Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: A Manuscript, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma

April 1st, 2020

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.

A small quarto manuscript, MS C189, previously belonged to Alpha Loretta Owens (1877–1965), a graduate of the University of Kansas. Born in Rockwell City, IA, her family moved to Lawrence, KS, after she finished high school. She completed her first degree over a century ago, in 1901, at the University of Kansas and went on to receive an MA in 1903, also from KU. She then attended the University of Chicago, where she later worked at the John Crerar Library until 1918. Following a brief post teaching French at the University of Kansas ROTC, between 1919 and 1926 she taught French at Baker University in Baldwin City, KS, where she became Head of the French Department. In 1929, she completed her PhD at Johns Hopkins University and became Professor of Modern Languages in West Virginia at Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston). She taught French, Spanish and German there until her retirement in 1947. Subsequently, she returned to Lawrence, where she resided until her death. Owens also was the previous owner of another manuscript currently in the holdings of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, MS J1:2, a fragmentary Torah scroll. Paul Mirecki from KU Religious Studies has been working on the history of this manuscript, the details of which were outlined in an article last year in the KU Alumni Magazine.

Portrait of Alpha Loretta Owens (1877–1965) when she was part of the faculty at Morris Harvey College in 1933. Source: The Harveyan, 1933.
Portrait of Alpha Loretta Owens (1877–1965) when she was part of the faculty at Morris Harvey College in 1933. Source: The Harveyan, 1933, courtesy of the Internet Archive. Click image to enlarge.

MS C189 is one of three manuscripts that were listed under “The Library of Miss Alpha Loretta Owens, Barboursville, West Virginia” in the famous Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada prepared by Seymour de Ricci with the assistance of W. J. Wilson and published between 1935 and 1940. According to the Census, all three manuscripts were examined by Wilson in 1935, when Owens was working at Morris Harvey College and living in Barboursville, WV, where the University of Charleston was originally founded and based. This is all we know about the history of MS C189; that the manuscript was purchased by Owens sometime before 1935. It is not known when, where and from whom she acquired the manuscript. Nor do we know any other previous owners or the origin of the manuscript.

A sample opening from MS C189, displaying the end of Porphyry’s Isagoge on folio 18v and the beginning of Aristotle’s Perihermenias on folio 19r.
A sample opening from MS C189, displaying the end of Porphyry’s Isagoge on folio 18v and the beginning of Aristotle’s Perihermenias on folio 19r. For more detailed information on the texts and for additional images of the manuscript, please see the record for MS C189 in the Digital Scriptorium. Click image to enlarge.

MS C189 is a remarkable object beyond the texts it contain. The textblock of the manuscript is homogeneous; that is, MS C189 is composed of a single codicological unit which was produced in one process and most openings look pretty much like the example provided above. It does not look like there are any missing leaves or like there were more gatherings either in the beginning or at the end. Parts of other manuscripts, however, were used as practical means to preserve this small book of 34 leaves as well as to support it. The binding of MS C189, which is presumably original, comes from another manuscript, as do the flyleaves in the front and the back from two others. Thus, we have one medieval manuscript that is placed inside fragments of two different medieval manuscripts and then wrapped with another one.

Front cover of MS C189 showing re-use of a manuscript bifolium Back cover of MS C189 showing re-use of a manuscript bifolium

Left: Front cover of MS C189. Right: Back cover MS C189.

MS C189 has a limp binding, in which a bifolium (that is, two conjoint leaves) from another manuscript is used as a cover in the form of a case. The repurposed parchment cover is attached to the bookblock by means of split lacing double sewing supports made out of leather. The sewing-support slips are laced out of each side of the cover through three single exit slits and then each double support returns through two separate slits, one at approximately 45 degrees above and the other at 45 degrees below the exit slits, creating a V shape. What used to be the upper margin of the bifolium (now the fore-edge turn-in of the front cover) is trimmed, with all edges of the cover left large enough to allow for turn-ins. The cover has lapped mitres; the fore-edge turn-ins lie on top of the head and tail turn-ins at the corners. There is no lining or any kind of other reinforcement and the sewing-support slips, which are mostly intact, are fully visible.

Opening with interior of the front cover of MS C189 on the left, displaying the lapped mitres and the exposed sewing-support slips, and on the right the first front flyleaf, a repurposed fragment from another manuscript.
Left: Interior of the front cover of MS C189, displaying the lapped mitres and the exposed sewing-support slips. Right: The first front flyleaf, a repurposed fragment from another manuscript. Click image to enlarge.

Considered original, in the Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, the binding of the MS C189 is described as made from two leaves of a twelfth century theological manuscript. There is no other information provided regarding the fragment. Furthermore, since then, neither MS C189 as an artefact nor this fragment now fashioning the cover of the manuscript seem to have attracted any attention from scholars.

