Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

The Mystery of MS A7

May 22nd, 2018

This blog post has been a long time coming. I actually started writing about MS A7 last fall. I wanted to do a simple post that talked about this manuscript and highlighted its interesting watercolor and ink drawings. However, in the preliminary stages of my research, the information I found brought up a series of questions that I have been attempting to answer for the past few months. Here is a peek at what I have learned so far!

Prediche sul nome di Gesu is a late 15th to early 16th-century Italian manuscript. The manuscript features a series of sermons on the name of Jesus by Saint Bernardinus of Siena (San Bernardino in Italian). The content of the manuscript is pretty straightforward; it is the images that prompted serious questions for me. There are several full-page drawings that feature a monk involved in a series of activities that are confusing at best (and completely macabre at worst).

MS A7, Prediche sul nome di Gesu, image of monk revealing/cutting his heart, f.81r MS A7, Prediche sul nome di Gesu, image of monk washing his heart, f.88r

With the open chest wound and heart in hand, the image on the right was the one that initially piqued my interest in this manuscript. How was the monk alive without his heart? Did the seeming improbability of what was happening in the image mean this was the depiction of a vision or metaphor within the text?  Folio 81r (left) and 88r (right) from Saint Bernardinus of Siena’s Prediche sul nome di Gesu, Italy, circa late 15th-16th century. Call #: MS A7. Click images to enlarge.

MS A7, Prediche sul nome di Gesu, image of blindfolded monk atop the world with angel, f. 115r MS A7, Prediche sul nome di Gesu, image of monk tortured by skeleton and demon, f.137r

The image on the left has prompted so many questions. How does this image relate to the previous images of the monk? Is it even supposed to be the same monk? Why is he blindfolded? Folio 115r (left) and 137r (right) from Saint Bernardinus of Siena’s Prediche sul nome di Gesu, Italy, circa late 15th-16th century. Call #: MS A7. Click images to enlarge.

Were these images meant to depict scenes from the life of San Bernardino? A series of visions the saint experienced? Preliminary research on the life of San Bernardino seemed to indicate that neither one of those conclusions was likely. I then turned to our records concerning the manuscript – accession files, catalogue entries, bookseller correspondence, etc. The lack of concrete information and answers in those records solidified my growing belief that little to no serious research had ever been done on this manuscript (not unusual with collections the size of ours). It became clear that if I wanted answers, I was going to have to find them myself. I had a hunch that the images were related to the text, possibly even very literal depictions of passages in the sermons. However, without any significant knowledge of Italian, I knew I needed quite a bit of help.

The next steps in my research process demonstrate just how lucky we are to have the amazing faculty we do at KU. First and foremost, our Special Collections curators, Karen Cook and Elspeth Healey, provided insight, access to files, suggestions of where to look next, and beginning translation help. The next step was to find someone to more fully translate the Italian and provide some more information about the images themselves. This led me to Dr. Areli Marina in the Kress Foundation Department of Art History here at KU.

Dr. Marina’s translation work and insight have helped me immensely. With her assistance, I have started to get a clearer picture of what is happening in the manuscript (my initial hunch seems to be on the right track). However, with each new bit of information, more questions continue to arise. For example, do these sermons and images have any connections to certain established monastic communities and their traditions? Hopefully, I will have more answers to share with you all soon!

Emily Beran
Public Services

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: May 21-27, 1918

May 21st, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

This week’s letters focus primarily on Forrest’s examination of his relationship with Marie. “Well I wonder what other folks would think if they read my letters like this one,” he wrote on May 27, 1918. “Other boys don’t write like this I am sure and maybe I am wrong in doing so. Please tell me exactly what you think.” Other highlights from this week’s letters include Forrest waiting to leave Fort Leavenworth (“we are still at Fort Leavenworth but still always expecting to leave the next day”) and advising Marie to become a “true Outdoor Girl” (“a girl should be as much a lover of good active outdoor fun as any boy, but at the same time keep all her girlish ways”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 22, 1918

May 22, 1918.

Dear Marie;

I am writing this little note because the Y.M.C.A. secretary is just leaving for the Post Office.

