The University of Kansas

Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

New Finding Aids, January-June 2022

July 19th, 2022

Supply chain issues and lower staffing levels have continued to affect our ability to process new collections in the first half of 2022, but despite this we have continued to process and describe new materials. We’ve also been able to return to a project that has long languished, in which we are inventorying and describing the official records of the University of Kansas, including creating finding aids for record groups that were previously undescribed in an easily accessible, online way. Look for updates to our record group listings throughout the rest of this year and beyond!

You’ll see some newly described record groups in the list below, amongst our other newly processed collections.

William Coker collection, 1932-2004 (RH MS 1550)

Hodgeman colony history collection, 1879-1963 (RH MS P977)

Chester Owens collection, 1923-2010 (bulk 1950s-1980s) (RH MS 1549, RH MS R496)

Paul A. Black photograph album, approximately 1916-1938 (RH PH 564)

Philippine-American War diary by a U.S. officer, March 25-April 6, 1900 (RH MS C93)

Dotti McClenaghan “Follies” collection, 1959, 1963 (bulk 1959) (RH PH 563)

Black album page with two black-and-white photographs and "The Golden Voice of Jenni Wren" written in white.
A page from a scrapbook/photograph album compiled by the cast and crew of the “Follies” variety show produced by the Antioch Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association in Overland Park, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 563, Box 1, Volume 1. Click image to enlarge.

Pace and Mendenhall family photographs, 1909, 1925-1935, undated (RH PH 562)

Jerauld R. Crowell papers, 1963-2018 (RH MS 1551, RH MS R497, RH MS R498, RH MS S76, KC AV 115)

Independent Order of Good Templars of Jefferson County, Kansas, Lodge No. 17 records, 1874, 1876 (RH MS P978)

June flood of 1908 at Kansas City postcards, June 1908 (RH PH P2843)

Walter Thomas Bezzi journals, 1975-1985 (RH MS 1552)

Bullene family bible, [bible printed in 1833, includes information dating up to 1926] (RH MS 1546)

J.C. Nichols Investment Company covenant book, November 1922 (RH MS P976)

Bell Memorial Hospital photograph, 1918 (RH PH P2842(f))

Clarence Kivett papers, 1977-1995 (RH MS 1547)

Harris family papers, 1965-2019 (RH MS 1543, RH MS Q483)

Perry Alan Werner photograph collection, December 1977-September 1978 and undated (RH PH 561)

1890s family photograph album, probably from Kansas, 1890s (RH PH P2845)

James Milton Turner correspondence, July 1884 (RH MS P979)

Langston Hughes play scripts, 1937-1958 (RH MS 1554)

Robert C. Wilson collection, 1967-1999 (RH MS 1556, RH MS R501, KC AV 119)

“The Order of the Little Bears” notebook, April 7, 1942-May 1943 (MS C317, MS P761)

Hand-drawn sketch of a woman with the caption "Our Grand Master Bear Bibs."
One of the many delightful illustrations from this English World War II-era scrapbook that describes the escapades of a group of young women, The Order of the Little Bears, living in wartime. Call Number: MS C317, Volume 1. Click image to enlarge.

Personal papers of Thomas N. Taylor, 1961-2016 (PP 631)

Hinton family papers, 1921-2016 (RH MS 1558, RH MS Q489, KC AV 120)

“These Were People of Mercy” Stoner family genealogy, December 2019 (RH MS D302)

John Parks enlistment papers, October 1, 1863 (RH MS P980)

Joshua William Beede letters, April 6, 1899 and August [1899?] (RH MS P981)

Postcards addressed to Lillian Mitchner, 1910 (RH MS P982)

Records regarding Faculty and Staff at the University of Kansas, 1880s-2020 (bulk 1930s-2000s) (RG 41)

Group of people standing in a large warehouse.
Image from the May 1997 Wheat State Tour, a week-long tour organized by the University of Kansas for new faculty and staff to become acquainted with the state. Call Number: RG 41/5 Photographs. Click image to enlarge.

Records of Radio, TV, and Film at the University of Kansas, 1923-2019 (bulk 1950s-1980s) (RG 40)

Records of the Office of Public Safety at the University of Kansas, 1925-2019 (RG 48)

Personal papers of Neil J. Salkind, 1970-2017 (PP 632)

Personal papers of Anton Rosenthal, 1984-2020 (PP 633)

Personal papers of Larry Martin, approximately 1972-2010 (PP 630)

Living the Dream, Inc. invitation, 2020 (RH MS P988)

Margaret Kramar collection, March 2017 (RH MS P987)

John Swift school records, 1950-1956 (RH MS P986)

Amelia Pardee Ellis McQueen collection, 1862-1997 (RH MS P985)

Blue Rapids Supply Company brochures, February 1940, September 1941 (RH MS P984)

“Grandmother’s Letters,” by Louisa B. Simpson, 1847-1864 (RH MS P983)

U.S. Committee on Public Information Division of Women’s War Work collection, December 1917-July 1918 (MS 371, MS Qa40)

Personal papers of Donald Stull, 1967-2015 (PP 583)

Personal papers of Charles D. Bunker, 1901-1937 (PP 634)

Marcella Huggard
Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

New Finding Aids, July 2020–November 2021

December 22nd, 2021

The global pandemic continues in myriad ways to affect our ability to process new collections and provide descriptive access to new collections online—but we are still doing what we can! And in the meantime, we have continued to enhance existing online description and provide online description for collections we’ve held for decades that previously had little to no exposure online, so that more of our researchers can find more of our holdings.

If you want to pleasantly surprise your guests, think over everything to the smallest detail: how the registration goes, who greets the participants and in what form, what kind of music plays, whether you have an interesting photo corner, how your presentations plan a large-scale event are designed and the team is dressed, what breaks are filled with. For example, during registration, you can provide participants with the opportunity to attend a short workshop, play games or watch informative videos. Try to surprise people and create a wow effect, exceed their expectations in the most ordinary things. This is what creates the atmosphere of the event.

Despite the challenges of hybrid schedules, lower staffing levels, supply chain issues affecting our ability to get archival supplies, and the many other issues we’ve been facing, we have finished processing several collections in the past 18 months. You can see the list of new finding aids below.

Sergeant William J. Leggett correspondence with students of Oil Hill Elementary School, El Dorado, Kansas, 2007-2008 (RH MS 1525, KC AV 95)

Great Spirit Springs Company records, 1870s-1890 (RH MS 1521, RH MS Q474)

Adna G. Clarke letters, 1898-1953 (bulk 1898-1899) (RH MS 1520)

Northeast Kansas Girl Scouts related records, 1923-2014 (RH MS 1505, RH MS Q466, RH MS R462, RH MS R463, RH MS S67, KC AV 88)

Kansas 1860s diary, approximately April 1863-1867 (RH MS B78)

Weatherby family collection, 1896-1976 (bulk 1904-1905) (RH MS 1466, RH MS Q445)

Henry D. and Mariana Lohrenz Remple papers, 1907-2010 (RH MS 1509, RH MS-P 1509, RH MS Q469, RH MS R466, RH MS R467, RH MS S69)

Paul Vinogradoff collection, 1901-1902 (MS P418, MS D215)

Mary Rosenblum papers, 1990-2008 (MS 362, MS Qa34)

Kansas City Power & Light District Plans collection, 1996-2000 (RH MS 1512, RH MS Q471, RH MS R470)

Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods records, 1989-2014 (RH MS 1515, RH MS S70, KC AV 94)

Fahrländer family letters, 1881-1959 (RH MS 1517)

A page of handwritten text in German.
A page of handwritten text in German.
The front and back pages of a letter in German dated April 15, 1881, sent to Herman Fahrlander in the U.S. from his German family. Fahrländer Family Letters. Call Number: RH MS 1517, Box 1, Folder 3. Click images to enlarge.

