Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Collection Snapshot: Diet and Digestion Advice from the Late 1600s

January 5th, 2015

It’s that time of year when you may hear your friends and family vowing to eat better for 2015.  But who needs trendy “paleo” diets or post-indulgence rounds of pepto-bismol when you can consult a seventeenth-century manuscript instead?  Among the Spencer Research Library’s collections is a volume labelled “Elizabeth Dyke her Booke of Recaits 1668,” which contains approximately 725 medicinal and culinary recipes (or “receipts”).  There you’ll find these two succinct lists of things “good” and “ille” for the stomach:

 

List of "Things good" and "ille" for "the stomack" from a seventeenth century book of receipts.

Parsley and sage advice?: Dyke, Elizabeth. “Things good for the Stomack” and “Things Ille for the Stomack.”
Booke of Recaits [Receipts]. Great Britain, circa 1668. Call Number: MS D157. Click image to enlarge.

According to the manuscript, calamint, sage, and standing after eating meat are all beneficial, while “all sweet things,” “fryed meats,” eating “meat upon meat” (pace Dr. Atkins), and eating “to[o] many dishes at one time” can lead to digestive disorder.

Of course, some of the volume’s recipes are acquired tastes (see the instructions for black sheep’s pudding below), so you may want to take its advice with a grain of salt!

Opening in the Booke of Recaits featuring a recipe for Black Sheep's Pudding

“To make black sheeps pudings.” Book of Recaits [Receipts]. Great Britain, circa 1668. MS D157. Click image to enlarge.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Manuscript Monday: Four from the 1400s

November 24th, 2014

Earlier this month Mitch Fraas at the University of Pennsylvania wrote a fascinating blog post in which he mapped data from Melissa Conway and Lisa Fagin Davis’s Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings (2014). Though, as Fraas notes, that the highest institutional concentrations of medieval and early modern manuscripts are found on the East and West Coasts, KU is responsible for one of the largest dots on the map in the middle of the country. In fact, the Kenneth Spencer Research Library ranks among the top fifteen institutions for holdings of pre-1600 manuscript codices (volumes), with its approximately 220 manuscript books, and fares even better when our over 2100 pre-1600 manuscript leaves, documents, and rolls are taken into account.

In light of these numbers, this week we’re highlighting four fifteenth-century manuscripts, each from a different country. Medievalists and early modern scholars take note; it’s worth making a stop in Lawrence, KS!

1. Vosper Book of Hours

Detail from the miniature of David in prayer (f. 83r) from the Vosper Book of Hours, France, ca. 1470.

Detail from the miniature of David in prayer (f. 83r) from the Vosper Book of Hours, France, ca. 1470.
Call #: MS Pryce C1. Click image to view full page.

Spencer’s most ornately decorated manuscript is a late-fifteenth-century book of hours from Eastern France. Named in honor of Robert Vosper (1913-1994), a former director of KU Libraries, this devotional volume includes seventeen large miniatures (or paintings), as well as stunning foliate borders, featuring birds and insects. In the image above, the darkish, opaque wings of the dragonfly are actually silver which has tarnished with time.

2. Minden Codex

Historiated initial detail (St. George and the dragon) from the Minden Codex.

Detail from: Gallus’s Malogranatum (folio 2r), one of several texts in the Minden Codex. Germany, mid-to-late 15th century.
Call #: MS C164. Click Image to view full page.

The Minden Codex received its name from our catalogers because it once belonged to a Benedictine monastery in Minden, a city in the Westphalia region of Germany. It is a collection of more than fifteen religious texts that appear to have been copied out by different scribes in the mid-to-late 1400s and then bound together alongside a fragment of printed text. The codex begins with a portion of the first book of the Malogranatum, a dialogue intended as guidance for monks striving toward the perfection of their souls. This text is sometimes attributed to Gallus, an abbot of Königssaal (near Prague). The historiated initial in the detail above depicts Saint George slaying the dragon. Look closely and you’ll see that their entwined bodies form the letter “S” of the Latin word Sancta.

 

3. A Collection of Italian lyric poetry; primarily Petrarch’s Canzoniere

Opening of Petrarch's Canzoniere, featuring an illuminated initial containing white vine on a blue background, from A manuscript collection of Italian lyric poetry; primarily Petrarch’s Canzoniere. Italy, 15th century.

Opening of Petrarch’s Canzoniere in a collection of Italian lyric poetry. Italy, 15th century.
Call Number: MS C24. Click image to enlarge.

Though many of Spencer’s pre-1600 codices are religious in nature, the library also holds a wide range of secular texts, including classical and scientific works, legal and estate records, histories, and works of literature. The main text in this 15th century miscellany of Italian verse is Petrarch’s Canzoniere (Songbook), a sequence of poems that tells the story of the poet’s love for “Laura.” The text begins with Petrarch’s famous sonnet, “Voi ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il sono […],”  whose initial “V” is here illuminated and decorated with a white vine design.  Subsequent poems in the Canzoniere receive a simpler treatment: their smaller initials appear in alternating blue and red.  The manuscript book also includes poems by Jacopo Sanguinacci, Giusto de’ Conti, and others, as well as Latin sayings with Italian translations.

 

4. English Medicinal Recipe

Medicinal Recipe in Middle English, England, ca. 1400s

Medicinal Recipe. England, ca. 1400s. (Phillipps 40717). Call #: MS P541  Click image to enlarge.

Feeling under the weather now that the temperature has dropped? This medicinal recipe dating form the 1400s provides directions for distilling a mixture of spices, herbs, and wine to treat a variety of illnesses and wounds. This single leaf, with its top three lines partly torn away, is notable in that it is one of the library’s comparatively few pre-1500 manuscripts in English (or Middle English, as the case may be). Though Spencer holds several thousand English estate documents (circa 1200-1900), including papers from the prominent North and Kaye families, those that date from before 1500 tend to be in Latin.  This recipe or “receipt” stands as an instructive example of unornamented, vernacular writing.  However, despite being in English, its script presents a challenge for modern eyes.  Try to read a line or two and you may soon find yourself yearning for the more familiar humanist letterforms of the Canzoniere above (MS C24). Finally, this modest leaf also boasts an interesting provenance: it was once a part of the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872), an obsessive nineteenth-century collector who built one of the largest private collections of manuscripts.

For those who may have caught a little of Phillipps’s manuscript-mania, Spencer has plenty more to explore. You will find records (and images) for many of our medieval and early modern manuscripts in the Digital Scriptorium, an online database with holdings from a variety of institutions. To browse Spencer’s contributions, simply click on “Advanced Search,” select Lawrence, University of Kansas, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Special Collection from the “Current Location” field and hit “Search.” Or, for a another short narrative tour, take a peek at Lisa Fagin Davis’s great post on Kansas in her Manuscript Road Trip Blog.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

 

16th-century Medicine for the Fascination of 21st-century Audiences

July 19th, 2013

Yesterday, KU announced a magnificent gift to the libraries and the KU Medical Campus from the estate of the late KUMC Dean Stata Norton Ringle and her husband David Ringle. One of the projects that tied Stata Norton Ringle to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library was her translation of a manuscript from our collections.  Produced circa 1562, Libro de i secretti & ricette, also known as the Jesuatti Book of Remedies (MS Pryce E1), is a collection of remedies used by the friars of the Order of Saint Jerome in Lucca, Italy to treat an array of ailments. These range from the common (digestive problems, colds, wounds and sores) to the cosmetic (baldness) to the strange (“For the crust that comes on the head of little children“) to the most dire (the plague, malaria). The remedies recorded in the manuscript are a variety of galenical mixtures of herbs, alchemical distillates, prayers, and incantations.

Page spread from the Jesuatti Book of Remedies featuring distillation diagrams
Jesuatti Book of Remedies. Lucca, Italy, circa 1562. Call number: MS Pryce E1. Click image to enlarge.
Image courtesy of KU Libraries Flickr Photostream.

This volume so captivated Professor Ringle that she taught herself Renaissance-era Italian to undertake its translation. The result was a digital edition, published in collaboration with KU Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship, that combines her annotated English translation with manuscript page images.

Browsing the digital edition, it’s easy to see why a professor of pharmacology, toxicology and therapeutics, like Dr. Ringle, would want to share this fascinating manuscript with scholars and the public at large. We have it on good authority from our web gurus that the most scatological, blush-inducing, and comically bizarre search terms driving internet traffic to the KU Libraries website tend to be page hits for the Jesuatti Book of Remedies. (I won’t list those search terms here, but this passage should give you a sense of some of the more sensitive topics the remedies address).

To celebrate the late Professor Ringle and her work, we reproduce three remedies from her translation and encourage you to continue on and peruse the entire volume online.  In her  preface, she wisely cautions that the translation is for “historical information only.”  We hope you enjoy reading these remedies, but please don’t try them at home!

Best remedy for headache. [From folio 13 verso]

Take 1 handful each of good marjoram and rosemary and make fine powder of them. In the morning take half a glass of good white wine and put therein a tablespoon of this powder, heat it and drink this early in the morning and soon you will be cured. This is also powerful to save the teeth so they will not decay and it will give you a good breath. It is the thing used by gentlemen. […]

To make gray hair dark. [From folio 19 recto]

Take equal amounts of soft dark soap and quicklime and yellow litharge and incorporate them in the form of an unguent and with this rub the gray hair several times and it will become dark. Continue this rubbing according to how you see the need as it turns from being white to dark.

Another for the aforesaid and also good. Take the juice of beets mixed with ashes made of chicken feathers and boil them together a while. Rub yourself with this in the evening when you go to sleep. […]

To remove redness from the face and make it the way one wants. [From folio 162 verso].

Take 1 ounce of native sulfur, 1 dram each of white incense and myrrh and ½ ounce of camphor. Powder everything very finely and mix it with ½ lb. of rose water and distill it in a little glass still. Preserve this water well-closed and bathe the face in the evening and morning with a sponge, rubbing well. Soon the redness of the face will disappear. This has been tested by many persons. [...]

Image of the Jesuatti Book of Remedies, folio 13v: Best remedy for headache Image of page of Jesuatti Book of Remedies giving remedy for making gray hair dar. A page from the Jesuatti Book of Remedies:

From the Jesuatti Book of Remedies digital edition: (left) “Best remedy for headache” folio 13v; (center) “To make gray hair dark” folio 19r; and (right) “To remove redness from the face and make it the way one wants,” folio 162v. Translated with notes by Stata Norton. Electronic edition published by the Center for Digital Scholarship, University of Kansas Libraries, 2010. http://etext.ku.edu/view?docId=jesuatti/jesuatti.xml. Click images to enlarge.

Deconstructed Book

January 4th, 2013

Sometimes deterioration can be a useful tool for discovering how a book was made. This example, in poor condition, allows us to see how the book’s boards were constructed. Rather than one piece of wood or paperboard, the boards are made from layers of stiff paper glued together with starch paste. Each board is comprised of twelve layers of “printer’s waste,” or discarded pages from other books available for use by the bookbinder. The printed pages used were printed in both black and red ink, probably dating from a 15th century bible.

Image of MS B38: open to see insides Photograph of MS B38: (later) title page for manuscript

Photograph of MS B38: open to show layers of board

Andreas Fabricius. Chemnicensis. [Germany?, 1549?].  [Bound with printed work: Joachim Camerius, 1500-1574 . Capita pietatis et religionis Christianae versibus Graecis comprehensa ad institutionem puerilem […], Lipsiae: V. Papa, 1547]. Call number: MS B38.  Left: binding open to see the book’s insides; Right:  title page for the manuscript; Bottom: book open to show the layers of board.  Click images to enlarge.

The tooled pigskin cover is detached, allowing us to see how the book was sewn on three pairs of linen cords. The cord ends were frayed out and glued to the outside of the “boards.” Linen cords were used as a core to sew on decorative endbands at the head and tail (top and bottom) of the spine.

Photograph of MS B38: tooled pigskin binding Photograph of MS 38: detail of frayed cords

Left: the book’s tooled pigskin cover; Right: detail of frayed cords.  Click images to enlarge.

The text of this book is a combination of printed and manuscript pages. The subject appears to be a handbook of logic, grammar, and rhetoric. It is a true composite object!

Click on the thumbnails below for additional  images:

Photograph of MS B38: detail of paper for board Photograph of MS B38: close-up open to see the spine

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Note: For more detailed information regarding the contents of this volume, please see entry M115 in A Checklist of Medieval Manuscripts in the Department of Special Collections at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library (Revised edition, 1996), which is available in the library’s reading room.