We are quite sure of leaving Fort Leavenworth tomorrow. I think we are to join the Sixth Division in Carolina. (S. or N.?) This does not mean that we will go to France soon, however.

Keep right on writing to me whenever I am, please.

With love,
Forrest.

 

May 22, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I just finished a little note for you, so it would be mailed right away, so will write my letter now. Did you get all of my letters last week? I think I wrote two and another, typewritten, one about telegraphy. You read my “Morse” letter OK. I just got your letter of the 18th & 19th this noon. Please keep a little note of the dates on your letters and then when you get my letters notice the dates on them and tell me so that I can be sure no letters are lost.

I located Morse’s company Monday night but he wasn’t there so I left a note on his bunk. Last night he came down to the Cantonments but it was after 9:30 P:M. so we had very little time to get acquainted.

Now please do not think I am even the least bit “peeved” because you wrote but once last week. I realize that you have not the time to write as often as I like to hear from you.

Marie, I know you must love me very much as there is not the slightest touch of insincerity in your letters. And I know you too well to misunderstand you, I think. And, Marie I know you do not doubt me in the least, either. It’s simply impossible for me to make you feel how very much I care, and I guess it would be better that you do not know, anyway. You must remember that I have told you that we can never “belong to eachother,” and that we can never be more than good friends. Now Marie you simply must believe this. I would not tell you this if I were not sure of it, for it hurts me and I believe it hurts you, too, in a way. You will remember that I told you that if I were not very sure you would be glad to forget me in a few years, that I would not write another letter. I still say the same. For awhile last year I had hopes of your being “my little girl” some day but I no longer can hope that even if I were free to come back home now. There is no “little message” between the lines of my letters to you – except that I love you to the utmost. However, it is all useless and so I shall never mention my love for you again.

It may be better to “love some one you can’t have, than to have someone you can’t love,” but that isn’t right either way.

Yes, I remember the little incidents you spoke of. The violets down below the pasture and the buried flowers at the “Big Hills.” And I remember the slippers, too. I have the picture of you on the porch rail with the kitten and you look so big and so close, just as if I could just open my arms and hold you close. Marie, some day you will realize how unworthy I am, then you will not care.

Will not you try to be my friend, but at the same time forget your love for me?

I do not want to forget my love for you because it helps me so much in so many ways.

And you also help Mother and Dad so much, and you don’t suspect how much they really love you. In her last letter Mother writes, “Marie has just gone. She is a ray of sunshine just now flashing in and out, with her cheery smile and “Hello, how’s everybody?” ”

It is such a perfect picture of you as I would want you to be always.

I would like to write about Physical Culture but it is “lights out” time now.

Forget all about telegraphy – Please.

Well I must leave you for this time.

Sincerely,
Forrest.

 

May 26, 1918.

Dear Marie,

We are still at Fort Leavenworth but still always expecting to leave the next day. The trip to Camp Wadsworth will take five days and we are having trouble getting pullman cars.

Your letter of the 23rd came yesterday noon and I was going to answer it last night but I started a letter to Gladys Warren, a sister of a good friend of mine, which was interrupted by Morse, who came down for a visit. He stayed until supper time and I walked up to his barracks with him. Morse is sure a fine fellow and I am sorry he and I did not get acquainted sooner. We talked radio, buzzer, and ground telegraph almost half the afternoon.

Your telegraphic message was O.K. In your last letter you told me to tell you exactly what I wanted you to do, to please me the most so I am going to take that liberty.

Regarding telegraphing I would advise you to drop it entirely. Don’t waste time on a thing of no value to you unless you find real fun in it. My pet weakness during the last five or six years was studying too much, too many different things. Radio and buzzer telegraphy, photography, chemistry and a half a dozen other hobbies all had a hold on me and I spent time studying technical books which I might better have spent otherwise. I don’t want to pat myself on the back too hard but I believe that my understanding of the theory of radio is better than that of the average man in the Company and for photography, the Personnel Officer from Washington told Captain Murphy that I had the best technical knowledge of photography of any of the 80,000 men he had examined. But what have I gained by it? The long hours I spent at home studying these things have paid me back very poorly and I look back at that waste of time with a good healthy feeling of regret: So please let me caution you against studying too much outside of school. Of course photography is a worthwhile hobby which I expect to be of value to me. If you really like telegraphy as a recreation go to it but remember that swimming & outdoor sports of all kinds are absolutely the best and I would say necessary for a normal life.

