Over a year ago, I wrote about how working from home was going for me, about three months into the COVID19 pandemic. I was spending my time doing a lot of online professional development, attending Zoom meetings, interacting on social media, and working on small hands-on projects.
Soon after that post was published, the Conservation Services team began our careful transition back to working on-site. In mid-June of 2020, I began going to the lab for a single 4-hour shift each week. Starting very slowly allowed us to establish safety practices and get a sense of our comfort level with in-person work at a time in the pandemic when it seemed there were still more questions than answers about how the virus was transmitted. We wore masks and put an extra focus on hand hygiene, and staggered our lab shifts to reduce the number of people working at a time. Our large lab space also made it possible to keep a safe distance from one another. Even with all the uncertainty, I was grateful not only to still have my job, but to be back in the lab, working directly with the collections once again.
The following month, I increased my lab time to four 4-hour shifts per week, and maintained that schedule through the rest of 2020. I continued my professional development activities during work-at-home time, attending hundreds of hours worth of webinars and lectures, in addition to lots of reading. The annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) was held completely online last year, so I was able to attend many more presentations at this conference than I would have if it were held in person. In addition, I filled much of my at-home time from September through December working on an online Chemistry for Conservators course.
In January 2021, I added a fifth 4-hour shift to my schedule, bringing my lab time to 20 hours per week. At-home time continued to be filled with emails, meetings, lots of reading, and more online professional development, including another virtual AIC annual meeting. Then, in May, I moved to working four full days in the lab and one day at home per week. The types of activities I do at home are the same, I’m just doing less of them – and I’m so happy to be working in the lab more. It’s very satisfying to be filling my log sheets with treatment records, and to see my production statistics adding up again. For reference, here’s a comparison of my second quarter statistics from 2019, 2020, and 2021. I was able to complete a small number of treatments after our part-time return toward the end of June 2020, but my 2021 numbers are much closer to normal – a welcome and hopeful development.
While questions remain about what the fall semester will look like this year, and the pandemic is not over by any measure, the experience of the last 15 months has shown that it’s possible to adapt conservation work to extraordinary circumstances. Now that I’m back in the lab nearly full-time, I have a new appreciation for the privilege of being able to do this work, and especially for the people I work with and the supportive environment that they create in our workplace.
Last July, I mentioned in our ‘Spencer Public Services Working from Home’ blog post that one of my work from home projects was creating transcriptions of some of our handwritten collection materials. Well readers, a year later here is the follow-up on one of those transcriptions – the Lillian North diary – and a bit of the story of how a New York suffragist helped me through the pandemic.
Who was Lillian North?
Lillian was born on August 17, 1881, in Stafford, New York, to parents George and Mary Thomas Radley. On September 26, 1906, Lillian married Frank North, a farmer. They were married for fifty-seven years before Frank’s death in October 1963.
Lillian’s diary entries span from January 1, 1915, to May 14, 1917, and detail her day-to-day life as a homemaker and farm wife. Her days were full of activity: cleaning and improving the house, washing and mending clothes, baking bread and pies, canning pickles and strawberries, and churning her prize-winning butter. I can confirm that I was motivated to clean on more than one occasion after working on this transcription; you would be, too, after reading about Lillian cleaning daily while your dishes stared at you from the kitchen sink.
Working on this transcription took me on a bit of a journey; I found myself embroiled in some side research projects I was not expecting to do when I started. While the diary provides extensive details about Lillian’s day-to-day life for over two years, there was so much more I wanted to know about her and her family beyond 1917 when the diary ends. I began researching, trying to find whatever I could find based on the information in the diary, our published finding aid, and our records from when the diary was acquired. Eventually, I tracked down obituaries for Lillian, Frank, and Lillian’s mother Mary Radley via Newspapers.com.
In addition to wanting to know more about Lillian, my curiosity was piqued about some of the acronyms and abbreviations in the diary. What did all of them mean? Several of them I deciphered fairly quickly with the help of some online resources. Others were not so easy to interpret or did not seem to be related to any organizations I could find. By taking clues from the context in which these acronyms appeared and some additional research, I was able to make some guesses about possible meanings, but questions still abound.
All of these side projects did lead somewhere beyond satisfying my own curiosity: The additional information gleaned from the obituaries allowed us to update the biographical information in our online finding aid – providing a more accurate picture of Lillian’s life and family. We also added the list of possible meanings for the acronyms and abbreviations in hopes that this would help future researchers who are interested in the diary and Lillian’s many activities and organizations.
Why did it take over a year to transcribe one item?
Now, I know many of you are probably wondering how I am just now finishing the transcription of Lillian’s diary – a full year after that initial blog post. After all, this is not the first item I have transcribed so this should be a faster process, right? Well, here are a few details to consider:
It’s a long story: Lillian’s diary is not quite like the other items the staff at Spencer have transcribed. We typically focus on transcribing shorter documents, primarily letters. Lillian wrote daily in her diary for over two years; there are over 700 entries and roughly 200 pages to transcribe. It was only because of the pandemic and working from home that I even had time to take on a transcription project of this scope. No matter how fast I worked, this was going to be a long project.
Handwritten = hard: Reading someone’s handwriting can be a challenge (how many of us frequently wonder if our doctors are writing actual words on those prescription pads?). Add in factors like age, access, and series of acronyms and abbreviations and, suddenly, handwriting can become practically indecipherable. You have to learn to look for patterns in how someone shapes their letters and rely on context clues frequently – a process that takes time to do.
There is only one of me: Working on transcriptions was only one of my work from home projects during the pandemic. I was also revising training documents, updating instruction plans, participating in professional development opportunities, and conducting research and creating content for other projects, most notably other blog posts and an online exhibit – to name a few things. Some of these activities had scheduled times and due dates; creating a transcription for general use did not so it was the project to fill hours and provide breaks instead of the top priority.
Opening up: Spencer Research Library re-opened at the beginning of the school year in August! With the re-opening came an end to my full-time work from home status. I was back in the building several days a week and helping with paging, shelving, reference, and instruction. Even though I was still working from home some days, my focus shifted to other projects that supported what was happening onsite. Again, a transcription without any specific deadline was moved to the back burner more often than not.
Saying good-bye: The world turned upside down in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic brought unimaginable stress, trauma, and heartbreak to so many. In the last year and half many lost their lives, their livelihood, and their loved ones. I recognize that I am incredibly fortunate that I was able to continue working and that my family and friends were largely spared from any serious health issues related to COVID-19. However, that does not mean 2020 was without difficulties for me – particularly related to mental and emotional health.
I live by myself in a one-bedroom apartment. Honestly, I am quite the homebody and pretty introverted so prolonged periods of time in my own space and on my own are welcome. But despite my introverted tendencies, I also have people I enjoy seeing and spending time with regularly – family, friends, colleagues. And then poof! I really could not see anyone, especially not frequently, for quite some time. That gets lonely after a while and I could feel the effects. All of this was on top of the anxiety I was feeling about work and school and life in general during the pandemic.
During that time Lillian’s diary became a distraction from the uncertainty and isolation I was experiencing. After reading increasingly grim outlooks on public health, I could turn to this diary and read about Lillian taking the family horse to get re-shoed or working on a sewing project with a friend. Reading and transcribing Lillian’s diary was like talking with one of my friends about their week when our lives were not consumed by COVID-19; it was a welcome break. As time went on and I became more invested in Lillian’s life, I began to procrastinate on this project – prolonging the point when I would finish the transcription and lose this source of comfort at a time when I really needed it.
At the end of Lillian’s diary, she ran out of pages and began writing on the inside of the cover. Why? The reason is likely pretty practical – to save money, to use up all the available space, etc. – but the appearance gives the sense that she was trying to put off saying good-bye to this little book for as long as possible. It is a feeling I am all too familiar with as I reach the end of this project and, more importantly, my life with Lillian.
July 12 would have been James E. Gunn’s 98th birthday. Though KU’s legend of science fiction died on December 23rd of last year, Gunn (1923-2020) leaves a legacy as one of the genre’s most notable writer-scholars. An author and editor of roughly 50 books (critical studies, works of fiction, and anthologies) with more than 100 short stories to his name, Gunn helped to make Lawrence, Kansas a hub for science fiction. Chris McKitterick, a writer and former student of Gunn’s who succeeded him as Director of KU’s Center for the Study of Science Fiction, affectionately referred to him as “Science Fiction’s Dad” in an illustrated memorial on the Center’s website.
It’s easy to see how Gunn earned that moniker. As one of the first professors to offer courses devoted to science fiction at the college level, he was a teacher and mentor to countless students. The summer institutes and workshops that Gunn established at KU attracted attendees from across the country, and his connections and programming meant that Lawrence received visits from numerous SF luminaries over the years, from Frederik Pohl and Theodore Sturgeon to Nancy Kress to Cory Doctorow. Among Gunn’s scholarly contributions to the field was Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction (1975), which drew a number of its images of from Spencer Library’s collections. Of course, at the same time, Gunn was instrumental in building Spencer ’s science fiction holdings. Not only did he donate books and magazines, but he encouraged others to do so as well, helping writers and SF organizations to place their papers and records at the library up until his death. Gunn won a Hugo Award (one of science fiction’s top honors) for another of his works of criticism, Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction (1982). In a 2007 ceremony, he was honored with the “Damon Knight Grand Master Award” by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2015.
Left: James Gunn’s Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1975. Call #: E2598. Right: Gunn with his 1983 Hugo Award (in the category of “Best Related Work”) for his study Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction (1982). University Archives. Call #: RG 41: Faculty Photos: Gunn, James. Click images to enlarge.
Given what he achieved, it’s easy to forget his humble beginnings, but materials from his papers on deposit at the Spencer Research Library offer a glimpse of what it was like to be a young science fiction writer in the 1950s.
To this day, most speculative fiction magazines pay writers by the word. Current rates include 8-12 cents per word for stories published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, 8-10 cents per word for Asimov’s, and 10 cents per word for the online Uncanny Magazine. An early letter in Gunn’s papers from 1952 reports the income from some of his first science fiction sales. In his memoir Star-Begotten (2017), Gunn recalls that Planet Stories paid a rate of 1¼ cents per word for his 12,000-word “Freedom, Inc.,” but then (to Gunn’s chagrin) changed the title of the novelette to “The Slaves of Venus.”[i] Observant readers will note that the letter comes from another famed SF writer Frederik Pohl, who was still then working as a literary agent, though Pohl would soon abandon agent work to devote himself to writing and editing science fiction.
Being paid for one’s writing has always been important point of pride for the genre of science fiction. Early in his career, Gunn made a decision:
…I would write my novels in the form of short stories and novelettes that I could get published first in magazines and later collect as books. When I became a teacher of fiction writing, I passed this along to my students as “Gunn’s Law” (Sell it twice!).[ii]
It was a law that Gunn often followed. His novel The Immortals (1962), which presciently imagines a dystopian future where advances in medicine have enabled the richest to live increasingly long lives, while most in society suffer under staggering medical costs, was comprised of four previously published novelettes. When The Immortals was adapted (with significant changes) into a popular TV movie of the week as The Immortal, Gunn also wrote a novelization of the script. Likewise, Gunn’s novel The Listeners (1972) was first published as a series of stories in Galaxy magazine (and one also appearing in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy) between 1968 and 1972. The novel, which explores interstellar communication and the effects on individuals and society of the attempts at first contact with distant alien cultures, was dedicated “To Walter Sullivan, Carl Sagan, and all of the other scientists whose books and articles and lectures and speculations provided, so clearly, the inspiration and source material for this book […].” It seems Carl Sagan’s imagination was also stirred in return. As Gunn reports in his memoir, Sagan later sent him his own novel of interstellar communication, 1985’s Contact, “inscribed with ‘thanks for the inspiration of The Listeners.’” Gunn’s story received accolades from the broader field as well. The first of the sections published in Galaxy (“The Listeners”) was nominated for the 1969 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and the subsequent novel was in 1973 the runner-up for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel.
Left: Typescript with instructions for the first of the quotation-laden “Computer Run” interchapters that appear after each chapter of The Listeners, 1972. James Gunn Papers. Call number: MS 116A:1a. Right: Gunn, James E. The Listeners. New York: Scribner’s, 1972. Call #: ASF Gunn C26 Click images to enlarge.
And though with endless energy and good will James Gunn helped his students navigate the practical and business aspects of the field science fiction, it was his belief in the genre’s ideas and their potential to bring about change that arguably stands as the most potent force across Gunn’s fiction and criticism. It was this potential that James Gunn heralded in his remarks at his 2015 induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. “A lot has happened to science fiction since I sat in a garret writing my first story in 1948,” he explained;
[…] The world has changed, too, often in positive ways, sometimes in ways that threaten its survival. It’s the job of science fiction, it’s our job, to observe those changes and consider their implications for human lives and maybe even do something to make those lives better, more livable, more human—whatever “human” turns out to be. Let’s save the world through science fiction.[iii]
Over the years, many of Gunn’s students and readers have taken up that call and will continue to be inspired by it, even in his absence.
Elspeth Healey Special Collections Librarian
[i] Gunn, James E. Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2017: 68.
[ii] Gunn, James E. Paratexts: Introductions to Science Fiction and Fantasy. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2013: 10.
[iii] Gunn, James E. Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2017: 189.
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 C91 is a fifteenth-century collection of religious texts. It contains a copy of the Homiliae quadraginta in evangelia [Forty homilies on the Gospels] by St Gregory the Great (approximately 540–604), the Exposicio sive postilla passionis Ihesu Christi [An exposition or annotations on the passion of Jesus Christ] compiled by Herman Appeldorn (d. 1473) and a shorter text on the passion of Christ, also attributed to him in the manuscript.
Unlike many manuscripts whose origin and provenance are now lost to us, we have evidence that MS C91 comes from the medieval library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne, Germany, a Carthusian monastery. St Bruno (approximately 1030–1101), who was educated in Reims, France, and who later became the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Reims, founded the Carthusian Order in 1084 in the Chartreuse Mountains, north of Grenoble, France. This original establishment, known as the Grande Chartreuse, is the head monastery of the Carthusian Order, and Carthusian monasteries are known as “charterhouses” after Chartreuse. Despite St Bruno originally being from Cologne, there was no charterhouse in Cologne until December 12, 1334, when the Charterhouse of St Barbara was founded by the Archbishop of Cologne, Walram of Jülich (approximately 1304–1349). Although it had a difficult start due to political tensions in the region, the charterhouse began to prosper especially after it came under the protection in 1354 of Charles IV (1346–1378), King of Bohemia and later Holy Roman Emperor.
By the mid-fifteenth century the manuscript collection of the Charterhouse of St Barbara was the largest in Cologne, at least until the library and the neighboring buildings were completely consumed by a fire in November 1451. Some manuscripts, however, would have survived, for even though the Charterhouse of St Barbara had a separate library space, one did not need to be there to work with books. The Carthusians lived a solitary and contemplative life, and much work with manuscripts, including reading, copying, and writing commentaries was carried out by nuns and monks in the solitude of their cells. Therefore, although many books surely perished during this fire, scholars have argued that some of the manuscripts the monks were consulting at the time would have been spared.
Following the 1451 fire, the collection of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne was swiftly rebuilt not only by the copying of new manuscripts by the members of the charterhouse but also through purchases and donations. MS C91 is the product of these efforts, probably put together when Herman Appeldorn was Prior of the Charterhouse of St Barbara between 1457 and 1472. MS C91 is in its original parchment limp binding with a fore-edge envelope flap that extends from the right (back) side of the cover and is secured with a brass clasp. The fifteenth-century shelfmark of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara is written on the front cover of the manuscript: “G.xlii.” In this system, the letter is thought to indicate the name of the author or the subject of the manuscript and the number possibly the order of acquisition. So, in the case of MS C91, “G” probably refers to Gregory, whose work is the first text in the manuscript, and “xlii” to no. 42. Another manuscript from the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne with a very similar binding, presumably bound around the same time as MS C91, is now held at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (Ms. Codex 1164). No shelfmark survives on the front cover of this manuscript, but there is evidence that some writing was scraped off of the parchment and one may presume that the shelfmark was erased by a subsequent owner.
Although no medieval catalogs of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara with these shelfmarks survive, there are other manuscripts from the library with them. There are also several documents that detail the contents of the library from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most of which have been preserved in the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne. For example, a shelf list edited by Richard Bruce Marks that was compiled in the second half of the seventeenth century includes over 550 volumes of manuscripts. In this document (Cologne, Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln, Best. 233 Kartäuser, Repertorien und Handschriften, Nr. 14), MS C91 is assigned the shelfmark “OO 89.” In the shelf list, the print books are organized according to subject matter under the letters of the alphabet (A to H; J to N), with the letter O reserved for all manuscripts. The manuscripts are divided into four groups according to their size: O for folio, OO for quarto, OOO for octavo and OOOO for duodecimo. Measuring approximately 210 x 145 mm, MS C91 has one of these labels with “OO” adhered to its spine.
Furthermore, the short description for MS C91 in the seventeenth-century shelf list comes directly from the list of contents provided in a contemporary hand on the front flyleaf of the manuscript:
Conte[n]ta libri h[uius] Quadraginta omeli[a]e b[ea]ti Gregorii p[a]p[a]e super evangelia Collectu[m] q[uo]dda[m] sup[er] passione[m] d[omi]ni ven[erabi]lis p[at]ris H[er]ma[n]ni Appeltorn p[ri]oris tu[n]c dom[us] T[re]veren[sis] et postea dom[us] h[uius] scriptiu[m] man[u] ipsi[us] obiit 1473 Ite[m] textus passio[n]is Chr[ist]i ex [quattuor] eva[n]gelistis eiusdem.
This book contains: Forty homilies on the gospels of the blessed pope St Gregory, A certain collection on the passion of our lord by the venerable father Herman Appeldorn, then the prior of the house of Trier, and afterwards of this house, written by his own hand, died 1473, Also a text on the passion of Christ from the four evangelists, by the same [Herman Appeldorn].
Above this brief table of contents on the first flyleaf of MS C91, there is also a donation inscription:
Ex donation[n]e d[omi]ni Jo[?] Warendorppe p[ro]ve[n]it nobis h[ic] lib[er] quoad Omelias Gregorii This book, as far as Gregory’s Homilies, comes to us from the donation of Johann? Warendorppe.
Unfortunately, the identity of this donor Warendorppe is unknown; Richard Bruce Marks reports that there are eighteen people with the same name in the list of graduates from the University of Cologne before the year 1500 (p. 16). The donation inscription and the table of contents are written by the same hand, presumably around the same time the contents of the manuscript were copied. Taken together, they tell us that what is now the first part of the manuscript (Gregory’s Homilies) was commissioned by Warendorppe and that the remainder was authored and copied by Herman Appeldorn. These two parts must have been put together shortly after their copying, with the addition of the flyleaf with the donation and contents information when the manuscript was bound. There is very little known about Herman Appeldorn, although his name is recorded in other manuscripts as part of purchases and donations made to the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne during his priorship. He is thought to have composed three works: Sermones dominicales [Sunday Sermons], De passione domini [On the passion of Christ], and De institutione novitiorum [On the education of novices]. None of these works seem to have been published and it is possible that MS C91 contains the only copy of the De passione domini.
The recent provenance of MS C91 is quite well known. After the dissolution of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne in 1794 during the French Revolution, some of the manuscripts were sent to Paris, others to a new school founded in Cologne and the rest were sold. During these sales, some hundred and thirty-six manuscripts were acquired by the book and art dealer Johann Matthias Heberle (Antiquargeschäft mit Auktionsanstalt Cologne) and then sold in 1821 to Leander van Ess (Johann Heinrich van Ess, 1772–1847), a theologian and book collector from Warburg, Germany. MS C91 was one of these. Only a few years later, in 1824, Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872) purchased the entire collection of Leander Van Ess, including those manuscripts that formerly belonged to the Charterhouse of St Barbara. In 1910, at the beginning of the twentieth century, as part of an auction of Phillipps manuscripts, MS C91 was sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge to J. & J. Leighton, booksellers and bookbinders in London. Soon afterward, in 1912, the manuscript was purchased from J. & J. Leighton by Robert Ranshaw (1836–1924), a master draper and an art collector from Louth, Lincolnshire.
In his 1974 study, Richard Bruce Marks aimed at reconstructing the manuscript collections of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne and identified the current whereabouts of over 250 manuscripts that were included in the seventeenth-century shelf list. MS C91 was among those he was not able to locate. Indeed, Spencer Library holds two former Van Ess and Phillipps manuscripts from the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne, neither of which was identified by Marks: Phillipps MS 642 (now MS C64) and Phillipps MS 646 (now MS C91). Both of these manuscripts can now be added to the list.
The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Internationaal Antiquariaat (Menno Hertzberger & Co.) in September 1960, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.
The most comprehensive study in English on the Library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne: Richard Bruce Marks. The Medieval Manuscript Library of the Charterhouse of St. Barbara in Cologne. 2 vols. Analecta Cartusiana 21. Salzburg: Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universität Salzburg, 1974.