Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

16th-century Medicine for the Fascination of 21st-century Audiences

July 19th, 2013

Yesterday, KU announced a magnificent gift to the libraries and the KU Medical Campus from the estate of the late KUMC Dean Stata Norton Ringle and her husband David Ringle. One of the projects that tied Stata Norton Ringle to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library was her translation of a manuscript from our collections.  Produced circa 1562, Libro de i secretti & ricette, also known as the Jesuatti Book of Remedies (MS Pryce E1), is a collection of remedies used by the friars of the Order of Saint Jerome in Lucca, Italy to treat an array of ailments. These range from the common (digestive problems, colds, wounds and sores) to the cosmetic (baldness) to the strange (“For the crust that comes on the head of little children“) to the most dire (the plague, malaria). The remedies recorded in the manuscript are a variety of galenical mixtures of herbs, alchemical distillates, prayers, and incantations.

Page spread from the Jesuatti Book of Remedies featuring distillation diagrams
Jesuatti Book of Remedies. Lucca, Italy, circa 1562. Call number: MS Pryce E1. Click image to enlarge.
Image courtesy of KU Libraries Flickr Photostream.

This volume so captivated Professor Ringle that she taught herself Renaissance-era Italian to undertake its translation. The result was a digital edition, published in collaboration with KU Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship, that combines her annotated English translation with manuscript page images.

Browsing the digital edition, it’s easy to see why a professor of pharmacology, toxicology and therapeutics, like Dr. Ringle, would want to share this fascinating manuscript with scholars and the public at large. We have it on good authority from our web gurus that the most scatological, blush-inducing, and comically bizarre search terms driving internet traffic to the KU Libraries website tend to be page hits for the Jesuatti Book of Remedies. (I won’t list those search terms here, but this passage should give you a sense of some of the more sensitive topics the remedies address).

To celebrate the late Professor Ringle and her work, we reproduce three remedies from her translation and encourage you to continue on and peruse the entire volume online.  In her  preface, she wisely cautions that the translation is for “historical information only.”  We hope you enjoy reading these remedies, but please don’t try them at home!

Best remedy for headache. [From folio 13 verso]

Take 1 handful each of good marjoram and rosemary and make fine powder of them. In the morning take half a glass of good white wine and put therein a tablespoon of this powder, heat it and drink this early in the morning and soon you will be cured. This is also powerful to save the teeth so they will not decay and it will give you a good breath. It is the thing used by gentlemen. […]

To make gray hair dark. [From folio 19 recto]

Take equal amounts of soft dark soap and quicklime and yellow litharge and incorporate them in the form of an unguent and with this rub the gray hair several times and it will become dark. Continue this rubbing according to how you see the need as it turns from being white to dark.

Another for the aforesaid and also good. Take the juice of beets mixed with ashes made of chicken feathers and boil them together a while. Rub yourself with this in the evening when you go to sleep. […]

To remove redness from the face and make it the way one wants. [From folio 162 verso].

Take 1 ounce of native sulfur, 1 dram each of white incense and myrrh and ½ ounce of camphor. Powder everything very finely and mix it with ½ lb. of rose water and distill it in a little glass still. Preserve this water well-closed and bathe the face in the evening and morning with a sponge, rubbing well. Soon the redness of the face will disappear. This has been tested by many persons. [...]

Image of the Jesuatti Book of Remedies, folio 13v: Best remedy for headache Image of page of Jesuatti Book of Remedies giving remedy for making gray hair dar. A page from the Jesuatti Book of Remedies:

From the Jesuatti Book of Remedies digital edition: (left) “Best remedy for headache” folio 13v; (center) “To make gray hair dark” folio 19r; and (right) “To remove redness from the face and make it the way one wants,” folio 162v. Translated with notes by Stata Norton. Electronic edition published by the Center for Digital Scholarship, University of Kansas Libraries, 2010. http://etext.ku.edu/view?docId=jesuatti/jesuatti.xml. Click images to enlarge.

New Finding Aids Available

June 6th, 2013

Finding aids are inventories that help researchers navigate collections of manuscripts, organizational records, personal papers, and photographs. Please scroll down for a list of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s newest finding aids and then visit the library and explore!

