Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Library: A first visit from Image Permanence Institute

November 14th, 2017

KU Libraries was recently awarded a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, under the Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program. The purpose of the grant is to work with an environmental consultant, Image Permanence Institute (IPI), to study the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in Spencer Research Library in order to better preserve our collections while also hopefully finding ways to save energy.

On October 23-25, 2017, we had our first visit from IPI consultants Christopher Cameron and Kelly Krish. The consultants met with the KU team, which consists of representation from Facilities Services, Campus Operations, Center for Sustainability, KU Libraries, Facilities Planning and Development, and the Department of English.

The first visit allowed the consultants to get a lay of the land: listening to participants’ concerns about the building’s environmental systems and collections issues, touring the spaces, and installing dataloggers to collect more information.

One of the first stops was the Spencer Library mechanical room. Facilities staff led the tour, pointing out how the system works, and, in particular, which parts have been most difficult to maintain.

In the mechanical room, Spencer Library, University of Kansas   In the mechanical room, Spencer Library, University of Kansas

Left: Entering Spencer Research Library’s mechanical room.
Right: Kelly Krish and Christopher Cameron in the supply air area, with filters to the left.

In the mechanical room, Spencer Library, University of Kansas

Facilities staff share energy data with IPI consultant Christopher Cameron.

The consultants also met separately with collections staff, walking the stacks and taking notes on anomalies in temperature and humidity, light, and other environmental issues. They asked many questions and took copious notes. They also used a handy infrared (IR) attachment to a smart phone in order to record hot and cold spots in the stacks. The IR images confirmed the ancedotal evidence that some of the vents aren’t functioning properly.

Consultants in stacks, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Kelly Krish and Christopher Cameron learn about environmental concerns in the stacks.

Consultant in stacks, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

IPI also used an infrared camera to locate hot and cold spots in the stacks areas.

After discussing problems with collections staff, Christopher, Kelly, and Head of Conservation, Whitney Baker, discussed where additional dataloggers should be placed in order to supplement five years of data from thirteen loggers already in Spencer Library. They added loggers into the air handling unit, vents, and in collections spaces not previously monitored in order to gain a better overall picture in the coming months of the climate in Spencer Library.

Man placing datalogger in vent, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Christopher Cameron placing a datalogger in the air stream.

Until they visit us again next spring, we will take monthly data readings for twenty-three loggers in the Spencer stacks, vents, and mechanical systems. We look forward to IPI’s return visit, when we examine the data from the first six months and discuss additional testing that may be undertaken at that time.

Whitney Baker, Head
Conservation Services

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Research Library” has been made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections.

 

How *do* you spell that?: Adventures in Spelling Reform

October 18th, 2017

The relationship between the pronunciation of English and its system of spelling (or orthography) is inconsistent at best. Cough and through or great and meat appear as though they should rhyme, but (alas!) do not. Other words are spelled identically, but are pronounced differently according to their meaning, for example, “bow and arrow” vs. “Congratulations! Take a bow.

Within the American context, Noah Webster is perhaps the figure best known for tackling spelling reform. At the end of his Dissertations on the English Language (1789), he includes an essay addressing this topic. In it, he appeals to national pride (in both the positive and negative senses of that phrase) and asks his readers a rather leading question:

…ought the Americans to retain these faults [in English spelling] which produce innumerable inconveniencies in the acquisition and use of the language, or ought they at once to reform these abuses, and introduce order and regularity into the orthography of the AMERICAN TONGUE?

The revolutionary sentiment of America’s recent War of Independence, it seems, animated Webster’s thinking on orthography as well.

Image of the first page of Noah Webster's "Appendix: An Essay on the Necessity, Advantages, and Praticability of Reforming the Mode of Spelling, and of Rendering the Orthography of Words Correspondent to the Pronunciation"

Laying out a revolution in an appendix: Noah Webster’s essay on spelling reform in his Dissertations on the English Language: with Notes, Historical and Critical, to Which Is Added, by Way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, with Dr. Franklin’s Arguments on That Subject. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Company, 1789. Call #: C1514. Click image to enlarge.