I am certainly glad that you have the opportunity to learn to ride and sure do hope that you will make the most of it. The drill book gives some interesting dope on riding and the managing of saddle horses. Spend all the time you can outdoors – swimming, hiking, bicycle riding, tennis or anything else.

What wouldn’t I give to be with you this summer. Just when we have learned to understand eachother and love, we are separated. Marie you have my full unselfish love and it urges me to help you to my limit.

You will never understand me, maybe, but my own sisters don’t either.

In your last letter you hoped that my next letter from 7th, would be a “nice” one. Well I don’t know what you thought of the one I wrote last but I simply had to write that way. I told you that I would never mention my love for you again and I mean it.

Do you realize that you are only fifteen (right?) years old and yet we talk of belonging to eachother. Marie I do love you and you only and I believe you love me – more than you should. It is dead wrong for you to think of me as you do. You are shutting yourself from other boys and that is one thing I am dead against. Of course I realize that you are too young to be going to theatres, etc., a great deal with boys – but anyway it’s your thoughts.

Judging from your letters this Spring, I have put the idea in your mind that I am a little better in some ways than the next fellow – and then the more I said in the opposite, the more you believed it. Forget it.

Well I will put it to you this way – You were only fourteen years old last year I think. We became acquainted and were together a great deal and I am sure that I learned your ways, your character and your whole self as well or better than my own sister. And even though you were, and are, so young, I learned to love you as I have never loved anyone else – and it’s the purest and most unselfish love anyone can give. The greatest thing I could look forward to would be to make you my own, and I feel positive that I never will marry unless it is you. For I never could be satisfied with anyone else after caring as I do for you.

Now you must feel that I am in earnest and sincere in what I am writing.

But I want you to know that I am almost sure that I never will marry – the war not being considered at all, yet I wish and hope that we can remain what we are to eachother, until you are – say – well along in High School. Please tell me exactly what you think and be equally frank and honest with me.

I do love you, Marie, and I do want you to love me, too, but please have other good friends among boys. It must seem queer to you to read this, but there are a great many things to think of and I want us to avoid any mistakes.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 27, 1918

May 27, 1918.

Dear Marie,

I have read your letter of the 23rd over and over again today although it came two days ago. There is something in the letters from my little Make believe Sister that make me want her so much.

I am glad you tell me about your school work. Please don’t ever think of giving it up. Even if you should fail this semester that would hardly be an excuse for being discouraged.

Play hard outdoors this summer and get plenty of sleep. Don’t allow anything to interfere with a good, complete, refreshing rest every night. It is during these periods of sleep, or at least relaxation, that we grow and are rebuilt. So don’t fail to realize the importance of early to be, and, if you can, get up when you feel like it. Of course it is hard to sleep during the early hours of a hot night. A short time ago you spoke of often feeling very tired and worn out before the end of the day. Now it is hard for one to be cheerful and happy and also to stand above our little pet weaknesses when he is tired and restless. Get all the real outdoor fun, the real fun of hiking, swimming[,] riding, that you can and try to avoid the things that make you mentally tired. Are you going to stop both your music and elocution lessons? I think that your health and then your school work should come above, and be considered before, anything else.

Have you started to learn to ride yet? What kind of a saddle have you, and how do you like it? Please tell me everything about it.

Do you think you will learn to swim this summer? How about your outdoor girls’ club? Is there any kind of a girls’ camp that you could and would like to go to for a short period during your vacation? Tell me as much as you can about these things.

Make the most of every chance you have to be a true Outdoor Girl. Everyone loves a Tomboy girl if she can be a real Girl at the same time.

A girl should be as much a lover of good active outdoor fun as any boy, but at the same time keep all her girlish ways.

Well I wonder what other folks would think if they read my letters like this one. Other boys don’t write like this I am sure and maybe I am wrong in doing so. Please tell me exactly what you think.

I guess I am just telling you the kind of a girl that appeals to me – or rather one reason why I love a little girl whose deep brown eyes are so full of warmth and love.