Film still from The Cheat, 1915

Newly inventoried! A still from The Cheat (1915), part of a sizable collection of Movie Stills, 1895-1998, amassed by KU Professor of Film & Media Studies John C. Tibbetts. Call Number: MS 297, Box 1, Folder 72

 

 

To search across all of Spencer’s finding aids, please click here.

 

Meet Caitlin Donnelly, Spencer’s New Head of Public Services

January 24th, 2013

Photograph of Caitlin Donnelly

Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services

I am absolutely thrilled to be the new Head of Public Services at Kenneth Spencer Research Library! In this position, I’ll be working with students, faculty members, scholars, and other patrons and visitors who come to the library to conduct research, attend class, or tour the North Gallery and exhibit area.

I have long been especially passionate about access, reference, instruction, and outreach in special collections. Early in my career, my personal interest in history matured into a professional enthusiasm for helping patrons connect with historical resources and the past in ways they find meaningful. More recently, my interest has evolved to focus on facilitating and expanding the use of special collections; demonstrating the relevance of history and special collections to a variety of scholarly disciplines and groups of non-academic users; and helping researchers become comfortable and competent users of special collections materials.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, and sister of a KU alumnus, I have a BA in Humanities–American Civilization from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2004), an MA in public history from North Carolina State University (2006), and an MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008). Before joining the team at Spencer, I was the Archivist at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo (2008-2012), where I was responsible for all duties associated with managing the archival collection. I also have additional professional experience with the Missouri State Archives-St. Louis, UNC’s Documenting the American South, the NCSU Special Collections Research Center, the UIUC Government Documents Library, and the National Park Service.

I look forward to helping improve patrons’ experiences at Spencer Research Library. Have a question about our collections, services, or procedures? Feel free to give me a call at (785) 864-4456 or drop me an email at cdonnelly@ku.edu. I look forward to hearing from you!

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Lastest Finding Aids and Additions to Finding Aids

December 20th, 2012

Trying to decide what you would like to do over the winter holidays?  Why not get a head start on your research?  Here is a list of the newest finding aids and additions to finding aids available at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.  Please scroll down for images from three of these collections.

 

Image of "Free the KU Twelve" buttons

Image of Letter from Jennie Johnson to Will Johnson, January 26, 1886  Image of Letter from Ernest Boyd to Kenneth Reddin, October 14, 1936.

Top: “Free the KU Twelve” buttons. Gail J. Hamilton Collection. Call Number: PP 497: Box 1, Folder 26; Left: Letter from Jennie Johnson to Will Johnson, January 26, 1886. Jennie Johnson Collection. Call Number: RH MS P909: Folder 1; Right: Letter from Ernest Boyd to Kenneth Reddin, October, 14, 1936. Kenneth Reddin Collection. Call Number: MS 14: Box 3, Item C1. Click images to enlarge.

Vivat Liber!

December 13th, 2012

Here at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, we take for granted that when you say “Sandy,” people know who you mean. Alexandra (Sandy) Mason (1931-2011) was a distinguished librarian who served the University of Kansas from 1957 until her retirement in 1998. She built special collections of extraordinary research value, guided generations of scholars and librarians, was a leader in the Rare Books and Manuscript Section of the American Library Association, and received numerous awards for her lifetime of accomplishments. More information about her is available here.

In May, 1999, many of her colleagues and friends gathered in Lawrence to mark Sandy’s retirement with a series of tributes appropriately titled Vivat Liber (“Long live the book!”). Upon Sandy’s death, the idea of publishing these tributes again came to mind as a way to honor her memory. It is with great joy and pride that I announce the publication of Vivat Liber: Reflections Marking the Occasion of Alexandra Mason’s Retirement from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, which was made possible with the assistance of Stuart Roberts, Courtney Foat, Marianne Reed, and Brian Rosenblum.

Image of Cover of Vivat Liber Photograph of Sandy Mason, 1998
Left: Vivat Liber: Reflections Marking the Occasion of Alexandra Mason’s Retirement from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Editor: Beth M. Whittaker. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Libraries, 2012. http://hdl.handle.net/1808/10486. Right: Sandy Mason. 8/14/1998. University Archives. Call Number: RG 41/0: Mason, Alexandra.

Click here to read Vivat Liber through KU Scholarworks.

Beth M. Whittaker
Head of Spencer Research Library