Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Meet the KSRL Staff: N. Kıvılcım Yavuz

October 22nd, 2019

Today’s profile features N. Kıvılcım Yavuz, who joined the Spencer Research Library in September as Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher.

Photograph of N. Kivilcim Yavuz in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's Reading Room with MS E71 (a manuscript copy of Vergil's Aeneid, Italy, circa the early 1400s)

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz in Spencer Research Library’s Reading Room with MS E71.

Where are you from?

I was born in Turkey and grew up there, but I spent the past eight years in the United Kingdom and Denmark, doing a PhD in Medieval Studies and working at the Universities of Leeds and Copenhagen before moving to Lawrence, KS and starting work at the Spencer Research Library this past September.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I am the first Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher of the Spencer Research Library. The position was created thanks to an endowment by Alexandra Mason, former Spencer Librarian, in honor of Ann Hyde, former Manuscripts Librarian at Spencer who specialized in medieval manuscripts. I work with the two Special Collections librarians Elspeth Healey and Karen Cook and my job entails making medieval and early modern manuscripts more accessible to the wider scholarly community and the public by conducting research and creating detailed catalog records as well as enhancing the visibility of the excellent special collections we have here, especially through digital means, social media and other outreach activities.

How did you come to work in special collections and archives?

My background is in Comparative Literature and I have always been interested in the concept of rewriting and repurposing of old stories in new contexts. I discovered the world of manuscripts during my master’s in Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds and did my thesis on two fifteenth-century historical roll manuscripts. It was an amazing experience to work on manuscripts that hardly anyone had looked at in the last century. My work with manuscripts continued with my PhD studies, also at Leeds. It was then that I came to understand even more fully the central importance of the material context of the text, and that every time a text is copied it became a new work. It was impressed on me that when looking at handwritten materials we need to change our modern expectations about a text being fixed and having a fixed meaning. Only in this way can we appreciate the scribal practices and the mindset of the medieval and early modern scribes and compilers. During visits to manuscript archives such as the National Library of France and the Vatican Library, I developed a deep appreciation not only about manuscripts themselves but also about collection development and conservation practices. I became more and more interested in how manuscripts were put together and used over time and how they travelled from one place to the other, changing hands across centuries. I also noticed how difficult it is to access information about manuscripts, because catalog information was incomplete or inaccurate, was stored in different places, or had not been recorded at all. Since I completed my doctoral studies, I have been conducting research exclusively on manuscripts in special collections and archives in Europe and most of this work is geared towards making these manuscripts better known and more accessible. I am so happy now that I have the opportunity to work at a US institution, because the ways in which European manuscripts travelled across the ocean and the people involved in their travels are an interesting research area in itself and we do not know enough about it.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

The medieval and early modern manuscripts at Spencer as a whole are exceptionally interesting as they reflect the collection building efforts by the former librarians of the University of Kansas, especially during the middle decades of the last century. My specialty is in the reception of the Trojan War in the Middle Ages and I am especially interested in the history of the book, so if I had to pick one item, I would have to go with MS E71, which contains an incomplete copy of Vergil’s Aeneid.

A poem about the story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy after the fall of Troy and who is considered to be the ancestor of the Romans, Vergil’s Aeneid was probably the most read and most consulted classical work throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. This means that we still have surviving copies of this work by the hundreds if not the thousands. Until recently, most scholarly research was focused on early copies of texts, so this manuscript, which contains a copy from the beginning of the fifteenth century of a text that was written in the first century BCE, would not have been considered significant. What is more is that it is defective so it does not even contain the entirety of the text! But the state of the manuscript as we have it reflects a rich history of reading, writing and ownership in the past five hundred years. Its pages are full of annotations by different hands which reflect the interests of the readers and users of this handwritten book at particular points in time.

The history of the manuscript, which probably originates from Italy, is also significant. MS E71 is part of a larger gift from Robert T. Aitchison (1887-1964), along with 42 printed editions of Vergil’s works. A native Kansan, Aitchison was an artist and a book collector, and served as the president and director of the Kansas Historical Society among other things. Formerly, the manuscript belonged to Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872), who owned the largest collection of handwritten material in the nineteenth century and who is recorded to have said that he wanted to own one of every book in the world. This is all to say that there are great things to discover and sometimes, the real gems are not the shiniest ones.

Bookplate of Robert T. Aitchison in the middle of the front pastedown of MS E71 (a manuscript copy of Vergil's Aeneid). The ticket of the binder, George Bretherton, is also visible on the top left corner indicating that the current binding had been done for Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1847. Sir Thomas Phillipps’s handwritten note on the recto of the first leaf of this manuscript copy of Vergil's Aeneid,MS E71 (“Phillipps MS 12281”) along with other annotations on the text by different previous hands.

Image 1 Bookplate of Robert T. Aitchison in the middle of the front pastedown of MS E71 (a manuscript copy of Vergil’s Aeneid. Italy, early 1400s). The ticket of the binder, George Bretherton, is also visible on the top left corner indicating that the current binding had been done for Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1847. Click image to enlarge.

Image 2 Sir Thomas Phillipps’s handwritten note on the recto of the first leaf of MS E71 (“Phillipps MS 12281”) along with other annotations on the text by different previous hands. Click image to enlarge.

What part of your job do you like best?

I enjoy discovering new, previously unnoticed things in manuscripts. In the past decades the interest in manuscripts solely as carrier of texts has shifted. We now know that there is more to discover when looking at handwritten artifacts: what is it made of, how was it made, what kind of processes it went through, what kind of materials was used, where did the materials come from, who was involved in the making, who was it made for, how much did it cost, what was the purpose of it, who read it over the years, who owned it until it became part of its current collection and so on. So much to discover that makes manuscripts into living creatures and not merely the carriers of texts!

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I love cooking and gardening. I also like visiting new places and meeting new people, even though I find the airline travel tedious. Every year, I try to go to a place I have never been before; often this involves a visit to a new library. For example, last year I taught at a summer school in Reykjavik (Iceland) and consulted manuscripts in Milan (Italy) and Stuttgart (Germany) and earlier this year I vacationed in Marrakesh (Morocco) and taught a class and looked at manuscripts at the University Library in Leipzig (Germany).

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Just remember that we are here to help. Do not hesitate to ask questions. If you are working on primary sources, let the manuscripts guide your research. Keep an open mind and you never know what unexpected thing you will find!

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Treatment and Rebinding of MS E279 – Part 1

October 8th, 2019

In today’s post I will describe the preparation for and early stages of conservation treatment on MS E279, or Historia flagellantium…De recto et perverso flagrorum usu apud Christianos…Ex antiquis Scripturæ, patrum, pontificum, conciliorum, & scriptorum profanorum monumentis cum curâ & fide expressa, by Jacques Boileau. This volume is the manuscript, dated 1691 and with annotations in the author’s own hand, for the printed version of the same title published in 1700. Spencer also holds a copy of the printed edition at Summerfield B2655.

Damaged cover of MS E279, Historia flagellantium..., prior to conservation treatment.
Damaged cover of MS E279, Historia flagellantium prior to conservation treatment. Click image to enlarge.

The upper third of this volume suffered significant water damage at some time in the past, and mold growth that probably resulted from the water exposure has caused weakness and losses in the paper throughout the upper portion of the volume. The boards are also extremely weak and soft. Because the binding is not contemporary to the text, the curator agreed to a treatment plan that includes disbinding the volume, mending and stabilizing the damaged areas, and placing the text in a new conservation paper case similar to this one.

Because Spencer holds both the manuscript and printed versions of this text, I pulled the later volume from the stacks in order to compare the two. While not strictly necessary to the conservation treatment of the manuscript, it is nonetheless just so interesting to see this text at two different stages in its creation – and one never knows when related material might reveal something about the item being treated. Just for fun, here are the title pages and first chapter headings from each version:

Side-by-side comparison of the title pages of both the manuscript and printed version of Jacques Boileau's "Historia flagellantium..."
Side-by-side comparison of the title pages of both the 1691 manuscript and 1700 printed version of Jacques Boileau’s Historia flagellantium. Click images to enlarge.
Side-by-side comparison of the first chapter headings of both the manuscript and printed version of Jacques Boileau's "Historia flagellantium..."
Side-by-side comparison of the first chapter headings of both the manuscript and printed version of Jacques Boileau’s Historia flagellantium. Click images to enlarge.

This treatment is in the early stages. I have documented its condition in both writing and photographs, gently cleaned mold spots with soft sponges and brushes (working in our special biosafety cabinet to protect both staff and collections from mold exposure), and begun the process of taking apart the binding. The next steps of mending, preparation for sewing, and binding will happen over the coming weeks, with updates here on the blog!

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services

¡Misterio resuelto! Funeral de Bernardo Soto Alfaro, ex presidente de Costa Rica (1885-1889) / Mystery Solved! The Funeral of Bernardo Soto Alfaro, Former President of Costa Rica (1885-1889)

September 17th, 2019

En esta ocasión es importante agradecer a las redes sociales que han sido de gran importancia para resolver el caso que se antepuso al equipo de la Biblioteca para la Investigación Kenneth Spencer. El blog, Facebook e Instagram hicieron posible que el álbum costarricense (MS K35) pueda quedarse y ser parte de la colección especial de la biblioteca. Como consecuencia, ahora los investigadores especializados en Latinoamérica, específicamente en Costa Rica, pueden acceder a la historia y/o al aspecto fotográfico del país.

Image from photograph album depicting the funeral of Costa Rican president Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Call number MS K35, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
Feretro acompañado del cuerpo militar en un espacio privado / Casket accompanied by military officials in a private space. Click image to enlarge.

Como se indicó en este mismo blog de la biblioteca, el miércoles 3 de abril de este mismo año, a su llegada se creía que el álbum costarricense documentaba el funeral del ex presidente costarricense Federico Tinoco Granados. La información con la que en ese momento se contaba era un pequeño documento incluido en el álbum, el cual indica el lugar de compra y el supuesto contenido: “Bot in lit El Erial Oct 1980. Reported to be pictures of funeral of Tinoco 1919” (Comprado en la librería El Erial Oct 1980. Se dice que se trata del funeral de Tinoco 1919). Después de un análisis detallado en las fotografías, y de encontrar pistas suficientes para descartar la posibilidad de tal personaje político, buscamos más información sobre de quién podría tratarse. Varios eran los posibles candidatos, pero al publicarse el blog de la biblioteca se halló la respuesta. Hoy en día se tiene la certeza de que las 23 fotografías en blanco y negro, tomadas por el fotógrafo Manuel Gómez Miralles, documentan la despedida oficial que se le da a Ramón Bernardo Soto Alfaro en enero de 1931. A quien también se le conoce como General don Bernardo y quien fue presidente de Costa Rica durante dos mandatos (1885 & 1886-1890). Entre sus muchas actividades políticas, Soto Alfaro fue el fundador de la Cruz Roja Costarricense como parte de sus preparativos ante la campaña militar invasiva del Presidente guatemalteco Justo Rufino Barrios (1885).

Image from photograph album depicting the funeral of Costa Rican president Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Call number MS K35, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
Feretro fuera de la Catedral Metropolitana de San Jose / Casket outside the Catedral Metropolitana de San José. Click image to enlarge.

Las imágenes en el álbum, que han sido colocadas en un orden aparentemente cronológico, pueden verse divididas en dos categorías. Por un lado, las hay en un espacio público, donde vemos la conglomeración del pueblo y por otro se tiene el privado en donde vemos el orden militar que no fue abolido hasta 1948. El cuerpo militar en las imágenes está siempre presente, pero en espacios más privados y enfatizando la oficialidad del evento y por lo tanto de las fotografías. Con seguridad, si se tiene el conocimiento requerido, por las tomas directas de la cámara, algunos personajes políticos o del cuerpo militar podrían reconocerse. En cuanto a contenido, hasta este momento de lo único que se tiene certeza es de quién y que se celebra, pero no cabe duda de que hay mucho más que decir.

Image from photograph album depicting the funeral of Costa Rican president Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Call number MS K35, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
Cortejo Fúnebre a las afuera de la Catedral Metropolitana de San José / Funeral cortège outside the Catedral Metropolitana de San José. Click image to enlarge.

Debemos por lo tanto agradecer a Adrián Cortez Castro, quien, inmediatamente después de publicado el blog, nos proveyó el nombre de Soto Alfaro y la fecha de su fallecimiento. A la directora de la Biblioteca Nacional de Costa Rica Laura Rodríguez Amador, quien nos hizo el favor de confirmar por medio de la biblioteca digital la noticia publicada en Correo Nacional: diario de la mañana. A Rocío Fernández del Museo Nacional de Costa Rica y al especialista en la fotografía de Gómez Miralles, Gerardo Bolaños, quienes nos corroboraron la identidad del fallecido. Así mismo, nos proporcionaron la biografía de Gómez Miralles y del General don Bernardo. Gracias a la grata y amable cooperación de todos ellos el álbum MS K35 está formalmente disponible para todo aquel interesado de conocer más sobre la historia de Costa Rica.

Image from photograph album depicting the funeral of Costa Rican president Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Call number MS K35, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
Carruaje Fúnebre / Funeral cortège. Click image to enlarge.

We are happy to report that social media has been an important tool to help us solve the mystery of the Costa Rican album (MS K35). With the help of Facebook, Instagram, and the blog we have been able to share MS K35 housed in Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s special collections. Now, scholars dedicated to the study of Latin American, specifically Costa Rica, are able to access this contribution to the history and photographic material of the county.

Image from photograph album depicting the funeral of Costa Rican president Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Call number MS K35, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
Carruaje Fúnebre y público ciudadano / Funeral cortège with local citizens. Click image to enlarge.

As reported in our first blog entry (3 April 2019), tucked into the album was a note that read, “Bot in lib El Erial Oct 1980. Reported to be pictures of funeral of Federico Tinoco 1919.” However since Federico Tinoco, a former president of Costa Rica, died in exile in Paris in 1931, we knew this information couldn’t be correct. A detailed analysis of the album’s photos also suggested that it could not be the funeral of Tinoco’s brother, José, the Costa Rican Minister of War, who was murdered on August 10, 1919, so we continued a thorough search to find an accurate identity. There were many candidates to consider. Thankfully, a response to the previous blog entry provided us with the answer. We now know that the twenty-three black and white photographs taken by Manuel Gómez Miralles document the official memorial service of Ramón Bernardo Soto Alfaro in January 1931. Known as General Don Bernardo, this former two-term president of Costa Rica (1885 and 1886-1890) was also the founder of the Costa Rican Red Cross in 1885, as part of his preparations against a military invasion by Guatemalan President Justo Rufino Barrios.

Image from photograph album depicting the funeral of Costa Rican president Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Call number MS K35, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
Feretro dentro de la Catedral Metropolitana de San José / Casket inside the Catedral Metropolitana de San José. Click image to enlarge.

The album’s images, which appear to be arranged chronologically, are divided into two main categories. The first images depict a crowded public space and later ones depict the military, which was not abolished in Costa Rica until 1948. In these images the military is always present, emphasizing the official nature of the event and of the photographs themselves. If we closely examine the images, we might recognize certain politicians and military officials, as the photographer took direct shots, positioning the camera on the faces of the political officials and military groups. 

Image from photograph album depicting the funeral of Costa Rican president Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Call number MS K35, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries
Discurso por personaje diplomatico en conmemoración a Bernardo Soto Alfaro / Diplomatic figure making a speech in honor of Bernardo Soto Alfaro. Click image to enlarge.

We would like to publicly acknowledge the assistance of Adrián Cortez Castro for his identification of Soto Alfaro (who had been one of our potential candidates). In response to the blog post, he was able to provide the exact date of Soto Alfaro’s death and a key reference to newspaper coverage of the funeral. We also wish to express our gratitude to Laura Rodríguez Amador, director of the National Library of Costa Rica, who provided a digital issue of the Correo Nacional: diario de la mañana to confirm Soto Alfaro’s identity. Additionally, we extend thanks to Rocío Fernández from the National Museum of Costa Rica, and Gerardo Bolaños, an expert on the photography of Gómez Miralles, who corroborated the identity of the deceased and provided the biographies of Gómez Miralles and General Don Bernardo. Thanks to the power of social media and the welcome and collegial cooperation of these individuals, the mystery of MS K35 is now solved. The album is available for research to anyone interested in learning more about Costa Rica and its history.

Indira García Varela
Student Assistant
Spanish- and Portguese-Language Materials Preservation Project

Meet the KSRL Staff: Elspeth Healey

July 23rd, 2019

This is the latest installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Elspeth Healey, who joined the Spencer Research Library in 2011 as a special collections librarian. 

Where are you from?
I was born in the U.S., but I grew up in Toronto, Canada. From time to time, I’ll have a student come up to me after a class session and say “where are you from?” I have lived in the U. S. since college–so more than half of my life–but sometimes that Canadian accent still shines through!

Elspeth Healey in Spencer Library's North Gallery

Elspeth Healey, Special Collections Librarian, in Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery. Click image to enlarge.

What does your job at Spencer entail?
With my colleague Karen Cook, I am one of two special collections librarians. My curatorial responsibilities include materials for the Americas, including Latin America, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. In addition to building Spencer’s collections by working with donors and booksellers, I collaborate with cataloging and conservation to make the library’s collections accessible, lead instruction sessions, engage in outreach (through events, blog posts, exhibitions, etc.), answer reference queries for researchers on and off site, and contribute to digital projects.

How did you come to work in special collections and archives?
As an undergraduate, I had worked in the preservation department of my university’s special collections library, making mylar wrappers, drop-spine boxes, and other protective enclosures. I was fascinated by the variety of books that would come across my work bench, from 20th century poetry and plays to 18th century mathematical treatises. Later, as I was researching my dissertation in English literature, I came to realize that the moments that excited me most were those spent conducting archival research. I was energized not only by the materials I examined that related to my specific project, but I also enjoyed encountering materials that related to the projects of friends and colleagues and would alert them to those materials. That is what this job is at its heart: helping to connect researchers (of all types) with the materials that have the potential to advance and transform their understanding of a particular question or subject. I applied to library school as I was finishing my dissertation, and attended a program where I had the opportunity to work 20-hours a week in a special collections library while taking the coursework for my MSIS (Master of Science in Information Studies) degree. I always advise those who want to enter the field that gaining hands-on experience working in a special collections library and archives is one of the most important things you can do in library school: it is what will help you secure a job following graduation, and it is what will enable you to determine if this is really what you want to do as a profession.

What is the strangest item you’ve come across in Spencer’s Collections?
There are so many strange and interesting things in Spencer’s collections. We have a three volume scrapbook containing rare ephemera for Astley’s Amphitheatre, which opened in London in the late 18th-century and was originally known for its equestrian spectacles and show riding. As it developed, it incorporated circus-type features alongside other types of performance, so it is often recognized as London’s first circus. The posters, flyers, clippings, and ephemera in the scrapbooks offer a fascinating record of its history, and we hope to feature them at greater length in a future blog post. Other unusual items that pop to mind include 1930s form rejection letters from a science fiction pulp magazine, early Don Quixote fan fiction, and locks of hair (a favorite 19th century keepsake). I love that each day I might come across some new intriguing item that I can then share with others.

Scrapbook page containing flyer for "The Amazing Exhibition of the little Conjuring Horse," Astley's New Entertainments.   Scrapbook page containing "Ducrow's First Appearance this Season" with picture of a man with one foot on the back of each of two horses, April 1831. Astley's Royal Amphitheatre

Image of scrapbook page containing a poster for Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, advertising a Grand Equestrian evening and events featuring Pablo Fanque, Young Hernandez, etc.  Poster for "Astley's on Thursday, November 6, 1845 ...Gala Night," with pictures of show riding along the exterior of the poster in Astley's Amphitheatre scrapbook, volume 3, p. 237

Posterbills for Astley’s performances and Astley’s Amphitheatre in Astley’s Amphitheatre scrapbooks. Posters shown are circa 1775-1847. Call Number: G126, volumes 1-3. Click on images to enlarge (it’s worth it!)

What part of your job do you like best?
See above! I relish connecting researchers–whether students, scholars, or members of the public–with materials that will open up new perspectives and avenues of inquiry.

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?
The usual things like reading, walking, movies, and travel, but I also love tracking down some of my favorite Canadian delicacies whenever I can: Nanaimo bars, butter tarts, poutine, and candy bars like Eat-more and Coffee Crisp. I’m still waiting for the day when they open a Tim Horton’s in Kansas… Lawrence certainly has much better (and less corporate) coffee and pastries, but some things just remind you of your youth…

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
Not everything is in the online catalog. We aspire to get it all there one day, but every special collections library holds materials that haven’t quite made it into the catalog yet for one reason or another. Accordingly it’s always worth speaking to the librarian who oversees the subject area in which you are conducting research to see if there might be materials you that have missed.

The other piece of advice is to enjoy the research process. Sometimes the thing that you came to the library to examine won’t end up being the thing that really captures your intellect and imagination. Instead, it will be a folder of letters you might come across in the box next to the manuscript you were seeking to examine. This unanticipated discovery may lead your project in a new direction. Embrace the serendipity that archival research permits!

 

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Conservation Housing: Medieval manuscripts

July 2nd, 2019

I am in the finishing-up stages of a very enjoyable project to rehouse a group of medieval manuscripts in the Special Collections. The Abbey Dore collection (currently cataloged as MS 191, but soon to be located at MS Q80) includes fifteen parchment manuscripts from the 13th century. Some of the documents have pendant seals attached, and all were housed in a slim manuscript case in folders fitted with polyester film supports inside.

Abbey Dore manuscript with seal before rehousing. MS Q80: 14.
Abbey Dore manuscript with seal before rehousing. MS Q80: 14.

While this system allowed the manuscripts to be stored upright in folders, which is certainly convenient, it is not the ideal situation for such documents. The polyester film has sharp edges that could potentially cause damage to the seals or documents, and some of the seals are heavy or broken and in need of better support. In discussions with curators and the manuscripts processing coordinator, we decided to rehouse the manuscripts in flat enclosures. The collection will now reside in three flat archival boxes, a challenge for the stacks manager who had to find the space to put them, but all agreed that flat storage would be best for these materials.

Because these documents have information on both recto and verso, the curators desired that researchers could view both sides with minimal handling of the fragile items. I made a mock-up enclosure that we looked at together, and after some troubleshooting we devised an enclosure with two mirror-image, soft Tyvek-lined cavities. This enclosure can be gently flipped over and opened from either side to view both sides of the document. Plastazote foam bumpers protect the seals from shifting, and each enclosure will be labeled with instructions for use.

Abbey Dore manuscript with seal after rehousing (recto). MS Q80: 14.
Abbey Dore manuscript with seal after rehousing (recto). MS Q80: 14.
Abbey Dore manuscript with seal after rehousing (verso). MS Q80: 14.
Abbey Dore manuscript with seal after rehousing (verso). MS Q80: 14.