Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: Charting a Late Fifteenth-Century Journey

November 24th, 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. 

Written in Humanistic cursive by a single hand during the last decade of the fifteenth century, Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS B21 contains a travel itinerary from Italy to France and back. Currently consisting of only five folios, it was probably part of a larger book. It seems that each stop on the journey was recorded between February 1493, with a departure from Naples, Italy, and January 1494, with a return to Sermoneta, Italy, after going all the way to Paris, France. The majority of the text comprises the names of the cities, with occasional mentions of arrival or departure dates and a series of numbers in the margins that probably denote distances between the stops. Unfortunately, no personal name or a reason for the journey is mentioned, but from the language of the text and the style of handwriting we can surmise that the diary belonged to an Italian traveler.

Image showing the text from the beginning of the journey in February 1493. Travel Itinerary, Italy and France, 1493-1494. Call # MS B21.
Beginning of the journey in February 1493. Travel Itinerary, Italy and France, 1493-1494. Call # MS B21. Click image to enlarge.

The journey begins on February 21, 1493, in Naples, Italy. 24 days later, on March 16, the traveler arrives at Marseille, France. There are thirteen stops noted for this first leg of the journey between Naples and Marseille. Most of them were relatively easy to identify:

Gayeta = Gaeta
Hostia = Ostia
Civita Vechya = Civitavecchia
Mo[n]te Arge[n]taro = Monte Argentario
Livorno = Livorno
Porto Vener[e] = Porto Venere
Ienoa = Genoa
Villa Francha = Villefranche-sur-Mer
Nirza = Nice
Santa Margarita = Île Sainte-Marguerite
Insola de Heres = Îles d’Hyères

I was not so sure about where “Poncio” is, which is mentioned as a stop between Gaeta and Ostia but I decided it must be Pontinia, which is located almost right in the middle of the two places. I also had my doubts about where “Cornito” might be. It is mentioned as a stop between Civitavecchia and Monte Argentario. Although there are other places with this name in both Benevento and Campania regions of Italy, the contemporary name of the place we are looking for in this stretch is probably Tarquinia, whose name has changed from Corneto to Tarquinia in the last century.

Map of Naples-Marseille itinerary in MS B21. Created using Tableau.

After I identified the stops for the first leg of this journey between Naples and Marseille, I decided to place them on a map and see how it looks: indeed, all the places lined up in a neat route along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea and southern coast of France. What is striking is that all the places I was able to identify are on either the coast or an island close to the shore, such as Monte Argentario and Île Sainte-Marguerite. This gives us reason to think that this part of the journey was undertaken by ship along the coast of the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas instead of by land. Now that we know the route, how long it took and the possible mode of travel, I was curious to compare this data. At that point, I turned to ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. Called by some “a Google Maps for Ancient Rome,” ORBIS allows one to analyze movements of people and goods along the principal routes of the ancient Roman world by taking into account different modes and means of transport and even the season in which the travel took place.

Map of Naples-Marseille (Neapolis-Massilia) itinerary according to Roman coastal sea routes. Source: ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World.
Map of Naples-Marseille (Neapolis-Massilia) itinerary according to Roman coastal sea routes. Source: ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. Click image to enlarge.

Since Roman travel networks and routes continued to be used during the Middle Ages, the approximations created in ORBIS would provide us a reliable comparison point. According to ORBIS, if one travels only by daylight the journey between Naples and Marseille on coastal sea takes 18.7 days during winter. Although by this route there seem to be fewer stops compared to what is recorded in MS B21, the major ports, such as Ostia and Genoa, remain unchanged. The traveler of MS B21 noted that they arrived at Marseille after 24 days. Given that there are more stops mentioned in the manuscript and that we do not know if they spent any considerable time in any of these places, 24 days seem reasonable.

Image of leaf containing the last place mentioned as part of the journey in MS B21: Sermoneta.
Last place mentioned as part of the journey: Sermoneta. Travel Itinerary, Italy and France, 1493-1494. Call # MS B21. Click image to enlarge.

According to MS B21, it seems that the anonymous traveler spent between April and August 1493 in Paris before going to Tours via Orléans and staying there until January the year after. The traveler began their return from Tours, France to Italy on January 23, 1494. On the way back, they traveled exclusively by land, passing through cities such as Turin, Milan, Parma, Bologna, Florence, and Rome. Instead of going back to Naples, where they started, however, they stopped at Sermoneta, approximately 100 miles north of Naples. Unfortunately, the date of arrival is not recorded in the manuscript. If the anonymous traveler of MS B21 was a member of a diplomatic legation, as suggested by Bernard Rosenthal, from whom the Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript, this was a tumultuous time and there would have been good reason for such a journey, for in this very year the Kingdom of Naples was under threat of invasion by Charles VIII, king of France.

