Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Banned Books Week: Redacted for the Inquisition

September 28th, 2017

September 24-30 is Banned Books Week, an annual event in which libraries and readers celebrate the freedom to read. With this in mind, today we feature several images from an early printed copy of The Divine Comedy by the medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). The copy in question is from a 1512 edition printed by Bernadino Stagnino in Venice, a city that served as a vibrant center for early printing and the book trade. Stagnino’s edition combines a recently re-edited version of Dante’s text (1502) with an earlier commentary on the poem by the 15th century humanist scholar Cristoforo Landino.

But wait, you ask, what does this have to do with censorship? Sometime in the decades following its printing, Spencer’s copy traveled from Venice to Spain, and in the late 1500s fell under the review of the Inquisition and Catholic clerics concerned with religious orthodoxy and the spread of heretical ideas.  A manuscript notation in Spanish on the volume’s title page reads:  “Con comisión de los S[eñor]es Inquisidores teste y borre lo prohibido deste libro” (“With commission from the Señores Inquisitors cross out and erase what is prohibited in this book”) followed by the name [E]stevan Joan Velasco Vicario de S[an]t Nicolás (Esteban Juan Velasco, vicar of San Nicolás).*

Title page of 1512 edition of Dante's Comedia, with redaction command in manuscript.

“…cross out and erase what is prohibited in this book”: the title page, with notations in Spanish, of Spencer’s copy of Opere del die vino poeta Danthe [Divina Commedia]. Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1512. Call #: Summerfield C1189. Click image to enlarge.

A similar notation by a different cleric appears on the verso of the volume’s final page of text: “Por lo mandado de los señores inquisidores teste y borre lo prohibido en estas comedias del dante conforme a la censura del Sto Off[ci]o [h]oy a 25 de mayo de 1585. Fray Juan Vidal” (By the order of the señores inquisitors cross out and erase what is prohibited in these comedies of Dante according to the censure of the Holy Office today, 25 May 1585 Fray Juan Vidal).*

Detail of a second notation in Spanish from the end of the volume regarding the redaction of this copy.

In paging through the volume, readers will find several redacted passages of varying lengths. Landino’s commentary receives the most expurgation, though lines from Dante’s poem are redacted on occasion as well. In some places, an offending line is simply crossed out in ink, while longer passages have been papered over so as to render them illegible. Once the prohibited passages had been redacted, the volume could be retained and consulted.

Image of passages redacted in ink and by the pasting of paper on folio 29v and 30r

Passages in Landino’s commentary that have been redacted by the addition of blank paper slips and by crossing out lines of text in ink.

A later reader appears to have succeeded in removing much of the paper that once covered some of the offending passages. Although some discoloration remains from the glue used to affix the paper slips, the text is now visible.  You can also see the censor’s original ink dash, marking the portions of text to be redacted or pasted over.

Image of redactions to the commentary for the Purgatorio (f. 319v and 320r)

Text restored?: the yellowy-brown patches indicate sections where paper slips were once glued to cover over passages judged offensive. Some remnants of the paper are visible above in the block of text at the bottom left (click image to enlarge). Dante Alighieri. Opere del die vino poeta Danthe [Divina Commedia]. Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1512. Call #: Summerfield C1189.

As readers of Dante know, The Divine Comedy is divided into three sections or “canticles,” one for each of the three realms of the afterlife visited by the character of Dante over the course of the poem: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso (Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise).  As one might expect, most of the redacted passages appear in the Inferno. (It can be controversial to put historical personages, including Church leaders, in Hell, and to discuss the political and theological matters that result in damnation.) However, Spencer’s copy also contains at least one censored passage in both the text and commentary of the Purgatorio and Paradiso as well.

Image of redactions to Dante's text and Landino's commentary in the Paradiso, f. 359r and f. 360r.

Trouble in Paradise: expurgated passages in Dante’s verse and Landino’s commentary toward the end of Canto IX  in the “Paradiso” section of The Divine Comedy (click image to enlarge).  Dante Alighieri. Opere del die vino poeta Danthe [Divina Commedia]. Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1512. Call #: Summerfield C1189. This passage, which critiques the Vatican and Church leaders, is also redacted in a copy of a 1564 edition of Dante’s work (with commentaries) held at Brandeis University.

Spencer’s expurgated copy of the Dante’s Divine Comedy offers a fascinating material example of censorship in early modern Spain.  If this brief post has whet your appetite for exploring this subject further, consider visiting He who destroyes a good booke, kills reason it selfe, an online re-issue of a notable 1955 KU Libraries exhibition catalogue on intellectual freedom. The catalogue’s section on Spain contains examples of other volumes from the library’s collections that were censored under the Inquisition, including a book on proverbs by Juan de Aranda that has been redacted with ornamented slips.

Curious about more contemporary instances of censorship and challenges to books? Take look at the list of the top ten most challenged books of 2016, as compiled by the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom. Or, if you live in Lawrence, consider visiting the Lawrence Public Library, which will be distributing a different card in its 2017 Banned Books Trading Card series each day this week.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

*Transcriptions and translations courtesy of Professor Luis Corteguera, with additional insight from Professors Patricia Manning and Isidro Rivera.

Click on the thumbnails below for images of additional redacted passages in Spencer’s 1512 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy with commentary by Cristoforo Landino.

Small ink redaction to the commentary on f. 12r.  Image of Redactions to both Dante's verse (left, f84v) and Landino's commetary (right f85r)  Image of remnants of a paper-ever passage, f. 126v and 127r

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming Prep Edition

September 28th, 2017

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!

Next week is KU’s 105th Homecoming, which means that students are already busy creating signs, floats, banners, and musical performances for various events and competitions.

Photograph of KU students working on a Homecoming display, 1973

Students working on a Homecoming display, 1973.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1973 Slides:
Student Activities: Homecoming (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: September 25-October 1, 1917

September 25th, 2017

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).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917

Tues. Sept. 25, 1917

Dear Marie,

Your letter of Sun. 23rd came this noon. Sorry to hear that the Sundays go so hard but I am glad to know that you do miss me. It seems like two years instead of two months since I last saw you yet it seems as if I had been in the army about two weeks. The time sure does fly. Strained most of the day so we had it pretty soft. The captain gave the company a little mounted drill on “shank’s horses” this morning then we had a buzzer class in the barracks. I am holding a seat at the speed shark’s table but it is too fast for me. 20 to 25 words a minute is faster than I can write and I lose a word about every three words. I should worry though as I am no longer expected to become an operator anyway. After this class we put on our slickers and waded over to the stables and groomed and fed our horses. Our saddles are expected this week and then we will have a gay time. When we came back we had an hour of practice at setting up and sighting the heliograph.

After dinner we had a class of semaphore and an hour of infantry foot drill on the muddy roads. At 3:30 the day’s work was called done. I am down to Leavenworth “Y” now and want to get an early car home so will have to quit.

Marie don’t feel that you are making me homesick by writing letters like the one of Sunday. That’s the kind that help me the most and make me want to get someplace. It’s the very most you can do for me and you don’t realize how much that is.

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Military Musician: The Diary of Thomas C. Key

September 22nd, 2017

“This book while today may not be of much value to me, I hope will in future years become priceless.”

                – Diary of Thomas C. Key, 1918

Image of the cover of Thomas Key's World War I diary

The cover of Thomas C. Key’s diary.
Call Number: RH MS B75.
Click image to enlarge.

Image of the first page of entries in Thomas Key's World War I diary

The first page of entries in Thomas Key’s World War I diary.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Thomas C. Key was a member of Company F in the 357th infantry division of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919. In March 1918 he became a member of the infantry band before being transferred overseas. He was stationed in parts of France and Germany from 1918 until his discharge in June 1919. During his time in the Army, he filled this diary with daily updates – concert preparation details; the receipt of a letter from his wife, Edna; the daily weather, etc. – so that in later years he would have a record of his military service.

Image of the title page of Thomas Key's World War I diary

The title page of Thomas Key’s World War I diary with a photograph
of his wife, Edna. Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Image of a list of European towns in Thomas Key's World War I diary

Key’s list of the towns he visited in Europe during World War I.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

In addition to Key’s entries from his time in Europe, the diary includes entries from his life after he returned home as well as a list of addresses for his bandmates, some of his family history details, and his transcriptions of military poems, essays, and burial rites.

Image of the civilian addresses of bandmates in Thomas Key's World War I diary

The civilian addresses of Key’s bandmates.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Image of family history information in Thomas Key's World War I diary

Family history in the diary, including information about Thomas’s relative
Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Ice Cream Cone Edition

September 21st, 2017

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!

The fall equinox may be tomorrow, but we’re still experiencing hot weather on Mount Oread. Luckily, though, tomorrow is also National Ice Cream Cone Day! Celebrate and cool off with a delicious cold treat, just like the KU students in this week’s photograph.

Photograph of KU students at the Memorial Union, 1939-1940

KU students at the Memorial Union, 1939-1940. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1939/1940 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services