Webster’s  essay continues by proposing a series of relatively radical alterations. He advocates for 1) the omission of all superfluous or silent letters (changing bread to bred, give to giv, built to bilt, and so on),  2) the replacement of characters with vague or indeterminate sounds by characters with more clearly-defined ones (changing laugh to laf and key to kee), and 3) making a “trifling” alteration to a character in order to help differentiate between sounds (such as adding a “small stroke” across “th” to distinguish between the sounds in “thorn” and “mother”).

Image of a passage outlining Webster's second proposed reform to orthography

Machine vs. Masheen: a passage outlining the second of Noah Webster’s three proposed reforms to American orthography from page 395 of his Dissertations on the English Language […]. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Company, 1789. Call #: C1514

Although Webster did not ultimately adopt all of these proposals in his subsequent (and immensely popular) grammars and dictionaries, he did aid in establishing several changes that are still with us today. Americans now write of the defense of honor, but for the British, or even our Canadian neighbors (to them, neighbours!), it remains the defence of honour.  This national differentiation through orthography was something that Webster considered to be a point in favor of his proposed changes. Webster also argued that his reforms would “facilitate the learning of the language” for both children and non-native speakers alike. They would make it, he asserted in a memorable phrase, “as difficult to spell wrong, as it is now to spell right” (emphasis Webster’s).

Leap ahead 60 years and the Fonetic Advocat  (Phonetic Advocate) adopts an even more radical approach to spelling reform than that of Noah Webster. Published in “Sinsinati” (Cincinnati) in the mid-nineteenth century, the periodical announces in the phonetic spelling of its banner that it is “devoted to education by means of the spelling reform to literature, science and art.”

First page of the Fonetic Advocat for 15 May 1850, with its text in the English Phonotypic Alphabet.

Sound it out?  The front page of the Fonetic Advocat. Vol. II, No. 20 (May 15, 1850). Call #: MS P286C:1.
Click image to enlarge.

Its publisher, E. Longley, was the director of the American Phonetic Society. Longley championed the use of the English Phonotypic Alphabet, which had recently been developed in England by Isaac Pitman and Alexander John Ellis.  This phonetic alphabet predates and differs from the International Phonetic Alphabet now used by linguists to specify the sounds of spoken language.  Try your hand at reading Longley’s front-page proclamation. If you get stuck, click here to consult the phonetic alphabet chart included on the periodical’s next page.

The issue of the Fonetic Advocat shown above bears an interesting provenance. It once passed through the hands of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, yet another figure interested in spelling reform. Shaw was so concerned with the subject that he left a bequest to explore the establishment of an alternate phonetic alphabet. Interestingly, Shaw’s manuscript notation at the bottom the front page does not address the issue of phonetic spelling itself, but rather the typeface used for it. He writes, “This type, if ‘justified’ by [William] Morris, and the mutton quads [large spacing type] between the sentences taken out, would make a page of medieval beauty, far superior to any modern psalter.”

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian
(Adapted from the Summer 2017 exhibition Histories of the English Language).

 

October Exhibit: The Russian Revolution

October 6th, 2017

Spencer’s renovated North Gallery includes two new cases in which staff members can display materials on a short-term basis. During October, we’re exhibiting items in Spencer’s holdings that relate to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The exhibit is free and open to the public in the Spencer North Gallery during the library’s regular business hours.

The cover of the pamphlet entitled Eugene V. Deb’s Canton Speech, published after 1921

One of the most well-known and popular American socialists
during the early 20th century, Eugene V. Debs was the
Socialist Party’s candidate for U.S. President five times.
As a result of this speech, Debs was arrested and convicted
in federal court under wartime espionage law.
Call Number: Josephson 5687. Click image to enlarge.

“During a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a single week incomparably more than in a whole year of every-day sluggish life.”

Vladimir Lenin

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Spencer Research Library is currently displaying highlights from the Leon Josephson Collection on Modern Socialism. Extensively documenting the international socialist movement during the first half of the 20th century, the Josephson Collection contains over 8000 pamphlets, books, and ephemeral materials.

Examples of materials on display include Lessons of the Revolution and The Land Revolution in Russia by Vladimir Lenin, as well as a copy of the first constitution adopted by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1918.