Marie, no one can see you and know you without loving you and I am glad that I know you so well.

Well please answer my letters as soon as you can and talk to me about everything.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

KU’s Danforth Chapel

May 18th, 2018

Photograph of Danforth Chapel, 1971

Danforth Chapel, 1971. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 1971: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

In 1927, William H. Danforth, founder of the Ralston-Purina Company in St. Louis, Missouri, created the Danforth Foundation. It provided college scholarships, supported revitalization projects in St. Louis, and funded the Danforth Chapel Program. Danforth recognized the need for a place of spiritual meditation on college campuses. The Chapel Program funded twenty-four chapels around the country, fifteen of those on college campuses. A few still stand today, including the one at the University of Kansas. The architect for KU’s Chapel was Edward W. Tanner, who declined payment for his work. Tanner also designed The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

Photograph of William H. Danforth and Chancellor Deane W. Malott at the Danforth Chapel dedication, 1946

William H. Danforth (left) and KU Chancellor Deane W. Malott (right)
at the dedication of Danforth Chapel, 1946. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14/i 1950s Prints: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Image of a Daily Kansan article about the dedication of Danforth Chapel, April 2 1946

Article about the dedication of Danforth Chapel in the
University Daily Kansan student newspaper, April 2, 1946.
University Archives. Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

Danforth Chapel was constructed during World War II. Locally imprisoned German POWs did much of the labor. The contractors in charge of the building project hired them and paid them for their work. They worked eight hours a day, six days a week. Part of the labor agreement stipulated that the POWs would work on the chapel only when not needed by local farmers or industry. They worked under guard and returned to their barracks at the end of each workday. They wore denim jackets and t-shirts with the letters “PW” boldly printed on them. Once completed, the chapel furnishings were acquired with money raised by the campus Danforth Chapel Committee. One of the members of this committee was Forrest C. “Phog” Allen, the legendary basketball coach. Donations came from faculty, staff and students.

Photograph of Danforth Chapel under construction, 1942

Danforth Chapel under construction, 1942. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 1942: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Today Danforth Chapel remains nondenominational. Renovated and re-dedicated in 2007, it still provides a quiet place for individual prayer and meditation, weddings, christenings, memorials and student activities.

Image of Daily Kansan article about the first wedding in Danforth Chapel, March 20 1946

University Daily Kansan article about the first wedding
in Danforth Chapel, March 20, 1946. University Archives.
Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a a wedding at Danforth Chapel, circa 1953

A wedding at Danforth Chapel, circa 1953. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 circa 1950s: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Softball Edition, Part II

May 17th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

 

Photograph of two female students playing softball, 1940s

Two female students playing softball in front of Watkins Scholarship Hall, 1940s.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/0 1940s Slides: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: May 14-20, 1918

May 14th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

This week’s letter focuses on the uncertainty of Forrest’s future (“we are still here and still at loss as to what the next move will be”) and Marie’s concern, presumably about him going to Europe (“you simply must not feel sorry that I am going”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 14, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 14, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, May 14, 1918

May 14, 1918.

Dear Marie,

We are still here and still at loss as to what the next move will be. Everything is all set for a quick move, and while the bets seem to be even, I think that we will be here for a while yet and want you to keep on writing.

But be sure to write only in answer to each of my letters for a while, and I will try to write often, but of course it will be hard telling how often.

We had a big parade after supper and were reviewed by all the high officials of the Post.

We thoroughly scrubbed out the barracks today. Are still allowed to go to town.

Now Marie, you simply must not feel sorry that I am going; it will do neither of us any good and will do you harm if you persist in thinking and worrying about it. If you don’t completely change your way of thinking you will surely regret it.

Be as happy and contented as you can, and stop worrying.

I shall stop writing about telegraphy until I see you have caught up with what I have written.

I shall never mention Earl*, the sooner we forget some things the more cheerful we will be and that’s what counts with those that would live the fullest life, with health and the best things that go with it.

Must close,
With love,
F.

*Earl Treadway was Forrest’s older half-brother, born 1881. Last week’s letters suggest that Earl had recently been ill; he died around May 10 and was buried on May 12, 1918. He was thirty-seven years old.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant