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.
In 1974, the University of Kansas Libraries acquired a remarkable collection of bound business manuscripts from the Orsetti family of Lucca, in present-day Tuscany, Italy. Containing 294 bound volumes; 84 individual, hand-drawn maps; and five boxes of unbound accounting and family records, the Rubinstein Collection, as it is now called, comprises a rich archive of business accounts and legal documents of the Orsetti family’s commercial enterprises of agriculture, real estate, and textiles, as well as personal expenses. The collection of account books, business letters, legal documents, and inventories spans the late 12th century to the early 19th century, with the heaviest concentration dating from the 16th to 18th centuries.
The Orsetti family originated in San Donnino di Marlia, a rural village located near the Tuscan city of Lucca, where they relocated at the beginning of the 15th century. Lucca was a center for silk production and trade. By the mid 17th century Orsetti family members owned the second-largest textile workshop in Lucca, with ninety-five looms. Their companies thrived in Italy, as well as in Germany and Eastern Europe, especially Poland. Their silk trading company, Filippo Orsetti e Compagnia, flourished between 1695 to at least 1744. As the silk market declined in the 18th century, the Orsetti liquidated those assets and focused on their land holdings. Other noble families acted similarly, transforming the ruling class of Lucca in the 18th century from a group of merchants into wealthy landowners.
The Orsetti family of merchants used the accepted practices of their time to record their business and personal expenses and revenues. In 1494, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar and mathematician, published his description of the Venetian double-entry accounting system, the treatise “About Accounts and Other Writings,” in Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita. Pacioli’s work was translated into many languages, and that the style of bookkeeping became standard practice across Europe. In many ways, his descriptions of double-entry accounting are still used today. Pacioli recommended different types of books for different accounting purposes, and that practice is reflected in the Rubinstein Collection and in this exhibit.
In addition to serving as an example of accounting practices in early modern Italy, the collection provides a rare opportunity to study bookbinding attributes from one family’s archive over centuries. From January to June 2022, I was awarded sabbatical leave to study the bindings in the Rubinstein Collection. A University of Kansas General Research Fund grant provided funds for raw materials to create bookbinding models to further understand how the books were constructed. Some of the models are also shared in this exhibit.
The Rubinstein Collection honors Joseph Rubinstein, the first curator of the Department of Special Collections at KU Libraries, from 1953 to 1963. After Rubinstein left KU he entered the rare book trade and was instrumental in helping the University of Kansas acquire the Orsetti family papers. Rubinstein died in 1973, while purchase negotiations were ongoing. When the Orsetti family papers finally came to Spencer Library the following year, the collection was named in honor of KU’s first special collections librarian.
The Kenneth Spencer Research Library holds a rare 14th century Korean Buddhist sutra (MS D23) titled, Dae Bangwangbul Hwaeomgyeong (The Sutra of Garland Flower of Great Square and Broad World of Buddha). The sutra is the 45th volume of the eightieth version of the Avatamsaka Sutra translated by Siksananda between 695 and 699 in the Tang dynasty (Eung-Chon Choi, 2003). It is mounted in accordion book format, a practice commonly seen in China, Japan, and Korea (Hsin-Chen Tsai, 2017).
The sutra’s structure consists of papers with a width of 101 cm and height of 26.7 cm that are joined by one seam every nine pages with a starch-based adhesive. The sutra has sixty-one pages of text comprising three chapters, and four pages on which is painted the frontispiece. The calligraphy and frontispiece are hand-painted in a metallic media, likely gold, where gold pigment is typically mixed with animal glue as the binding media (Hsin-Chem Tsai, 2017). The outer edges of the text block are also decorated in gold. The heads, chest, and hands of the three Buddhas in the frontispiece are further enhanced with cream, red, blue, and black opaque paint. The verso of the sutra is blank except for inscriptions along the seam of each join labeling each section.
There are four different papers observed throughout the sutra. The text block of the sutra is a double layer of dark blue dyed paper, likely indigo, that is highly burnished. The paper used on the verso of the frontispiece, back cover, and adjacent pages is a different laminated indigo paper. It is not burnished, and the indigo has prominent brush strokes (see Image 2). The paper cover has a white paper core consisting of a few sheets laminated together and is covered with a thin, blue paper. The front cover is decorated with flakes of gold leaf while the back blue paper cover is blank. Fiber identification characterized the furnish (fiber content) of these papers as a paper mulberry or a paper mulberry mixture with either mitsumata or gampi. These fibers are consistent with the known furnish of papers from this period and region.
According to Goryeo dynasty: Korea’s age of enlightenment, 918-1392, the following volumes from this set of Avatamsaka Sutra are extant and share the same style of calligraphy, treatment of the frontispiece, and cover design: Vol. 1 (private collection in Japan), Vol. 4 (Tokugawa Art Museum), Vols. 35 and 36 (Yamato Bunkakan), Vol. 42 (Tsaian-ji, Kobe), and Vol. 78 (The Cleveland Museum of Art).
The sutra had several structural issues (weak folds, insect damage, old mends that were detaching) and was a priority for examination and treatment to stabilize it for future use. With great thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and its support of a Collaborative Conservation Initiative at KU, there was allocated funding to host a visiting conservator to complete a special week-long project during the grant period. We reached out to Minah Song, a conservator in private practice in the Washington D.C. area, to advise on the development of a treatment plan for this rare object. Read more about Minah’s entire Visiting Conservator Project in the blog post written by Special Collections Conservator, Angela Andres.
After the sutra was examined and the condition issues prioritized, we shared our observations and treatment plan with Elspeth Healey, special collections librarian, who authorized the treatment. Our plan included addressing all necessary mending needs first. If we could tone a good matching paper, then we would also address the most visually distracting mends and overlays to reintegrate the paper margins of the sutra. We toned handmade Korean paper (hanji) using High Flow Golden acrylic paint (indigo/anthraquinone) and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Synchromatic Transparent watercolor (black) diluted with deionized water to mix various blue tones and achieve a good match with the sutra’s burnished indigo paper. The mixture was brush-applied to the hanji and the paper was hung to dry completely.
Once the paper was toned, we removed old mends across worm holes that were loose and detaching. We used the new mending paper to reinforce weak fold creases and replace old mends, as needed, and reattached the seams that were coming loose. The treatment overall was kept as minimal as possible with the primary goal of stabilization so that the sutra could be safely handled. Once the new mends and infills were attached with wheat starch paste, some were locally inpainted with Schminke watercolors to match the sutra’s paper tone more closely.
The conservation treatment of the sutra is now complete. The new mends have better visual integration with the object and allow for the sutra to be safely handled. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Minah Song for her guidance and expertise on this important project. We would also like to thank Dr. Brian Atkinson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of the Division of Paleobotany at the Biodiversity Institute for the use of his microscope to complete fiber identification. Finally, we would like to thank the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for enabling this collaboration.
 The final section is only five pages long, including the cover, and is 55.8 cm wide. Adhesive was tested with an iodine indicator. The adhesive is likely wheat or rice starch paste.
Baker, Whitney. June 18, 2003. Condition Examination. The Kenneth Spencer Research Library. The University of Kansas Libraries.
Choi, Eung-Chon, and Kumja Paik Kim. 2003. Goryeo dynasty: Korea’s age of enlightenment, 918-1392 ; [in conjunction with the Exhibition Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment, 918-1392, which was organized by the Asian Art Museum – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture, San Francisco, October 18, 2003 through January 11, 2004]. San Francisco, Calif: Asian Art Museum: 126-7.
What in carnation?!It’s the sixth-annual Color Our Collections week! Started by the New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016, Color Our Collections is a week of coloring fun where libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world share coloring pages that feature their collection materials.
All of us at KU Libraries are head clover heels for our newest submission! This year’s coloring book celebrates plants with a selection of woodcut prints from Herbarius Latinus, a fifteenth-century herbal housed at Spencer Research Library. You can download and print the book via the Color Our Collections website. While you are there, be sure to check out the submissions from our colleagues at other institutions (as if you need any encourage-mint)!
As a preview, here are three pages from the book. Click on the images to enlarge them.
Are you a fan of the collections at Spencer? Do you be-leafyou’ve come across an image in our materials that would make a great coloring page? Take the thyme to tell us about it in the comments or email us at email@example.com.
Here’s wishing you all some peas and quiet and time to relax with our newest coloring creation! Happy coloring, everyone!
In October, thanks to the efforts of Mellon Initiative conservator Jacinta Johnson, we realized a long-held dream of hosting a visiting conservator in our lab. Since we moved into this space three and a half years ago, we have been excited about the possibilities our new facility affords – from holding workshops to accommodating researchers, and much more. Of course, we’d barely gotten settled when the pandemic emerged and put these plans on hold. After a period of remote work, followed by returning to work full-time in the lab and getting accustomed to working within covid restrictions, we were ready to take the step of inviting an outside colleague to work with us for a week.
Tag ikke cialis til personer med høj eksuel aktivitet. For eksempel rigelige måltider eller var over ejakulation og styrkelse af de følelsesmæssige og fysiske fornemmelser af orgasme.
The grant that supports Jacinta’s work here at Spencer Research Library (SRL) and across Marvin Grove at the Spencer Museum of Art (SMA) includes funding to bring in visiting conservators to work on collections that have been identified as needing special attention. Jacinta arranged for Minah Song, a conservator working in private practice in the Washington, D.C. area, to spend a whole week in the lab. Much of Minah’s time here was spent working with Jacinta to examine, document, and explore treatment options for a rare Korean sutra housed in our special collections (MS D23). Minah also delivered a public lecture on the history and technology of Asian papermaking and its uses for conservation and held an information session on care and handling of Asian materials for SRL and SMA staff. In addition, Minah generously agreed to teach three mini-workshops for conservation lab staff and student employees. After such a long period of isolation and distancing, it was wonderful to interact with another conservator, step away from our routines, and learn something new.
For the first mini-workshop, Minah demonstrated friction drying, a method for flattening papers that may be sensitive to moisture or otherwise difficult to flatten, such as tracing paper. Jacinta has been treating drawings on tracing paper from the Mary Huntoon collections at both the SMA and SRL; she and Minah used two of these works to show how friction drying works. The drawings were first humidified in a Gore-Tex® stack, which allows water vapor to gently humidify the objects without direct contact with liquid water. Next the drawings were sandwiched between two sheets of lightly dampened mulberry paper and dried in a blotter stack under pressure for about a week. The process may need to be repeated for very stubborn creases. This method is a great, low-impact option for flattening notoriously fickle tracing paper.
In the next mini-workshop we learned how to do a double-sided lining for very brittle paper items, a technique that Minah perfected when she treated a large collection of fire-damaged documents. While this method should be considered a last option due the difficulty of fully reversing it, it can provide surprising stability for severely weakened papers while still allowing the text or images to be seen. (We used discarded newspaper clippings to practice on.) In this method, very thin kozo tissue is adhered to both sides of the item by applying very dilute wheat starch paste through a layer of Hollytex®, a nonwoven polyester material. The lined object is partially air-dried with the Hollytex® still attached, then dried in a stack overnight, at which point the Hollytex® is removed, and the object returned to the stack to fully dry. We were all surprised by the relative simplicity of the process, considering the fragility of the materials involved, and the results were impressive.
For our final mini-workshop, we had the chance to experiment with several types of pre-coated, solvent-set repair tissues. Pre-coated repair tissues usually consist of a thin kozo paper to which a layer of adhesive has been applied and allowed to dry. The coated paper can then be cut to size, reactivated with some type of solvent (usually water or ethanol), and applied to a tear to create a mend. We already use a pre-coated repair tissue prepared with a mixture of wheat starch paste and methycellulose, which is reactivated with water and serves as a good all-purpose repair material. But Minah demonstrated other types of pre-coated papers that offer other possible applications: tissue coated in Klucel™ M and reactivated with ethanol is a good option for documents containing iron gall inks or other water-sensitive media, and tissue coated with Aquazol®, reactivated with water, and set with a heated tacking iron can be an efficient choice for projects with a high volume of needed repairs, tight time constraints, or both.
We all greatly enjoyed our week working with and alongside Minah, getting to know her, and benefitting from her willingness to share her time and expertise with us. We now have a new conservation friend, and a wealth of new knowledge to bring to our work on KU’s collections.
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.
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.
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.
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
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