Image of the cover of The Masses, September 1917

As a result of the magazine’s consistent denouncement of
World War I and American involvement, nearly all of the
editors and writers of The Masses were charged with violating
the Espionage Act of 1917. Call Number: D2009. Click image to enlarge.

Image of the cover of The Liberator, March 1918

John Reed later published his eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution
as a book, Ten Days that Shook the World (1919). Reed died in a Moscow hospital
in 1920; he is buried in the graveyard of revolutionary heroes near the
Kremlin Wall. Call Number: RH WL D1614. Click image to enlarge.

“The Russian Revolution is an incomparably mightier even than any previous revolution; larger in scope and deeper in ultimate meaning than the French Revolution.”

Louis C. Fraina, a founding member of the American Communist Party

Socialist publications from America such as The Masses and its successor The Liberator are also on display. These magazines were illustrated with realist and modernist artwork, which they combined with poetry, short stories, and articles discussing and interpreting the Russian Revolution and its influence on the international socialist movement.

Statement from Public Services student Zachary Lassiter

I started KU in the fall of 2015 as a History major, and began working at Kenneth Spencer Research Library in August 2016. I’ve spent most of my time as an undergraduate studying the former Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and the Cold War. I had the desire to take part in researching and constructing one of the many exhibits that are showcased at Spencer throughout the year. With the recent renovation of Spencer’s North Gallery, and with the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it was a perfect opportunity. Going through countless pamphlets, magazines, and ephemeral materials, I have gained a better understanding of the Russian Revolution from the perspectives of the Bolsheviks and American socialists in their own words as it was happening. I also gained experience in the research and development process of constructing an exhibit, knowledge I hope to utilize in future work. Finally, I want to thank Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services, for helping me through this process and providing me with this opportunity.

Zachary Lassiter
Public Services Student Assistant

Banned Books Week: Redacted for the Inquisition

September 28th, 2017

September 24-30 is Banned Books Week, an annual event in which libraries and readers celebrate the freedom to read. With this in mind, today we feature several images from an early printed copy of The Divine Comedy by the medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). The copy in question is from a 1512 edition printed by Bernadino Stagnino in Venice, a city that served as a vibrant center for early printing and the book trade. Stagnino’s edition combines a recently re-edited version of Dante’s text (1502) with an earlier commentary on the poem by the 15th century humanist scholar Cristoforo Landino.

But wait, you ask, what does this have to do with censorship? Sometime in the decades following its printing, Spencer’s copy traveled from Venice to Spain, and in the late 1500s fell under the review of the Inquisition and Catholic clerics concerned with religious orthodoxy and the spread of heretical ideas.  A manuscript notation in Spanish on the volume’s title page reads:  “Con comisión de los S[eñor]es Inquisidores teste y borre lo prohibido deste libro” (“With commission from the Señores Inquisitors cross out and erase what is prohibited in this book”) followed by the name [E]stevan Joan Velasco Vicario de S[an]t Nicolás (Esteban Juan Velasco, vicar of San Nicolás).*

Title page of 1512 edition of Dante's Comedia, with redaction command in manuscript.

“…cross out and erase what is prohibited in this book”: the title page, with notations in Spanish, of Spencer’s copy of Opere del die vino poeta Danthe [Divina Commedia]. Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1512. Call #: Summerfield C1189. Click image to enlarge.

A similar notation by a different cleric appears on the verso of the volume’s final page of text: “Por lo mandado de los señores inquisidores teste y borre lo prohibido en estas comedias del dante conforme a la censura del Sto Off[ci]o [h]oy a 25 de mayo de 1585. Fray Juan Vidal” (By the order of the señores inquisitors cross out and erase what is prohibited in these comedies of Dante according to the censure of the Holy Office today, 25 May 1585 Fray Juan Vidal).*

Detail of a second notation in Spanish from the end of the volume regarding the redaction of this copy.

In paging through the volume, readers will find several redacted passages of varying lengths. Landino’s commentary receives the most expurgation, though lines from Dante’s poem are redacted on occasion as well. In some places, an offending line is simply crossed out in ink, while longer passages have been papered over so as to render them illegible. Once the prohibited passages had been redacted, the volume could be retained and consulted.