Thomas Bradford Mayhew papers, 1982-2018 (RH MS 1516)

A.C. Junior College student photographs, 1948-1950 and 1955 (RH PH 548)

F.B. Silkman letter, September 5, 1855 (RH MS P969)

Mary Isabel Cobb Payne diary, 1953 (RH MS C92, RH MS P970)

Harrell-Willey family papers, 1803-2012 (RH MS 1522, RH MS Q475, RH MS R472)

Frank Kersnowski papers, 1965-2003 (MS 340, SC AV 23)

Personal papers of Mary Davidson, 1949-2008 (PP 621)

Personal papers of Stan Roth, 1957-2014 (PP 622)

Page of white lined notebook paper. All lines are filled with black handwritten text.
Page of white lined notebook paper with the names of sixty-eight birds listed, written in black ink and three columns.
The first page from a field survey notebook (top) and a listing of birds sighted by Stan Roth (bottom) during his 1978 summer field trips. Personal Papers of Stan Roth. Call Number: PP 622, Box 1, Folder 4. Click images to enlarge.

Corinne N. Patterson papers, 1866-2015 (RH MS 1490, RH MS-P 1490, RH MS-P 1490(f), RH MS R454, RH MS R480, RH MS S72, KC AV 112)

Little Brown Koko scrapbook, approximately 1940s-1950s (RH MS Q477)

Richard Olmstead matchbook collection, 1920s-[not after 1947] (RH MS D301)

William H. Fant ledgers, 1936-1967 (RH MS E212, RH MS P971)

Mary Hudson Vandegrift Mardi Gras albums, 1965 (RH PH 557)

Personal papers of Paul Willhite, 1960-2019 (PP 618)

Don Imus photograph, 2004 (RH WL PH 6)

Leonard Magruder collection, 2002-2019, mostly undated by probably from the 1960s-1970s (RH WL MS 61)

Puerto Rican-American Women’s League collection, 1976-1981 (RH WL MS 62)

Page of white lined notebook paper with typed notes about upcoming events.
A page removed from a binder with brief minutes of a meeting of the Puerto Rican-American Women’s League (shortened to PRAWL in the notes) on July 22, 1976. Puerto Rican-American Women’s League Collection. Call Number: RH WL MS 62, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

Campaign for Economic Democracy photographs, 1979-1980 (RH WL PH 7)

New York City rabbis protesting abortions photograph, July 1989 (RH WL PH 8)

Personal papers of Kent Spreckelmeyer, 1964-2018 (PP 617)

Justin McCarthy correspondence, October 4, 1867 (MS P754)

Edward J. Van Liere correspondence, 1963-1972 (MS P753)

Blueprints received by James H. Stewart, 1928 (MS P755)

J.D. Ferguson Davie correspondence, 1862-1876 and 2004 (MS 364)

“We all die” treatise by Les Hannon, January 5, 2014 (MS P756)

Alice Walker party invitation, May 23, 1981 (MS P752)

Wilbur D. Hess collection, majority of material found within 1880-1999, 1940-1985 (RH MS 1526, RH MS Q476, RH MS R475, RH VLT MS 1526)

Carl Sherrell papers, approximately 1960-1990 (MS 365, MS Q92)

Personal papers of Ann Schofield, 1976-2019 (PP 624)

Personal papers of Edmund Paul Russell III, approximately 1978-2012 (PP 623)

Personal papers of R.G. Anderson, 1930s, 1940s, late 1980s-early 1990s, 2006 (PP 626, UA AV 17)

Personal papers of Allan Wicker, 1962-2014 (PP 625)

Personal papers of Robert E. Foster, 1969-2014 (PP 627, UA AV 18)

Personal papers of Janice Kozma, 1927-2018 (PP 628)

Young Communist League of the United States collection, 1933-1967 (RH WL MS 63)

Albert and Angela Feldstein political ephemera collection, 1990-2019 (RH WL MS 64, RH WL MS R14, RH WL MS R15)

Kansas Citizens for Science collection, 1982-2007 (RH MS 1529, KC AV 98)

William Boerum Wetmore correspondence, 1890-1895, 1921 (RH MS 1531)

Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1754 collection, 2014-2019 (RH MS 1532, RH MS R476, RH MS R477)

Arthur Weaver Robinson collection, 1921-2015 (RH MS 1533, RH MS Q479, RH PH 2841(ff), KC AV 97)

Karl Allen collection, 1957-1982 (RH WL MS 60, RH WL MS R13)

Bernard Davids collection, 1970-2013 (RH WL MS 59, RH WL MS Q12, RH WL MS R16)

John Elsberg papers, approximately 1978-2012 (MS 366, MS Q93)

Personal papers of Virginia (Lucas) Rogers, 1908-1919 (PP 629)

#BlackatKU Twitter archive, 2020-2021 (RG Internet 2)

Larned, Kansas stereoviews, approximately 1865-1880s (RH PH 560)

Two identical sepia-toned photographs side by side. Each shows a stream running through an empty landscape.
Handwritten text reads "John C. Fry to Louise Ziegler Seiple, 1925" and "Located South of Jenkins' Hill and known as Boyd's Crossing; Al Boyd's house down creek on south side of stream."
The front and back of a stereoview image of the Santa Fe crossing known as “Boyd’s Crossing” near Larned, Kansas, before 1925. Larned, Kansas, Stereoviews. Call Number: RH PH 560, Box 1, Folder 24. Click images to enlarge.

Don Lambert collection of Elizabeth Layton papers, 1987-2016 (bulk 1987-1995) (RH MS 1538, RH MS R482, KC AV 102)

Lynn Bretz collection of Asa Converse and Elizabeth Layton materials, late 1880s-1984 (RH MS 1541, RH MS Q482)

Robert Shortridge papers, 1937-2005 (RH MS 1534)

Roark family papers, 1790-2013 (bulk 1993-2013) (RH MS 1539)

Henry C. and Indiana Gale papers, 1859-1870s (bulk 1862-1865) (RH MS P975)

Dodge and Miller family letters, 1832-1884 (RH MS P974)

Civil War muster sheets, 1862-1863 (RH MS R487)

Surgeon Numan N. Horton letter, March 11, 1867 (RH MS P973)

Kansas City jazz clubs information, 1982, undated (RH MS P972)

William F. Wu papers, approximately 1954-2018 (MS 367, MS Q94, MS Qa37, SC AV 31)

Black-and-white photograph of two men, one standing and one sitting, in front of metal shelving units stocked with items.
Science fiction writer William F. Wu (right) on set for the “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium” episode of the Twilight Zone, based on Wu’s original story. William F. Wu Papers. Call Number: MS 367, Box 24, Folder 24. Click image to enlarge.

Franklyn D. Ott and Aleta Jo Petrik-Ott papers, 1882-1994 (bulk 1960s-1990) (MS 368, MS C316, MS D216, MS E281, MS G56)

Osey Gail Peterson collection on Albert T. Reid, approximately 1890s-1910s, 1944 (RH MS 1544, RH MS Q484, RH MS R490, RH MS R491)

Loanda Augustina Lake Warren diaries, 1879-1880, 1884, 1893-1895 (RH MS 1545)

Arthur Jellison photograph collection, 1927-1964 (RH PH 559)

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

Student Spotlight: Mileiny Hermosillo

November 9th, 2021

This is the first installment in a new series of posts introducing readers to student employees who make important contributions to the work of Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features student assistant Mileiny Hermosillo, who started working in Spencer’s manuscript processing unit in Fall 2018. Mileiny is an undergraduate majoring in English with a minor in business; she is graduating from KU in December 2021.

Young woman sitting at a table and holding up a sepia-toned headshot photograph of a woman in profile.
Manuscripts processing student assistant Mileiny Hermosillo working with glass plate negatives, Spring 2021. Click image to enlarge.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

My job as a manuscript processor involves getting collections ready for researchers to use and creating finding aids so researchers can access the information.

Why did you want to work at Spencer Research Library?

During high school I worked at a public library as a page and, later, a circulation manager. I loved the atmosphere (especially the quietness), but my favorite aspect of the job was the organizational element. When the day was slow, I would head over to the shelves and alphabetize books. It was a fun way to explore the library’s selection of books and discover titles I never would have thought of reading.

When I was searching for a job at KU, I sought out library positions because of my experience. The role of a manuscript processor seemed intriguing. I genuinely did not know what type of materials I would be working with, but it turned out to be an amazing experience.

What has been most interesting to you about your work? 

Every project is like a puzzle, especially the larger collections. At the start of each project, it is hard to see the connections. With each document and photograph I slowly understand the intricate details of an artist’s work or the special moments of a person’s life. I feel a connection to each project because I catch a glimpse of past personal lives and experiences.

What part of your job do you like best?

One of the most satisfying parts about my job is completing a collection project and feeling invested in the final results. One of my favorite projects was collaborating with a staff member on the Leonard Hollmann photograph collection. I sorted through over a thousand cabinet cards and stereoviews (also known as stereographs) of towns, settlements, and people across Kansas. It was such a large collection that it took me two semesters to finish! Later I got a chance to help put some of the photos on exhibit in a temporary display case in the North Gallery. Seeing each photograph was like seeing an old friend.

Young woman standing behind a large table covered with stacks of stereoviews, which are turned upside down.
Mileiny sorted thousands of cabinet cards and stereoviews by photographer name for a collections project in February 2019. Here are the sorted stereoviews! Click image to enlarge.

What piece of advice would you offer other students thinking about working at Spencer Research Library?

I recommend applying because getting to work with the collections is rewarding. I get to process photographs from photography studios, documents of people’s personal lives, and even records of KU professors. Working at Spencer does not seem like a job. It is a place to discover stories from KU, Kansas, and the Midwest.

Mileiny Hermosillo
Manuscripts Processing Student Assistant

Manuscript of the Month: Manuscript Waste Not, or a Case in Fragmentology

August 31st, 2021

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 9/2:31 is one of the fragments in the “Paleographical Teaching Set” that was gradually put together in the second half of the twentieth century for facilitating teaching and learning of Greek and Latin paleography at the University of Kansas. We do not have any information about the origin or the history of the fragment, and the Latin text it contains had not been identified until now (no surprise, perhaps, given the largely illegible and mutilated nature of the parchment). The manuscript has been known at the Spencer Library as the “gaudio fragment.” The reason for this is that the word “gaudio” [joy], which is repeated twice on one side of the fragment, is one of the few easily legible words. Without the identification of the text it contains, this became a practical way to refer to MS 9/2:31.

Careful investigation now has revealed that MS 9/2:31 contains part of the first chapter of the first book of the De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor [Four Books on Ecclesiastical Offices] by Amalarius of Metz (approximately 780–850). Amalarius was employed at the courts of both Charlemagne (748–814) and his son and successor Louis the Pious (778–840). He was the bishop of Trier (812–813) and Lyon (835–838), and in 813 was sent as the Frankish ambassador to the Byzantine Empire, to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey). Written between the years 820 and 832, the De ecclesiasticis officiis was dedicated to Louis the Pious.

Picture of a manuscript fragment from from Amalarius of Metz's De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor used as a comb spine binding (recto side, formerly designated as verso), Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31.
Amalarius of Metz, De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor. Recto side, formerly designated as verso. Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31. Click image to enlarge.
Picture of a manuscript fragment from from Amalarius of Metz's De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor used as a comb spine binding (verso side, formerly designated as recto), Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31
Amalarius of Metz, De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor. Verso side, formerly designated as recto. Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31. Click image to enlarge.

Since the text was previously unidentified, the sides of MS 9/2:31 were also misattributed, with the text beginning on what is thought to be the verso side and continuing some fifteen lines later on the other side. As it stands, MS 9/2:31 is less than half of the original leaf. It measures approximately 100 x 170 mm, with 12 lines of text remaining, of which only 2 lines are fully visible on each side. Although the fragment contains an early witness to the De ecclesiasticis officiis by Amalarius of Metz, its later use as a binding component is more interesting for book history.

The peculiar shape of MS 9/2:31 is due to the fact that it was repurposed at some point in its later history; the leaf was cut to shape and used as a spine lining of another codex. It was then detached from this codex before it was incorporated into the collections of the Spencer Library. Until recently, it was common for repurposed fragments to be removed from their bindings, either by booksellers or by the holding institutions, and to be inventoried (or sold) separately. There are annotations in pencil in a modern hand in the lower margin of the recto side of MS 9/2:31: “Dutch,” or more likely “Deutsch [German]” and “17th cent.” This inscription probably refers to the codex from which the fragment came, perhaps a manuscript written (or a book printed) in the seventeenth century in Germany (or the Netherlands). This specific type of lining is called comb spine lining, which takes its name from its appearance of a comb with wide teeth due to the slots along one of the edges of the parchment.

Reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 as a comb spine lining.
Reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 as a comb spine lining. Click image to enlarge.

As a comb spine lining, MS 9/2:31 would have been used vertically and it would have had another tooth, which is now missing, as seen in the reconstruction above. Furthermore, it probably had a counterpart as comb spine linings usually consist of two parchment (rarely paper) parts. A similar example of a comb spine lining, also detached from the codex in which it was found, is Cambridge, Trinity College, R.11.2/21. In this case, both parts of the lining survive, and not only that, they are made from the same leaf. So, it is more than likely that the other half of the original leaf of MS 9/2:31 was used as its counterpart in the comb spine lining.

Image of a a reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 employed as a comb spine lining inside a codex.
Reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 employed as a comb spine lining inside a codex. Click image to enlarge.

In the codex, the teeth of the two parts of the comb spine lining would have lain over each other in the spine panel. The outer halves of each lining (the parts that are not slotted), which are called lining extensions, probably would have been adhered to the inside of the boards of the codex. From this reconstruction we can tell that the codex for which the spine lining was used was approximately 170 mm in height and had four sewing supports, which would have corresponded to the empty slots created by the teeth of the spine lining. Comb spine linings were used from the later Middle Ages onwards in continental Europe, most notably in Germany, Italy and France. The survival of fragments such as MS 9/2:31 is significant not only because of the texts they contain; they also enable scholars to study and understand medieval and early modern book structures, and in some cases localize and date manuscripts. Although often called “manuscript waste” in scholarship because the original manuscripts were discarded for whatever reason, these repurposed fragments clearly did not go to waste and there is still much we can learn from them.

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: Her Book, Written by Her Own Hand

July 27th, 2021

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 C66 contains a copy of a translation from Latin into Italian of the De theologia mystica [On Mystical Theology], also known by its opening words, the Viae Syon lugent [The Ways of Zion Mourn], along with two much shorter tracts added later. Composed sometime in the second half of the thirteenth century, the exact date of the De theologia mystica in Latin is unknown. Furthermore, its authorship has been subject to debate. In some medieval manuscripts, it is attributed to St Bonaventure, a thirteenth-century Franciscan scholar; however, this is generally accepted to be false. More recently, scholars have argued that the work was composed by Hugh of Balma. Yet, his identity has also been debated. He is now thought to be the same Hugh who was the Prior of the Charterhouse of Meyriat, a Carthusian monastery in Vieu-d’Izenave, France, between 1289 and 1304. The translation into Italian is thought to have been undertaken in or before 1367 by the Jesuit Domenico da Monticchiello. Not much information exists about Domenico either, but he is known also to have translated into Italian the Vita Christi [Life of Christ] by Ludolph of Saxony, another Carthusian scholar. The name of neither the author nor the translator is provided in the copy of the De theologia mystica as we have it in MS C66, where it is indicated only that the work was by a venerable friar of the Carthusian order.

Although Hugh of Balma and his De theologia mystica have received some scholarly attention in recent decades, including a full translation into English in 2002, its medieval Italian translation does not share the same fate. The most recent and the only modern edition is from the mid-nineteenth century, published as part of a series of editions of works by or associated with St Bonaventure. MS C66 was one of the two manuscripts that were used as primary witnesses to the text by Bartolomeo Sorio in this 1852 edition of the De theologia mystica. At the time, the manuscript was part of the collection of Domenico Turazza (1813 –1892), a renowned mathematician considered to be the founder of the School of Engineering at the University of Padua. In this edition, Sorio thanks Turazza for loaning the manuscript to him to study and prepare the edition (p. 54). A note Sorio wrote to Turazza, presumably when he returned the manuscript, is now bound together with the medieval manuscript as part of MS C66.

Image of the beginning of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 1r. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66.
Beginning of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 1r. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge. See the Digital Scriptorium record for MS C66 for additional images.

In his edition, Sorio relies heavily on MS C66, especially since the other manuscript he chose was lacking the second half of the work. Despite that, he does not provide much information on the manuscript itself. Although he mentions that the manuscript is dated and the scribe is named at the end of the text, he omits certain details, such as the name of the scribe, not only in his preface but also in the edition of the text. At the closing of the De theologia mystica in MS C66 on folio 81r, the scribe records when and where the manuscript was copied and her name:

Scrita nel monast[er]io de le done de Sa[n] Fra[n]çesco della crose de Vei[n]esia de lordene de S[an]c[t]a Chiara de hoserva[n]çia. Nelliani del n[ost]ro signor mis[er] Ih[es]u Chr[ist]o 1500 finito a di 3 deçe[m]brio. S[uor] Le? Bol?. E tu lezitore prega Dio p[er] el scritore. Amen. De s[uor] Lena […]. Sc[ri]to de sua mano.

Written in the women’s monastery of San Francesco della Croce in Venice of the observant order of St Clare. Finished in the 1500th year of our poor lord Jesus Christ on December 3. Sister Lena […]. And you, reader, pray God for the writer [scribe]. Amen. [The book] of sister Lena […]. Written by her own hand.

Thus, we know that the manuscript was completed on December 3 in the year 1500 in Venice, Italy. Not only that; according to the colophon, MS C66 was copied in a women’s monastery. Although Sorio only mentions that the manuscript was copied by a Clarist nun (“Monaca Clarissa,” p. 29), the nun who copied MS C66 wrote her name on it: sister Lena.

Image of the ending of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 81r (left), with the scribal colophon of Sister Lena.
Ending of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 81r (left), with the scribal colophon of Sister Lena. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge.

There is another significant, if a little peculiar, aspect of MS C66, which is made of paper. All the initials in the manuscript are cut and pasted from another paper manuscript! More than 200 initials that open each chapter of the De theologia mystica in MS C66 are carefully cut out and placed on the leaves. The initials are all in plain red, made in the same style and they all seem to have originated from a single book. Although Bernard Rosenthal, from whom the University of Kansas acquired the manuscript, wrote in his description that “the initials are painted on small paper slips which are glued into their proper position,” it is certain that these initials were not made for this manuscript but instead repurposed from another one. When the manuscript is examined with a fiberoptic light sheet, which is commonly used for the inspection of watermarks on paper, the text underneath the initials become more apparent. The pieces are too small, however, to identify the text of this other book. I have not noticed any misplaced initials but there are a few instances in which the letter I is pasted upside down. Yet, MS C66 is so meticulously prepared that even this seems like a deliberate choice by sister Lena.

Image of the opening of folios 28v and 29r with pasted in initials visible in Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian (MS C66).
Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian, folios 28v and 29r. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge.
Image of the text visible on the verso of the pasted in initials under transmitted light, in in Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian (MS C66)
Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian, folio 29r with transmitted light. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge.

From its contents to its production, MS C66 is an excellent example of the impact of monastic networks in the transmission of texts and knowledge in the Middle Ages. But there is more to it. In his recent book titled Women and the Circulation of Texts in Renaissance Italy, Brian Richardson provides Sister Lena (and MS C66) as an example for his discussion of women scribes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020, p. 101). Many texts from the Middle Ages survive anonymously; their authors are not known. This is also true for medieval manuscripts; we usually do not know who was the parchmenter or the papermaker, the scribe, the rubricator, the illuminator or the binder of a given manuscript. Often, there is a tendency to think that these occupations were assumed by men, and especially that texts were written and copied by men. More and more studies, however, now argue that this may have not been the case. Therefore, it is especially important to bring to light those examples in which one can demonstrate that a medieval manuscript was written and/or decorated by a woman, as is the case with MS C66.

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.

  • Edition of the De theologia mystica in Italian based on MS C66: La Teologia mistica attribuita a San Bonaventura, già volgarizzata prima del 1367 da frate Domenico da Montechiello Gesuato, testo di lingua citato dagli accademici della Crusca, ora tratto la prima volta dai Mss. Edited by Bartolomeo Sorio. Verona: Tipografia degli eredi di M. Moroni, 1852. 31-96. [open access]
  • Edition of the De theologia mystica in Latin and its translation into French: Théologie mystique. Edited and translated by Francis Ruello and Jeanne Barbet. 2 vols. Sources chrétiennes 408, 409. Paris: Éditions de Cerf, 1995. [KU Libraries]
  • Translation of the De theologia mystica from Latin into English: Jasper Hopkins. Hugh of Balma on Mystical Theology: A Translation and an Overview of His De Theologia Mystica. Minneapolis, MN: Arthur J. Banning Press, 2002. [open access]

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.