The parchment leaf that now forms the outer cover (the recto side of the first of the two folios) of MS C189 is almost fully visible without any intervention. Except for the trimmed upper margin, it looks like the entire leaf is preserved. Moreover, there seems to be no loss of text due to trimming. Most of the text also is still readable on the cover and the turn-ins. I was able to identify the existing text as a part of Isidore of Seville’s Sententiae (Sentences). Composed in the early seventh century, the Sententiae employs the ancient and medieval literary form of collecting brief passages on a given topic. The work as a whole consists of three books (in thirty-one, forty-four and sixty-six chapters respectively) in which Isidore creates a compendium of essentials of theology in an organized manner.

Isidore of Seville’s Sententiae was fairly popular and there are many copies of manuscripts that survive from the Middle Ages. Indeed, we have another manuscript, MS C54, that contains the Sententiae. Therefore, when I identified the text, I was expecting the conjoint leaf whose verso is partly visible on the interiors of the cover to contain a different part of the same text. The text on the outer cover is from Book 10.11 of the Sententiae, a chapter entitled “De angelis” (On the Angels). The text on the inner cover, however, is not from the Sententiae but instead is part of a sermon attributed to John Chrysostom, who was the Archbishop of Constantinople at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries. The sermon is simply known by the title “De misericordia” (On Mercy) or by its opening words, “Tria sunt quae in misericordiae opera,” which are not visible in MS C189.

Further research revealed that this chapter of Isidore of Seville’s Sententiae was sometimes used as part of medieval homiliaries. A homiliary, or a book of homilies, is a collection of short texts consisting of lectures or discourses on a moral theme, which are also known as sermons. More research (and perseverance) revealed that there is at least one other manuscript in which both of these texts are found. In Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 3783(2), known as the Moissac Homiliary, not only do they both exist in the same manuscript but they are also in the same order that we have them.

Image of folio 279v from Latin 3783 (2) at the Bibliothèque nationale de France Image of folio 286r from Latin 3783 (2) at the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Left: The portion of “De angelis” in Latin 3783(2), folio 279v that corresponds to MS C189. Right: The portion of “De misericordia” in Latin 3783(2), folio 286r that corresponds to MS C189. Source: Gallica, Latin 3783(2), Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits.

According to the description of the Moissac Homiliary, Isidore of Seville’s “De angelis” opens a gathering of eight folios and the pseudo-John Chrysostom’s “De misericordia” closes it, with a series of shorter texts with similar topics in between the two (folios 279 to 286). The Moissac Homiliary is dated to the mid-eleventh century and is thought to have been compiled in Moissac Abbey in south-western France. What is now the binding of MS C189 probably looked like this manuscript in its original form. Both the cover of MS C189 and the Moissac Homiliary are written in late Caroline minuscule and both are laid out in two columns on folios of approximately the same size. The cover of MS C189 has 38 lines to a page whereas the Moissac Homiliary has 37 but seems to be a little bit more compact and has large initials in the beginning of each section. (We do not know whether the cover of MS C189 originally had any illuminated initials in the same places.) If the biofolium we have as the cover of MS C189 was indeed part of a larger book with a similar arrangement with six bifolia in between the two leaves we have, the two texts would fall more or less to the same places. It seems more than likely, therefore, that MS C189 and the Moissac Homiliary are related, possibly one copied from the other.

Additional research on MS C189, with all of its features and fragments, would certainly yield further answers as to how the manuscript came to be and perhaps even how it ended up in Alpha Loretta Owens’s collection in the early twentieth century.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Book Nook in May 1966, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Color Our Collections: St. Patrick’s Day Edition

March 17th, 2020

We hope that you are all at home and safe and practicing good social distancing this St. Patrick’s Day. To help, we’re sharing four images from our Irish Collections for you to print out and color in shades of green (or really any color of the rainbow). Click here for the printable PDF file. The first two images are from the Supplement to The Irish Fireside from July of 1885, and feature “Heroines from Irish History.”

Picture of "Aideen Rescuing the Body of Oscar at the Battle of Gabhra" (Aideen on horseback with shield and Spear), converted to black and white drawing
“Heroines of Irish History–I: Aideen Rescuing the Body of Oscar at the Battle of Gabhra.” Supplement to The Irish Fireside (July 8, 1885). Call #: DK17:5b, Item 1. Click image to enlarge, click here to see what the original color version of the illustration looks like, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.
Illustration of from "Heroines of Irish History--III: The Rescue of Connor O'Byrne by Emmeline Talbot," showing Emmeline Talbot holding a torch pointing the way out to O'Byrne, converted to black and white.
“Heroines of Irish History–III: The Rescue of Connor O’Byrne by Emmeline Talbot.” Supplement to The Irish Fireside (July 22, 1885). Call #: DK17:5b, Item 3. Click image to enlarge, click here to see what the original color version of the illustration looks like, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.

The next two images are from Young Ireland: An Irish Magazine of Entertainment and Instruction, founded by the Irish Nationalist Alexander Martin Sullivan, and continued by his brother, T. D. Sullivan.

Cover of 1877 St. Patrick's Day issue of Young Ireland, featuring four men holding up clovers to "Erin" with her harp and Irish Wolf Hound, with St. Patrick above in the sky
Cover of St. Patrick’s Day issue of Young Ireland. Vol. III, No. 11 (March 17, 1877). Call #: O’Hegarty E144. Click image to enlarge, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.
Illustration for "Castle Daly" on the cover of the 28 July, 1877 issue of Young Ireland
Cover of the 28 July, 1877 issue of Young Ireland. Vol. III, No. 30 (28 July 1877). Call #: O’Hegarty E144. Click image to enlarge, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.

Looking for other things to do at home this St. Patrick’s Day? Browse some of our past St. Patrick’s day blog posts and posts featuring our Irish Collections. Want more coloring? Look at our recent blog post on Spencer Research Library’s contributions to this year’s #ColorOurCollections (hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine).

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

New Finding Aid Interface, Coming to a Device Near You!

March 13th, 2020

If you’ve done any research at Spencer Research Library in the past several years in our manuscript collections or records from the University Archives, then you’ve probably used our finding aids interface. This search screen might appear familiar:

Screenshot of Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface
Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface. Click image to enlarge.

This interface is formed from encoded text documents created by manuscripts processing staff. This coding might also look familiar if you’ve ever worked with HTML:

Screenshot of the hard-coded version of a finding aid in Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface
The hard-coded version of a finding aid in Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface. Click image to enlarge.

This interface is operating on outdated technology that isn’t being updated. We also find the interface a little dated and a little static; you might find your wrist cramping from having to scroll through a really long finding aid to get to the box and folder you’re looking for. For these and many other reasons, KU Libraries are in the process of moving from our old interface to a new one:

Screenshot of the homepage for the system to which Spencer Research Library is moving
Ta-dah! This is the homepage for the system to which Spencer Research Library is moving. Click image to enlarge.

The data is the same, but the views are very different! This new interface has more refined searching capability (including by dates!), the ability to filter search results – including by subject headings and names of individuals or entities that might be involved in the collection you’re looking for – and different views once you’ve started looking through a specific finding aid for a specific collection.

Screenshot of the search results page in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
The search results page in Spencer Research Library’s new finding aid interface. Notice how users have filtering options down the right-hand side to narrow search results! Click image to enlarge.
Screenshot of three ways to access information about a collection in Spencer Research Library's new interface
The three buttons at the top of this screenshot – Collection Overview, Collection Organization, and Container Inventory – give you three different ways to access information about an individual collection. You also have a sidebar, still on the right-hand side, which allows you to click on individual pieces of a collection, as well as search keywords and dates within that collection. Click image to enlarge.

Another exciting aspect of the new interface is the capability to request collection items directly from this interface and send it to Aeon, the system patrons use to check items out at Spencer. Currently, users have to open a new browser tab or window, log in to Aeon, open a New Reading Room Request form, and type (or copy and paste) the information about the archival collection they want to see.

Screenshot of the Aeon request button in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
Just click on “Aeon Request” to log in to your Aeon account and create a request for the box or manuscript volume you want to view in the Reading Room! Click image to enlarge.

You can also see some of our digital objects in context within our finding aids, or browse and search them separately through this interface:

Screenshot of the digital object icon in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
You can see that this is a digital object, as well as that it’s a digital surrogate for the original paper item located in the Robert B. Riss collection. Click image to enlarge.

Please note that what is included here are only digitized manuscripts from our collections, a subset of what is available at KU’s Digital Collections website.

This new system is available for you to use right now! You can get to it from this link: https://archives.lib.ku.edu/ or, if you’re on the old interface, you’ll see a link to “Visit the preview of our new Finding Aids tool” at the top of the home search screen.

We need your help, in fact. We want people to start testing the system so we know what is working well, what doesn’t function the way it should, if you’re having issues with a particular component of the interface, or if something just doesn’t work the way you expect it to. Here are some questions you can think about to get you started: Are you not getting the search results you expected? Does the collection inventory look incomplete or like some information is missing? Does something just look weird? Let us know! At the bottom of every screen, in the right-hand corner, there is a link to “Send Feedback or Report a Problem.” Click on that and fill out the simple form that opens up with as much information as you can provide. We want to test the new interface as much as possible in the next few months before we transition to it fully and shut down the old finding aids interface.

Screenshot of the "send feedback" button in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
This link is at the bottom of every screen in the new interface. Please let us know if you have any problems using the new system! Click image to enlarge.

Happy searching!

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

Throwback Thursday: Streetcar Edition, Part II

March 12th, 2020

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 a streetcar passing in front of Memorial Stadium, 1925-1926
A streetcar passing in front of Memorial Stadium, 1925-1926. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Streetcars 1925/1926 Prints: Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Beat K-State Edition

March 5th, 2020

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!

We hope the KU women’s basketball team brings home another victory when they battle K-State on Sunday!

A KU women’s basketball game against the Kansas State University Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse, January 4, 1997. The Jayhawks won, 70-54. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/20/13 1997 Games KSU: Athletic Department: Women’s Basketball (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services