Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: An Unstudied Fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae

September 15th, 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. 

Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS 9/1:A22 contains an unstudied fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae [‘History of the Kings of Britain’]. Geoffrey of Monmouth (approximately 1095 – approximately 1155) completed his Historia, also known as De gestis Britonum [‘On the Deeds of the Britons’], sometime before January 1139. One of the most renowned works of medieval historiography, Geoffrey’s Historia received acclaim almost instantaneously and was very influential not only in Latin but also in vernacular writing throughout the Middle Ages. The Historia opens with a prologue in which Geoffrey claims to have translated into Latin “a very old book in the British tongue” that he received from Walter, archdeacon of Oxford. The reason why he decided to translate this work, Geoffrey explains, is because he was not able to find any information about the early kings of Britain in other renowned historical works he consulted. Thus, in the Historia, Geoffrey traces the history of Britain from its first king, Brutus of Troy, to the end of the reign of Cadualadrus (Cadwaladr, reigned from approximately 655 to 682) in the seventh century.

There are close to 230 witnesses of Geoffrey’s Historia but the version of the text contained in MS 9/1:A22 is found in only ten surviving manuscripts, including this fragment. This rewriting of Geoffrey’s Historia is conventionally called the First Variant. Scholars have argued that the revision was done by a contemporary of Geoffrey and was completed before his death in around 1155, within a mere fifteen years after the Historia began circulating. The extant manuscripts of the First Variant date from the beginning of the thirteenth century and later. We know that the First Variant must have existed by 1155 because it was one of the sources used by Wace (approximately 1110–after 1174) in his Roman de Brut, a verse adaptation in Anglo-Norman of the Historia regum Britanniae. In its broad outlines, the narrative in the First Variant corresponds to the original of the Historia regum Britanniae. The majority of the chapters, however, are shortened and almost entirely rewritten. There are also a few additions to the narrative, some of which are deemed significant in changing the storyline, such as supplementary information about the history of Rome that was derived from the Historia Romana [‘Roman History’] of Landolfus Sagax.

Recto side of a fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22.
Recto side of the fragment. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22. Click image to enlarge.
Verso side of a fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22.
Verso side of the fragment. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22. Click image to enlarge.

The portion of the Historia regum Britanniae in the fragmentary MS 9/1:A22 contains parts of Chapters 31–39. Based on the variations, the text as it is preserved in MS 9/1:A22 most closely matches with that of Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS 13210D, one of the eight witnesses that was collated for the edition of the First Variant by Neil Wright in 1988. The beginnings of Chapter 34 (begins with “Succedente …” on line 3 on folio 1 recto, column b), Chapter 36 (begins with “Quod …” on line 4 on folio 1 verso, column a) and Chapter 39 (begins with “Rex …” on line 1 on folio 1 verso, column b) are present in MS 9/1:A22. However, Chapters 34 and 36 continue with no break and only the beginning of Chapter 39 is signaled with a paragraph mark (the sign that looks like a capital letter “C”). The initial R of the Latin word rex (“king” in English) that begins the chapter is also highlighted in red ink, although it is now somewhat faded. This shows that the text in the Spencer fragment is divided differently than how it is presented in the modern edition, and perhaps the manuscript as a whole was laid out differently from the other existing witnesses.

Parts of the text preserved in MS 9/1:A22 deal with Cordeilla, the youngest of the three daughters of King Leir, who became queen after her father’s forty-six year reign. In the Historia, Leir is credited with building a city by the river Soar, named after him Kaerleir in British, and Leicester in English. According to the story, Leir had no sons but three daughters: Gonorilla, Regau and Cordeilla. When the time came to marry his daughters and split his kingdom, he put them to a test to decide who would receive the largest share and asked each of his daughters how much they loved him. The elder daughters, who responded as their father wished, were married off to dukes of Cornwall and Scotland. Cordeilla, however, did not resort to flattery like her sisters did, and despite being the favorite of her father, she was punished by being married off to Aganippus, king of the Franks and sent away from Britain with no land or money. Leir split his kingdom and his wealth between his two elder daughters. As the King got older, he had a falling-out with both his elder daughters who eventually deprived him of his kingdom and royal authority. Running out of options, Leir sought out his youngest daughter Cordeilla, who, with her husband Aganippus, helped her father restore his power in Britain. Three years later, when he died, Cordeilla became the queen of Britain. This story, which first appears in Geoffrey’s Historia, was picked up by many later authors and inspired several works, including the famous King Lear by William Shakespeare (1564–1616).

As it stands, MS 9/1:A22 is less than half of the original leaf. Based on the stitch holes visible on the fold in the lower margin of the fragment, we can speculate that it was somehow bound in its current form, probably used as a flyleaf of another manuscript or printed book. We do not have any information about the origin or the early history of MS 9/1:A22, other than it was part of the famous library of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872), a detail which seems to have escaped notice until now.

On one side of the fragment there are annotations in pencil in modern hands that were inscribed prior to its acquisition by the University of Kansas: an encircled number “18” on the upper right corner and “XIth century” to the right in the lower margin. Based on other existing examples, it is possible to determine that the “XIth century” inscription was left by Ralph Lewis of William H. Robinson Ltd, a bookseller based in London that in 1946 purchased a thus far unsold portion of the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps. The fragments purchased from Phillipps’s library were sorted by Lewis, who noted down the century to which he thought a fragment was dated as well as a valuation. On his website, Peter Kidd, former Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, provides further examples of ownership marks and bookseller annotations, specifically those that are found on Phillipps manuscripts.

Only the note on the date remains on MS 9/1:A22; Lewis’s eleventh century date, however, must be wrong given that this text did not even exist before the mid-twelfth century. This tells us that the bookseller had not yet identified the text and was making an educated guess. In addition to the date of the work, there are paleographical features, such as the consistent use of the crossed Tironian et sign (⁊) and round r after the letter o, which would indicate that this manuscript was copied at the earliest in the second half of the twelfth century. Features such as the letter a with a double bow, however, make it more likely that MS 9/1:A22 dates from the thirteenth century. The encircled number “18,” on the other hand was probably made by Bernard M. Rosenthal, a bookseller who operated first from New York and later from San Francisco, from whom the University of Kansas purchased several manuscripts and early printed books. I have not yet been able to locate an acquisition record for this fragment but it is likely that it was purchased from Bernard M. Rosenthal or one of his relatives, who were also renowned booksellers operating in Europe and who had regular dealings with the University of Kansas.

Kenneth Spencer Research Library also holds a 1517 edition of the Historia regum Britanniae printed in Paris, which is essentially a reprint of the first edition dated to 1508 apart from minor corrections (Summerfield B2889). Both the early edition and the manuscript fragment are 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.

Manuscript of the Month: From Genoa to Crimea, the Wide World of Books

August 25th, 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. 

Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS C277 includes a translation from Greek into Latin of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini of Arezzo (1420–1483?). Although throughout the medieval and the early modern period the letters were attributed to Phalaris, a tyrant who ruled in Sicily during the sixth century BCE, it is now believed that this was not the case, mostly thanks to the work of Richard Bentley (1662–1742). A scholar of Greek and Latin, Bentley was the keeper of the king’s libraries and later the master of Trinity College in Cambridge, UK. In the late 1690s, during a scholarly controversy following the appearance of the edition of the Epistles of Phalaris by Charles Boyle, fourth earl of Orrery (1676–1731) in 1695, which is now known as the “Phalaris controversy,” Bentley proved that the Epistles were not written by Phalaris but instead forged centuries later, perhaps as late as the fourth century CE.

The translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini of Arezzo was the first translation of this work in Greek into Latin and is believed to be dated to the 1440s. The fifteenth century saw a great revival of the ancient and classical literature, especially in Italy, and a surge in translations from Greek into Latin. It is also known that Francesco Griffolini later produced a prose translation of Homer’s Odyssey in Latin at the request of Pope Pius II, as well as translations of the homilies of John Chrysostom among others.

The translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini is dedicated to Domenico Malatesta of Cesena, also known as Malatesta Novello (1418–1465), and opens with a dedicatory preface. As it stands, MS C277 is missing its first leaf and its second leaf is misbound and was placed as its final leaf at the end of the codex. Thus, the text begins in the middle of the preface, indeed in the middle of a sentence on what was originally the third folio of the manuscript. However, the first letter of the first word “arbitor” was later turned into a decorated initial in an effort to match the rest of the initials with penwork in the manuscript. The person responsible for this decorated initial A was probably the same person who added a title page to the manuscript to replace the leaf that had gone missing.

The title page on folio 1 recto, added later for Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277
The title page on folio 1r, added later. Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277. Click image to enlarge.
The beginning of the text on folio 2r for Spencer Research Library's copy of Pseudo-Phalaris's Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277
The beginning of the text on folio 2r. Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277. Click image to enlarge.

Some 150 copies of the translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini survive in manuscript in addition to several print editions, the earliest of which is dated to 1468/1469. What sets MS C277 apart is that we know when and by whom the manuscript was copied. The information is relayed in a colophon at the end of the text: “Perfecte sunt per me Antonium de Boçollo notarium et in p[raese]ntiarum subcancellarium. Anno dominice nativitatis: MoccccoLxotercio die primo Iunii”: “These [letters] were completed by me, Antonius de Bozollo, notary and sub-chancellor at present, on the first of June in the 1463rd year of the birth of our Lord.”

Opening showing the colophon in red ink on folio 39 recto of Epistolae by Pseudo-Phalaris (MS C277)
The colophon on folio 39r of MS C277. Click image to enlarge.

We do not know much about Antonius de Bozollo other than what he professes in the colophon; that he was a notary and scribe, and at the time he was working for the Archbishop of Genoa, Paolo di Campofregoso (mentioned in the colophon as “P. […] Archiep[iscop]o Ianuen[si]”). Neither do we have any information about the early history of MS C277. It is plausible, however, that MS C277 was copied in or near Genoa. Indeed, it seems like the manuscript was not only copied there but remained in Genoa at least until the early nineteenth century. The watermarks on the paper flyleaves that were added to the manuscript with its latest and current binding were in use in the early nineteenth century in Genoa, and there are some notes in Italian in a modern hand about the contents of the manuscript on the front pastedown.

What is perhaps equally interesting is that the only other identifiable codex to be copied by Antonius de Bozollo is another copy of the Epistles of Phalaris. This manuscript is now San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07, and it is also concluded with a colophon similar to that of MS C277. This time, the manuscript is dated to February 1, 1464, and was copied at the request of Pancratius Gentilis olim Falamonice, member of a Genoan family.

The colophon on folio 46 recto of the copy of the Epistolae held in San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07
The colophon on folio 46r in San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07. Source: Digital Scriptorium.

Based on the dates in the colophons, the two copies of the same text were copied by Antonius de Bozollo only eight months apart. Not only is the Humanistic script of the main text in both manuscripts very similar, but so are the manners in which the rubrics are inserted and the initials illuminated. This leads me to believe that Antonius de Bozollo was probably responsible for the entire production of the manuscript.

Other than MS C277 and Sutro Collection MS 07, which are definitely copied by the same Antonius de Bozollo, the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts includes a Sotheby’s auction catalog record from June 1993 for another manuscript that seems to have been copied by an Antonio de Bozollo at the turn of the sixteenth century. In this case, not only is the suggested dating some 40 years later than these two manuscripts but also the current whereabouts of this manuscript is unknown, and therefore we cannot verify whether or not this Antonio de Bozollo is the same scribe as that of MS C277 and Sutro Collection MS 07. Or, it may be that the manuscript was simply misdated by the auctioneers and is actually to be dated rather earlier.

There is, however, another manuscript in which the name Antonius de Bozollo appears, but this time he is not the scribe but the owner. Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 17 contains a copy of Francesco Petrarca’s Africa copied by Giovanni Antonio de Colli on the island of Chios on the Aegean Sea and dated to June 13, 1461. Antonius de Bozollo has left an ownership inscription on the lower margin in black ink, just below the lengthy colophon, detailing his purchase of the manuscript. It begins with the date and place: November 28, 1474, Caffa (modern Feodosia in Crimea). It then reads that Antonius de Bozollo the notary purchased the book from Michael Niger for 100 silver aspers of Caffa. Those who witnessed the purchase are Iohannes de Niger and Leonardus Negrinus, who might have been related to the seller.

The colophon and ownership inscription on folio 152 verso at Harvard University's Houghton Library, MS Typ 17
The colophon and ownership inscription on folio 152v in Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 17. Source: HOLLIS.

There are good reasons to think that the notary copying MS C277 in Genoa is the same person buying the book that was copied in Chios a decade later in Caffa. Indeed, we often forget how connected the medieval world was. The Republic of Genoa had a series of trading posts in the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Seas. Indeed, outposts on the coast of the Black Sea existed since the second half of the thirteenth century, and until its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1475, Caffa on the southern coast of Crimea was a prominent Genoese trade center. Similarly, Chios on the Aegean Sea was under Genoese rule from the beginning of the fourteenth century until its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1566. This allows us to explain how a book that was produced in Chios ended up being sold in Caffa in less than a decade. It might also explain how a Genoan notary ended up in Crimea. The name of Antonius de Bozollo also appears in a series of records of the Bank of Saint George (also known as Ufficio di San Giorgio), a financial institution of the Republic of Genoa, in the years 1473 and 1474. One of these documents is from Caffa and is dated 1474.

The more that significant information such as the names of scribes and previous owners is recorded in catalogs, and the more that non-literary texts such as notarial documents are edited, the more we will be able to connect manuscripts and the producers and owners of these artifacts as well as the places that they have been. I would like to extend my gratitude to the late Bernard M. Rosenthal who had already pointed out the ownership inscription by Antonius de Bozollo in MS Typ 17 at the time of the sale of this manuscript to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library as well as Consuelo Dutschke who contacted us in December 2019 with the same information.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Bernard M. Rosenthal Inc. in 1994 (?), 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.

New Finding Aids, January-June 2020

July 21st, 2020

Our listing of new finding aids for the first six months of 2020 might look a little sparse compared to previous lists. As my colleague Lynn Ward wrote about last month, since mid-March processing staff have had limited or no access to our unprocessed collections and so did not have much opportunity during the last few months to process new collections.

As we prepare to reopen Spencer for researchers, starting in a limited fashion, we are also starting to return to processing new collections. In the meantime, our finding aids are available online twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week so you can begin your investigations from home.

Some collections we completed processing before the pandemic include this visually interesting collection of postcards of Lithuanian towns and the countryside:

Photograph of the exterior of the Šilava church in Lithuania
Photograph of the interior of the Šilava church in Lithuania
Photographs of the exterior (top) and interior (bottom) of the Šilava church. Charles Luksis Photographic Postcard Collection. Call Number: MS 361, Box 1, Folder 83. Click images to enlarge.

For researchers interested in researching 20th-century right-wing conservative movements, the Willis Carto collection may have some interest:

Photograph of the front page of a year-end report from the Liberty & Property organization, 1955
Front page of a year-end report from the Liberty & Property organization, 1955. Papers of Willis Carto. Call Number: RH WL MS 51, Box 1, Folder 24. Click image to enlarge.

Oscar Stark collected several late 19th- and early 20th-century photographic prints of African Americans, many of whom were photographed in Kansas and Missouri:

Carte de visite of Lucy Jones, dated 1887. Photographed by F.G. [Suden?] of Jefferson City, Missouri. Oscar Stark Collection of Photographs of African Americans. Call Number: RH PH 549, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

Burton Marvin served as dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas from 1948 to 1965, and his papers at Spencer include a variety of materials related to his work with KU and to his personal life in the Lawrence community:

Photograph of Burton Marvin in Sierra Leone, 1963
Burton Marvin took part in an educational program that traveled to several African nations in 1963. In this picture taken in Sierra Leone, Marvin is third from the left. Personal Papers of Burton W. Marvin. Call Number: PP 620, Box 3, Folder 17. Click image to enlarge.

Please read further to see what other new and legacy collections we finished creating online finding aids for before March 2020!

Douglas County records, 1855-1989 (RH MS 261, RH MS 451, RH MF 196, DCR, 1990-1995 accessions, 1997-1998 accessions, 2000-2001 accessions)

Oscar Stark collection of photographs of African Americans, approximately 1870s-1920s (RH PH 549)

Charles Luksis photographic postcard collection, 1921-1935 (MS 361)

Barbara Ballard papers, 1982-2009 (RH MS 1507, RH MS-P 1507, RH MS R464)

Eliot S. Berkley collection, 1994-2007 (SC AV 27, MS P749)

Letter from Annie Besant to “Dear Sir,” September 24, 1885 (MS P751)

“Historia Flagellantium de recto et perverso flagrorum usu apud Christianos” manuscript, December 1691 (MS E279)

George F. Jenks map research projects collection, 1933, 1947, 1951-1980s (bulk 1950s-1970s) (MS 347, MS Q78, MS Qa25, MS R21, MS S9)

Letter from Frances Parkinson Keyes to Alice H. Dains, June 29, 1938 (MS P750)

Donald Moffitt papers, 1946-2015 (MS 360, MS Q90, MS Qa32, MS R25)

Letter from Erich Maria Remarque, November 26, 1937 (MS P745)

John Edgar Tidwell collection on Frank Marshall Davis, 1924-2015 (MS 353, SC AV 22, MS Q83, MS Qa28)

Personal papers of Burton Marvin, 1935-2002 (PP 620)

David Ewing papers, 1972-1988 (RH WL MS 57)

Left Curve collection, 1976-1990 (RH WL MS 58)

Kurt Thurmaier poster collection, 1975-1984 (RH WL MS R11, RH WL MS R12, RH WL MS S2)

Papers of Willis A. Carto, 1945-2013 (RH WL MS 51, RH WL MS Q51)

Peter Argersinger papers, 1965-2018 (RH MS 1502)

James and Fern Nelson-Coffin collection, 1942-1945 (RH MS 1501)

McGinnis/Perstein family papers, 1649-2009 (bulk 1860s-1970s) (RH MS 1498, RH MS Q463)

Ruben Menendez papers, majority of material found within 1884-1938 (RH MS Q468)

Anna Jane Michener, 1892-1982 (RH MS 1508, RH MS E211)

Simons family papers, approximately 1791-1960 (bulk 1920s-1952) (RH MS 1503, RH MS R458, RH MS R459)

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

Working from Home Without Manuscripts or Rare Books

June 24th, 2020

During Covid-19 isolation, our team in the cataloging and processing department at Kenneth Spencer Research Library has been busy working from home. Instead of working hands-on with the rare books and manuscripts, like we normally do, we have been working on our databases and other online sources to ensure that our all of our material is easily searchable and discoverable for researchers and scholars, not only here in Kansas, but worldwide. This work is important to the mission of the library.

Five professionals from the cataloging and processing department share their working-from-home experience.

Marcella Huggard, Manuscripts Coordinator

What are you working on?

I am continuing to coordinate my team’s projects of data cleanup or data creation for legacy collections that never had online finding aids; I’m also coordinating other folks’ work on legacy data projects. One of my own cleanup projects—consolidating finding aids that had been separated when they were first put online, due to descriptive decisions made at the time that no longer hold true—is something I’ve been wanting to focus on for a couple years now. I have also been working on a research project to document the history of the Menninger Foundation’s archives.

Why is this work important to the library?

The projects that I’m coordinating and working on myself continue to enhance access to our manuscript collections, so that when researchers request materials they’ll have a better sense of what we have available, and they’ll be able to find that information that much more easily in an era where expectations are that information will be discoverable online.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

Sleeping in an extra hour! I will also miss the scheduling flexibility.

Photograph of Marcella and Salty Bear
Marcella’s new co-worker, Salty (short for Salted Caramel) Bear. “My spouse, a teddy bear himself, likes to buy me teddy bears; he got me this one soon after I started working from home.” Click image to enlarge.

Mike Readinger, Special Collections and Manuscript Cataloger

What are you working on?

I am working on ArchivesSpace database clean-up and creating bibliographic records for the legacy finding aids. In the early 2000s, we switched from using card files. Thousands of records in Voyager (the old, though still in use, KU Libraries online catalog) were created using these bibliographic cards. Those records were brief, so now I am using this time to create more complete records.

Why is this work important to the library?

These completed records will be put on OCLC WorldCat. The work done in cataloging and processing is the first step in letting the whole world know what we have. We make the information known, then our great reference staff can serve the scholars and researchers.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

Right now, I have my home office set up in our basement. I can run upstairs to get dinner started, then come back down and keep working. I like the ease of doing those kinds of things.

Photograph of Mike and his supervisor
Mike and his supervisor look out the window in Mike’s home office. Click image to enlarge.

Jennifer Johnson, Manager of the Non-Manuscript and Inventory Unit

What are you working on?

I am editing and creating personal name authorities and name/subject headings for the library catalog. Plus, I have been removing duplicate records from the catalog.

Why is this important to the library?

Authority control is important because it creates organization and structure of information resources, making the materials more accessible, allowing better researching for the users.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

I love working from home! I really enjoy being able to go grab something to eat or drink. I work by a window that I can open. I’ll also miss being able to switch tasks, for example, I can do the dishes at lunchtime. And I love getting to see my son more often!

Photograph of Jennifer and her dog

Jennifer’s loyal co-worker. Click image to enlarge.

Mary Ann Baker, Special Collections and Manuscript Processor

What are you working on?

I have been working on the Access database listing of The Miscellany part of the English Historical Documents Collection. Almost all the manuscripts in this collection were acquired in the late 1960s. Over all the decades that these collections have been worked on, data transference from one program to another has resulted in some data corruption. For example, the pound symbol (£) turned into an umlauted u (ü). So, I have been cleaning up the errors and expanding abbreviations to prepare the database for publication as part of the finding aid for the Miscellany Collection. 

Why is this important to the library?

Working on this collection contributes to making Spencer Library’s holdings known globally and accessible to all, one of the goals of the KU Libraries.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?  

Naps at their will. I will not miss Zoom meetings.

 

Lynn Ward, Manuscripts Processing

What are you working on?

I have been working on projects to clean-up and refine the information in our archives database, ArchivesSpace. I added “containers” to hundreds of the earlier resources that lacked box or volume information. I also have been adding collection inventory information directly to the ArchivesSpace resource; this information had previously only been available via a link to a separate scanned PDF document.

Why is this important to the library?

Adding “containers” makes it possible for researchers to request the material, which helps our reference staff to connect researchers with what they need. Adding the inventory information from the PDF to the resource makes the information more discoverable for researchers and scholars when they search online.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

I have really been enjoying the extra time with my family, so I will miss that when I go back to working in the building.

Photograph of Lynn and her dog

Lynn’s co-worker requires daily walks. Click image to enlarge.

The work described above is important to the library’s mission.

All of the faculty and staff working at the Spencer Research Library share one mission: to connect scholars in varied disciplines with the information that is critical to their research, while providing excellent services in a welcoming and comfortable environment.

The work in the cataloging and processing department is an important step to that mission. Even while we are enjoying different aspects about working from home during Covid-19, we are continuing to work hard to make sure scholars and researchers can search, find, and connect with the information contained in Spencer Research Library’s collections.

Lynn Ward
Processing Archivist

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