clear from its current state that these leaves were once used as part of a binding of another book. The outer edges and corners of several of the leaves are cut off in different shapes and a number of the leaves, which are also very worn, are soiled.
When MS D40 was purchased by the University of Kansas in 1964, the fragmentary manuscript was dated by the bookseller to “ca. 1425.” Over the years, the librarians at Spencer revised this dating first to sometime in the 1300s, then to around 1400, then to around 1400 or earlier, and finally to 1385-1399. Still, Ann Hyde, the former manuscripts librarian at Spencer, noted in her unpublished in-house description of the manuscript, “Why not earlier?” Since its purchase, MS D40 has been examined by a series of researchers at the University of Kansas and has been used for different classes; however, as far as I am aware, no one has published any study of it. I should also mention, there are over 240 known translations of the Bible into French from the tenth century to 1450 (Sneddon, p. 251).
At the time of its purchase, MS D40 was accompanied by photostats of Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 899. These belonged to the previous owner of the manuscript, who remains unknown to us. Dated to around 1260, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 899 is considered to be the earliest surviving copy of the Old French Bible. Known as the Bible française du XIIIe siècle, the Old French Bible is the first (full) prose translation of the Bible from Latin into French and is thought to have been undertaken sometime after 1220 and before the Paris manuscript was produced in around 1260. It is also the first complete vernacular Bible translation in Western Europe.
As it stands, MS D40 contains the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 2:16-4:25, 9:22-10:28 and 12:1-21:35. There is no indication in our records at Spencer Library as to whether Ann Hyde or any of the researchers who studied the manuscript ever compared it to the version of the text in the Paris manuscript. After careful examination, I found that the passages in MS D40 correspond very closely to the copy of the Old French Bible found in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français 899, folios 271vb-272vb; 276ra-276vb and 277vb-288va. Thus, this manuscript could be not any French vernacular Bible but a hitherto unknown fragment of the Old French Bible. Not only that, there are reasons to suspect that it might be dated earlier, to the thirteenth century.
Indeed, not only is the text in MS D40 very close to that of Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 899, but also the illumination program in both manuscripts is very similar. The beginnings of chapters 2, 3, 10, 12-21 of the Gospel of Matthew are present in MS D40. All chapters open with two- to three-line alternately red and blue initials with penwork in the opposite color as well as chapter numbers in Roman numerals preceded with a pilcrow (paragraph mark), also in red and blue. The manuscript also has running titles in red and blue (MA | TE to indicate Matthew) in upper margins. What I identify as the blue color in MS D40 is almost completely faded in all of the leaves, now visible to the naked eye as pale gray. Similar initials with penwork, chapter numbers in Roman numerals and running titles, all of which are also in two alternating colors, are present in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 899.
MS D40 is written in Gothic script. Although the Gothic script has been surveyed extensively, the focus has been mostly on manuscripts written in Latin. As Marie-Hélène Tesnière points out “the [thirteenth-century] script in [French] vernacular manuscripts has to date not been the object of a palaeographical study” (p. 334). My understanding is that the vernacular script was less formal, smaller and closer to Praegothica, a blanket term used to describe transitional scripts between Carolingian script and Gothic script during the twelfth century. Nevertheless, the general features still apply. Albert Derolez outlines the most common features of the most common form of Gothic script known as textualis as follows: a in two compartments; f and tall s not going beneath the baseline; b, h, k, and l without loops on their ascenders. All of these features fit with the script used in MS D40 as is seen in the detail from folio 10v above. Since the script (and the layout) in our manuscript is less formal and less rigid than what would be called formata, it may be classified as Gothica textualis libraria.
It is possible to find manuscripts written in Gothica textualis libraria from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Certain characteristics of the writing, however, allow us to speculate on the date of a manuscript. I will give two such examples as to why I think MS D40 might be dated earlier, to the thirteenth century: these concern the letter a and the letter d. In her discussion of manuscripts produced in France, Tesnière states that “toward 1300, the a is made with a double bow. It will close truly into the form of a box in the fourteenth century” (p. 326). Derolez similarly maintains that “the top of the shaft of a turns over to the left in the thirteenth century, and […] the bow thus formed tends to be closed from the fourteenth century” (p. 84). In MS D40, there is only one shape of a: it is the “double-bow a,” which is in two compartments (as in the words “ma,” “sera,” “apelee” on line 2, folio 10v). As for the letter d, here is what Derolez observes: “When writing Textualis at the Currens and Libraria levels, scribes trained with the documentary tradition sometimes took advantage of the space offered by the left-hand margin to extend the shaft of the Uncial d at the beginning of the line to the left and might even start with an upward movement of the pen” (p. 87). He calls this type of d, a “falling d.” The letter d is found in two shapes in MS D40: Uncial d and this very “falling d.” Both are displayed in the first line of folio 10v, in the first word “de” and the fourth word “doient.” What is interesting, moreover, Derolez states that “this phenomenon of ‘falling’ d (sometimes also observed in the middle of lines […]) seems to be limited to manuscripts of the thirteenth century and early fourteenth century” (p. 97). These observations lead me to hypothesize that MS D40 might be dated to much earlier than it was previously suggested. I therefore look forward to further investigations on MS D40 by specialists of thirteenth-century French vernacular manuscripts and those working on French Bibles.
The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Martin Breslauer, Inc. in November 1964, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.
Pierre-Maurice Bogaert et al., Les bibles en français: histoire illustrée du Moyen Age à nos jours. Turnhout: Brepols, 1991. [KU Libraries]
Clive R. Sneddon. “The Bible in French.” In The New Cambridge History of the Bible. Volume 2: From 600 to 1450. Edited by Richard Marsden and E. Ann Matter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 251–67. [KU Libraries]
Albert Derolez. The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. [KU Libraries]
Marie-Hélène Tesnière. “Gothic Script in France in the Later Middle Ages (XIIIth-XVth Centuries).” Translated by Frank T. Coulson. In The Oxford Handbook of Latin Palaeography. Edited by Frank Coulson and Robert Babcock. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020. 321–90. [KU Libraries]
N. Kıvılcım Yavuz Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.