Image of passages redacted in ink and by the pasting of paper on folio 29v and 30r

Passages in Landino’s commentary that have been redacted by the addition of blank paper slips and by crossing out lines of text in ink.

A later reader appears to have succeeded in removing much of the paper that once covered some of the offending passages. Although some discoloration remains from the glue used to affix the paper slips, the text is now visible.  You can also see the censor’s original ink dash, marking the portions of text to be redacted or pasted over.

Image of redactions to the commentary for the Purgatorio (f. 319v and 320r)

Text restored?: the yellowy-brown patches indicate sections where paper slips were once glued to cover over passages judged offensive. Some remnants of the paper are visible above in the block of text at the bottom left (click image to enlarge). Dante Alighieri. Opere del die vino poeta Danthe [Divina Commedia]. Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1512. Call #: Summerfield C1189.

As readers of Dante know, The Divine Comedy is divided into three sections or “canticles,” one for each of the three realms of the afterlife visited by the character of Dante over the course of the poem: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso (Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise).  As one might expect, most of the redacted passages appear in the Inferno. (It can be controversial to put historical personages, including Church leaders, in Hell, and to discuss the political and theological matters that result in damnation.) However, Spencer’s copy also contains at least one censored passage in both the text and commentary of the Purgatorio and Paradiso as well.

Image of redactions to Dante's text and Landino's commentary in the Paradiso, f. 359r and f. 360r.

Trouble in Paradise: expurgated passages in Dante’s verse and Landino’s commentary toward the end of Canto IX  in the “Paradiso” section of The Divine Comedy (click image to enlarge).  Dante Alighieri. Opere del die vino poeta Danthe [Divina Commedia]. Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1512. Call #: Summerfield C1189. This passage, which critiques the Vatican and Church leaders, is also redacted in a copy of a 1564 edition of Dante’s work (with commentaries) held at Brandeis University.

Spencer’s expurgated copy of the Dante’s Divine Comedy offers a fascinating material example of censorship in early modern Spain.  If this brief post has whet your appetite for exploring this subject further, consider visiting He who destroyes a good booke, kills reason it selfe, an online re-issue of a notable 1955 KU Libraries exhibition catalogue on intellectual freedom. The catalogue’s section on Spain contains examples of other volumes from the library’s collections that were censored under the Inquisition, including a book on proverbs by Juan de Aranda that has been redacted with ornamented slips.

Curious about more contemporary instances of censorship and challenges to books? Take look at the list of the top ten most challenged books of 2016, as compiled by the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom. Or, if you live in Lawrence, consider visiting the Lawrence Public Library, which will be distributing a different card in its 2017 Banned Books Trading Card series each day this week.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

*Transcriptions and translations courtesy of Professor Luis Corteguera, with additional insight from Professors Patricia Manning and Isidro Rivera.

Click on the thumbnails below for images of additional redacted passages in Spencer’s 1512 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy with commentary by Cristoforo Landino.

Small ink redaction to the commentary on f. 12r.  Image of Redactions to both Dante's verse (left, f84v) and Landino's commetary (right f85r)  Image of remnants of a paper-ever passage, f. 126v and 127r

Brian Aldiss, 1925-2017

August 31st, 2017

On August 19th, science fiction writer and critic Brian Aldiss died, a day after turning 92. In an obituary for The Guardian, fellow writer Christopher Priest characterized Aldiss as “by a long chalk the premier British science fiction writer.” As fans and scholars of speculative fiction around the world mourn this loss, some will be surprised to discover that part of the British writer’s literary legacy resides in Kansas: the Spencer Research Library a holds significant collection of papers for Aldiss, including materials for his Billion Year Spree and his Helliconia Trilogy. The trilogy, which consists of the novels Helliconia Spring (1982), Helliconia Summer (1983), and Helliconia Winter (1985), is among Aldiss’s most admired works. “This depiction of a world that circles a double star, where an orbital Great Year lasts long enough for cultures to emerge, prosper and fail,” Priest writes in his remembrance of Aldiss, “is a subtle, deeply researched and intellectually rigorous work.”