If the anonymous traveler was on a mission to the French court, that would also explain their spending time not only in Paris but also in Tours. Palais des Tuileries was the Parisian residence of most French monarchs but Charles VIII and his court also spent considerable time in Tours and had a royal residence there, Château de Plessis-lèz-Tours. Furthermore, we know that the French king may have been traveling from Paris to Tours that very August as Queen Anne is recorded to have had a premature birth and that the baby was buried at Notre-Dame de Cléry, a place mentioned also in MS B21 as the next stop after Orléans on the way to Tours.

King Ferdinand I of Naples died only two days after the departure date mentioned in the manuscript, on January 25, 1494, after 35 years of reign. Although succeeded by his son Alfonso II, the death of Ferdinand I allowed Charles VIII to lay claim to the throne and invade the Kingdom of Naples later in 1494. This marked the beginning of the Italian Wars, also known as Habsburg-Valois Wars, which took place between 1494 and 1559, during which the Kingdom of Naples was the focus of dispute among different dynasties and constantly changed hands.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Bernard M. Rosenthal Inc. in July 1960, 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

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Throwback Thursday: No-Shave November Edition

November 19th, 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!

Looking for some inspiration for Movember/No-Shave November? Look no further than this week’s photo, which features members of KU’s faculty sporting an impressive variety of beards and mustaches in 1885. Click on the image to zoom in and get a closer look!

Photographs of the University of Kansas faculty, 1885
Composite of the University of Kansas faculty, 1885. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/0 Faculty 1885 Prints (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

In the Moment of “Something Else,” Native American Heritage Honors “Something Meaningful” in Indigenous Studies at the University of Kansas

November 18th, 2020

This week’s blog post has been guest written by L.Marie Avila, an Undergraduate Engagement Librarian at KU Libraries, and Carrie Cornelius, the Acting Supervisory Librarian at Tommaney Library at Haskell Indian Nations University.

In 1991, Congress proclaimed the month of November as a time to acknowledge Native American Heritage (PL 101 343). In honor of Native American Heritage, we would like to draw attention and reverence to the Indigenous Nations Studies Program collection (Call Number: RG 17/71) found in the University Archives at Spencer Research Library. 

Kenneth Spencer Research Library holds the documents of the Indigenous Nations Studies Program, which signify the decades of effort by University of Kansas scholars to improve the opportunities for Indigenous students. This collection consists of a variety of communications: memos among academics and sovereign tribal nations; program development proposals; articles; and university news releases.

There, with the assistance and expertise of the staff, is a pathway to the access and discovery in research. Our research led to significant artifacts in the early discourse and vision in establishing the program dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, and records of the events and the scholarly accomplishments of native students and scholars in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Included in the artifacts is the historical partnership between the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.

This is in dedication to Native peoples’ resiliency, and to impress to the next generations of learners, to acknowledge the historical and contemporary contributions of Native people, throughout all seasons.

To begin, we examine the current 2020 Indigenous Studies Program Brochure for Indigenous Methodology noting the flexibility, student choice, and opportunity to direct research to community improvement. All of which was the direct result of the communication and program review noted in the historical documents, each showing the passion and dedication of scholars pursuing excellence for KU’s Indigenous students. 

Photograph of the first page of the KU Indigenous Studies Program brochure, 2020
Photograph of the second page of the KU Indigenous Studies Program brochure, 2020
The KU Indigenous Studies Program brochure, 2020. Image courtesy of the Indigenous Studies Program. Click images to enlarge.

The 2020 Indigenous Studies Program illustrates the inclusion of Indigenous Methodologies, while partnering not only with Haskell Indian Nations University, but Indigenous communities of the world. Students focus their Indigenous studies and research not only in Indigenous content, but with purpose to problem-solve the unique needs of Indigenous communities. Skill-based programs and build-your-own courses allow for individualized design and show flexibility and individualized student choice. 

A step back gives the opportunity to gain insight to the process. This early artifact (below) looks at the promise and challenge in developing a program dedicated to Indian studies.

Photograph of a memorandum, 1972
A memorandum from Professor Murray L. Wax (Sociology) and Professor Rosalie Wax (Anthropology) regarding “American Indian programs: prospects and difficulties,” October 19, 1972. Call Number: RG 17/71. Click image to enlarge.

Illustrated in a meaningfully-written letter by a KU professor, the letter below captures the Indigeneity of Indian students and their ultimate regard to “make something meaningful” out of a college education and an Indian Center in the space. The document provides insight into the 1973 “Indian work” strategies that were systematically and proportionally selecting tribal students by their traditionality. Additional strategies included housing together, scheduling core courses together, and mentoring by tribal teachers. 

Photograph of a letter from Stuart Levine to professors Murray L. Wax and Rosalie Wax, March 12, 1973
Letter from Professor Stuart Levine (American Studies) to professors Murray L. Wax and Rosalie Wax, March 12, 1973. Call Number: RG 17/71. Click image to enlarge.

Moving into the end of the twentieth century is an in-depth proposal from KU’s Indigenous Nations Studies Task Force.

Cover of “A Proposal to Establish a New Master’s Degree Program in Indigenous Nations Studies at the University of Kansas," March 6, 1997
Cover of “A Proposal to Establish a New Master’s Degree Program in Indigenous Nations Studies at the University of Kansas,” March 6, 1997. Call Number: RG 17/71. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the Indigenous Nations Studies Program brochure, 1999-2000
Indigenous Nations Studies Program brochure, 1999-2000. This artifact outlines the Indigenous Nations Studies pedagogy, course schedule, requirements, and Native and non-native faculty. Call Number: RG 17/71. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of a KU news release, November 17, 1999
KU news release, “Historian Recalls Terror of Osage Murders: U.S. History Books Need Native American Perspectives,” November 17, 1999. In this document, Donald L. Fixico, a KU professor of history and director of KU’s Indigenous Nations Studies Program, shares his perspective on the content of history books and Native American history. Call Number: RG 17/71. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the cover of Indigenous Nations Studies Journal, Spring 2000
The cover of the Indigenous Nations Studies Journal, an academic journal produced out of the KU Indigenous Nations Studies Program, Spring 2000. Call Number: RG 17/71. Click image to enlarge.

To conduct in-depth research in this subject area, and others, make an appointment to visit Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

For more information about the term “something else,” see the Indian Country Today article “‘Something else’ may make all the difference this election.”

L.Marie Avila, Urban Waganakasing Odawa
Undergraduate Engagement Librarian
University of Kansas

Carrie Cornelius, Prairie Band Potawatomi, Oneida
Acting Supervisory Librarian
Tommaney Library, Haskell Indian Nations University

Throwback Thursday: Old Fraser Hall Edition

November 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 University (Old Fraser) Hall, 1870s
KU’s “New Building” (later called University and Old Fraser Hall), 1870s. The structure was located approximately where modern Fraser Hall now stands. Note the lack of trees and relatively few other buildings. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/24 1870s Prints: Campus: Buildings: Fraser Hall Old (Photos). This image is a copy of a photograph held in the Robert Benecke Collection at DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Opened in 1872, the “New Building” was KU’s second building. According to an article on the KU History website, “when John Fraser, KU’s second chancellor, took office in 1868, he found the school’s 122 students crammed into a single, 11-room building [North College] with no central heating, although each room did have its own stove.” North College does not appear to be visible in the above photo.

By comparison, the majestic “New Building” boasted the most modern of nineteenth-century amenities:

The entire structure, noted the Fort Scott Daily Monitor on June 6, 1872, “will be heated with steam and lighted with gas, and every room will be supplied with water.” And although electric lights did not appear at KU until 1888, the building featured electrically powered clocks in each room. In addition, mechanically inclined students would also be able to work with steam-driven engines, lathes and other machinery. Being 300 feet long, 100 feet wide, and rising four stories, it was spacious enough to house the entire University: departmental and administrative offices, laboratories, classrooms, the library, a student reading room, even a large, second-floor auditorium.

“New Building” became officially known as University Hall in 1879. KU changed the name of the building to Fraser Hall in 1897 to honor John Fraser, the building’s champion. “Old” Fraser Hall was razed in August 1965 to make way for the “New” Fraser Hall that stands on Mount Oread today.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Football Program Edition

November 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!

Who’s excited to cheer on the Jayhawks this Saturday as they play the University of Oklahoma?

Cover of The Jayhawk Gridster for the KU football game against the University of Oklahoma, November 9, 1940
The cover of The Jayhawk Gridster souvenir program for the KU football game against the University of Oklahoma, November 9, 1940. University Archives. Call Number: RG 66/14/1: Athletic Department: Football: Programs. Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services