Brian Aldiss accepting the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Helliconia Spring, Lawrence, KS, 1983.

Brian Aldiss accepting the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel for Helliconia Spring (1982) in Lawrence, KS in 1983.  Call number: RG 0/19: Aldiss, Brian

The collection of Aldiss’s papers at KU provides a wealth of evidence for the research and rigor that went into his writings. The 25 boxes of materials for the Helliconia Trilogy include, for example, Aldiss’s extensive correspondence with scientists and scholars to determine the scientific basis for the world he was creating. Those consulted include Iain Nicholson of Hatfield Polytechnic Observatory on the subject of astronomy, Peter Cattermole of the University of Sheffield on geology and climate, and Tom Shippey, then at the University of Leeds, on the languages of the novel. The result is a world  striking in its attention to detail.

A selection of research Correspondence for the Helliconia Trilogy.

A selection of research correspondence with Iain Nicholson, Peter Cattermole, and Tom Shippey concerning the creation of Helliconia. Brian Wilson Aldiss Papers. Call #: MS 214: A.

Not only do these letters reveal the extent to which technical and scientific matters underpin the trilogy’s concept, plot, and themes, but they also offer lighter moments of humor between on-going collaborators. Aldiss, for example, begins a June 1981 letter to Cattermole by quipping, “Helliconian scholars have failed to study Helliconia’s sister planets in any depth; they have been too busy drinking the whisky out of their orrerys.” (MS 214:Aa:2:14a).  Writing again to Cattermole in September of 1982, following the publication of Helliconia Spring earlier that February, Aldiss reports,

Vol. 1 has been very well received, especially in the States; over here there were complaints, as you say, about names. Well, it’s no good building up an intense winter atmosphere in Embruddock and then call[ing] the sods Joe and Charlie. There will be more complaints of that nature with Vol II, where I have a vast character list, with over fifty speaking parts, but I see no way of evading the problem and so forge on hopefully.  Wait till you meet Queen MyrdalemInggala….. (MS 214Aa:2:16b)

Spencer Research Library’s collections also include manuscript materials for Aldiss’s groundbreaking Billion Year Spree (1973)subtitled “The True History of Science Fiction,” which he later expanded with David Wingrove into Trillion Year Spree (1986). The volume argues for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) as the birth of science fiction.

Aldiss’s ties to the University of Kansas grew out of his relationship with fellow science fiction writer and critic, James Gunn, Professor Emeritus of English and the founder of KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. “We were long-time friends, although an ocean between us limited our encounters,” Gunn explains.

I was a guest in his Oxford home for a couple of days after the founding of World SF in Ireland [in 1976], and he was a guest in my home during his author’s visit here.  We were competitors only in the writing of science-fiction histories.  We both started in 1971, but circumstances (and maybe the complexities of illustrations) held up Alternate Worlds (1975) [Gunn’s illustrated history of SF] for a couple of years.  When I wrote him for a photograph, he suggested that we exchange blurbs–that I would say his history was the best and he would do the same for mine.

Though the delay in the publication of Gunn’s Alternate Worlds meant that the exchange of blurbs never came to pass, researchers can explore both Aldiss’s and Gunn’s processes in writing their respective histories of science fiction by examining the collections of their papers at Spencer Research Library.

Cover of Brian Aldiss's Billion Year Spree (1974 paperback edition)  Cover of James Gunn's Alternate Worlds (1975)

Left: Brian Aldiss’s Billion Year Spree (1973). Schocken paperback edition, second printing. New York: Schocken Books, 1975. Call #: ASF B1245. Right: James Gunn’s Alternate Worlds. First edition. Englewood Cliffs, N.J : Prentice-Hall, 1975. Call #: E2598.

In his introduction to Billion Year Spree, Aldiss mused, “Possibly this book will help further the day when writers who invent whole worlds are as highly valued as those who re-create the rise and fall of a movie magnate or the breaking of two hearts in a bedsitter. The invented universe, the invented time, are often so much closer to us than Hollywood or Kensington.” Thank you for those invented universes, Brian Aldiss.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian