Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: From Genoa to Crimea, the Wide World of Books

August 25th, 2020

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 C277 includes a translation from Greek into Latin of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini of Arezzo (1420–1483?). Although throughout the medieval and the early modern period the letters were attributed to Phalaris, a tyrant who ruled in Sicily during the sixth century BCE, it is now believed that this was not the case, mostly thanks to the work of Richard Bentley (1662–1742). A scholar of Greek and Latin, Bentley was the keeper of the king’s libraries and later the master of Trinity College in Cambridge, UK. In the late 1690s, during a scholarly controversy following the appearance of the edition of the Epistles of Phalaris by Charles Boyle, fourth earl of Orrery (1676–1731) in 1695, which is now known as the “Phalaris controversy,” Bentley proved that the Epistles were not written by Phalaris but instead forged centuries later, perhaps as late as the fourth century CE.

The translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini of Arezzo was the first translation of this work in Greek into Latin and is believed to be dated to the 1440s. The fifteenth century saw a great revival of the ancient and classical literature, especially in Italy, and a surge in translations from Greek into Latin. It is also known that Francesco Griffolini later produced a prose translation of Homer’s Odyssey in Latin at the request of Pope Pius II, as well as translations of the homilies of John Chrysostom among others.

The translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini is dedicated to Domenico Malatesta of Cesena, also known as Malatesta Novello (1418–1465), and opens with a dedicatory preface. As it stands, MS C277 is missing its first leaf and its second leaf is misbound and was placed as its final leaf at the end of the codex. Thus, the text begins in the middle of the preface, indeed in the middle of a sentence on what was originally the third folio of the manuscript. However, the first letter of the first word “arbitor” was later turned into a decorated initial in an effort to match the rest of the initials with penwork in the manuscript. The person responsible for this decorated initial A was probably the same person who added a title page to the manuscript to replace the leaf that had gone missing.

The title page on folio 1 recto, added later for Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277
The title page on folio 1r, added later. Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277. Click image to enlarge.
The beginning of the text on folio 2r for Spencer Research Library's copy of Pseudo-Phalaris's Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277
The beginning of the text on folio 2r. Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277. Click image to enlarge.

Some 150 copies of the translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini survive in manuscript in addition to several print editions, the earliest of which is dated to 1468/1469. What sets MS C277 apart is that we know when and by whom the manuscript was copied. The information is relayed in a colophon at the end of the text: “Perfecte sunt per me Antonium de Boçollo notarium et in p[raese]ntiarum subcancellarium. Anno dominice nativitatis: MoccccoLxotercio die primo Iunii”: “These [letters] were completed by me, Antonius de Bozollo, notary and sub-chancellor at present, on the first of June in the 1463rd year of the birth of our Lord.”

Opening showing the colophon in red ink on folio 39 recto of Epistolae by Pseudo-Phalaris (MS C277)
The colophon on folio 39r of MS C277. Click image to enlarge.

We do not know much about Antonius de Bozollo other than what he professes in the colophon; that he was a notary and scribe, and at the time he was working for the Archbishop of Genoa, Paolo di Campofregoso (mentioned in the colophon as “P. […] Archiep[iscop]o Ianuen[si]”). Neither do we have any information about the early history of MS C277. It is plausible, however, that MS C277 was copied in or near Genoa. Indeed, it seems like the manuscript was not only copied there but remained in Genoa at least until the early nineteenth century. The watermarks on the paper flyleaves that were added to the manuscript with its latest and current binding were in use in the early nineteenth century in Genoa, and there are some notes in Italian in a modern hand about the contents of the manuscript on the front pastedown.

What is perhaps equally interesting is that the only other identifiable codex to be copied by Antonius de Bozollo is another copy of the Epistles of Phalaris. This manuscript is now San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07, and it is also concluded with a colophon similar to that of MS C277. This time, the manuscript is dated to February 1, 1464, and was copied at the request of Pancratius Gentilis olim Falamonice, member of a Genoan family.

The colophon on folio 46 recto of the copy of the Epistolae held in San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07
The colophon on folio 46r in San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07. Source: Digital Scriptorium.

Based on the dates in the colophons, the two copies of the same text were copied by Antonius de Bozollo only eight months apart. Not only is the Humanistic script of the main text in both manuscripts very similar, but so are the manners in which the rubrics are inserted and the initials illuminated. This leads me to believe that Antonius de Bozollo was probably responsible for the entire production of the manuscript.

Other than MS C277 and Sutro Collection MS 07, which are definitely copied by the same Antonius de Bozollo, the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts includes a Sotheby’s auction catalog record from June 1993 for another manuscript that seems to have been copied by an Antonio de Bozollo at the turn of the sixteenth century. In this case, not only is the suggested dating some 40 years later than these two manuscripts but also the current whereabouts of this manuscript is unknown, and therefore we cannot verify whether or not this Antonio de Bozollo is the same scribe as that of MS C277 and Sutro Collection MS 07. Or, it may be that the manuscript was simply misdated by the auctioneers and is actually to be dated rather earlier.

There is, however, another manuscript in which the name Antonius de Bozollo appears, but this time he is not the scribe but the owner. Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 17 contains a copy of Francesco Petrarca’s Africa copied by Giovanni Antonio de Colli on the island of Chios on the Aegean Sea and dated to June 13, 1461. Antonius de Bozollo has left an ownership inscription on the lower margin in black ink, just below the lengthy colophon, detailing his purchase of the manuscript. It begins with the date and place: November 28, 1474, Caffa (modern Feodosia in Crimea). It then reads that Antonius de Bozollo the notary purchased the book from Michael Niger for 100 silver aspers of Caffa. Those who witnessed the purchase are Iohannes de Niger and Leonardus Negrinus, who might have been related to the seller.

The colophon and ownership inscription on folio 152 verso at Harvard University's Houghton Library, MS Typ 17
The colophon and ownership inscription on folio 152v in Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 17. Source: HOLLIS.

There are good reasons to think that the notary copying MS C277 in Genoa is the same person buying the book that was copied in Chios a decade later in Caffa. Indeed, we often forget how connected the medieval world was. The Republic of Genoa had a series of trading posts in the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Seas. Indeed, outposts on the coast of the Black Sea existed since the second half of the thirteenth century, and until its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1475, Caffa on the southern coast of Crimea was a prominent Genoese trade center. Similarly, Chios on the Aegean Sea was under Genoese rule from the beginning of the fourteenth century until its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1566. This allows us to explain how a book that was produced in Chios ended up being sold in Caffa in less than a decade. It might also explain how a Genoan notary ended up in Crimea. The name of Antonius de Bozollo also appears in a series of records of the Bank of Saint George (also known as Ufficio di San Giorgio), a financial institution of the Republic of Genoa, in the years 1473 and 1474. One of these documents is from Caffa and is dated 1474.

The more that significant information such as the names of scribes and previous owners is recorded in catalogs, and the more that non-literary texts such as notarial documents are edited, the more we will be able to connect manuscripts and the producers and owners of these artifacts as well as the places that they have been. I would like to extend my gratitude to the late Bernard M. Rosenthal who had already pointed out the ownership inscription by Antonius de Bozollo in MS Typ 17 at the time of the sale of this manuscript to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library as well as Consuelo Dutschke who contacted us in December 2019 with the same information.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Bernard M. Rosenthal Inc. in 1994 (?), and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Manuscript of the Month: To Transcribe, or Not To Transcribe, That is Not the Question

July 28th, 2020

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 Pryce MS P4 has received renewed attention in the past weeks as we ventured into an international transcription competition: “La Sfera Challenge.” The “International La Sfera Challenge” involves transcribing multiple copies of a single text, Gregorio (Goro) Dati’s La Sfera. There are over 150 surviving manuscripts containing this fifteenth-century geographical treatise in Italian, and one of these is Pryce MS P4. During the first iteration of the challenge earlier this year, three different manuscripts were transcribed, and the second, ongoing at the time of the publication of this blogpost, will add to that count five more manuscripts, including Pryce MS P4. The project is supported by the IIIF ConsortiumFromThePage and Stanford Libraries, and the transcriptions of all the manuscripts and other related scholarly products resulting from the “La Sfera Challenge” are being made available open access to scholars and the general public. Led by Laura Ingallinella, Karen Severud Cook and myself, Team Spencer consists of a group of ten scholars from across Europe and the US with different fields of expertise who are set to transcribe Pryce MS P4.

Transcribing a manuscript text is a great way to gain insight into the making of a manuscript and the different stages of copying and illumination. It is a very intense process in which one needs to consider carefully every single mark left on the leaves and its potential implications not only for the meaning of the text but also for the production of the artifact. This is particularly true for manuscripts for which we do not have a lot of information, such as Pryce MS P4: neither the scribe nor the place or the date of production is known. A collaborative transcription effort, such as the “La Sfera Challenge,” allows us to discover more about a manuscript, especially compared to a solitary exercise, as there is more than one person asking similar questions and a group of transcribers discussing what is on the page.

Image of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), open to the end of Book II on folio 13v and the beginning of Book III on folio 14r.
The end of Book II on fol. 13v and the beginning of Book III on fol. 14r. Gregorio Dati, La Sfera, Italy, mid-fifteenth century. Call # Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge.

The text of La Sfera is constructed very methodically: it contains four books, with each book containing 36 stanzas and each stanza containing eight lines. In most cases, this even spread of the total 144 stanzas over four books enabled scribes to create uniform-looking layouts when copying the text. La Sfera is found on fols 2r–25r in Pryce MS P4, in two gatherings, both of which are composed of 12 leaves. Each folio contains 24 lines; i.e., three stanzas. Book I occupies fols 2r–7v, Book II fols 8r–13v, Book III fols 14r–19v and Book IV fols 20r–25r. However, only the beginnings of Book II and Book III are signaled in the manuscript on the upper margins of fol. 8r and fol. 14r respectively. Therefore, if there was no comparative material, one would easily think that there were only three books. The omission of the division between the third and fourth books occasionally also occurs in a number of other manuscripts of La Sfera. Furthermore, in Pryce MS P4 Book IV is missing three stanzas: it begins on fol. 20r, which contains stanzas one to three and then on fol. 20v it continues with the seventh stanza, while skipping the fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas.

How the books and chapters of a text are divided or whether there are any missing or additional parts of text are the kinds of peculiarities that enable scholars to make connections between different manuscript copies of a certain text. These kinds of alterations from one manuscript to the other can help determine, for example, whether or not a manuscript might have been copied from another existing manuscript, or whether two manuscripts might be related in some other way. Since the text continues from one side of the leaf to the next in Pryce MS P4, loss of a leaf for the missing stanzas is out of the question. Either the scribe got distracted or misremembered where they left off and began copying the seventh instead of the fourth stanza, or their exemplar—the manuscript from which they were copying—was also missing these three stanzas. There is no indication in the manuscript that the scribe or later readers spotted that there were missing stanzas; indeed, this is one of the things that was hitherto unnoticed about the copy of La Sfera in Pryce MS P4. Thus, in Pryce MS P4, each book occupies six leaves, with the exception of the last one, which is copied on five and a half leaves with the verso of the final leaf (fol. 25v) left blank.

Image of of folio 15r of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with enlarged sections illustrating examples of different letterforms for letters r and z.
Examples of different letterforms for letters r and z on fol. 15r of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge. Full transcription of fol. 15r can be found on FromThePage.

The text of La Sfera in Pryce MS P4 is not given a title nor is it attributed to an author. The main text was copied by a single scribe. Since we do not know the identity of the scribe or exactly when and where they might have copied the manuscript, a detailed examination of any distinguishable textual and scribal features becomes very important. An interesting paleographical and orthographical feature in Pryce MS P4 is that the scribe uses two different letterforms for the letter r as well as two different letterforms for the letter z. Whereas the use of two different letterforms for the letter r might be due to scribal practices of the times, the different letterforms for the letter z are almost certainly due to the different phonetics of the words, even though they are both represented with the letter z in modern Italian. When pronounced unvoiced, the letter z produces the “ts” sound and when voiced, the “dz” sound. Therefore, for example, we have decided to distinguish between the two different letterforms used for the letter z in the manuscript and represent these as “ç” (for “ts”) and “z” (for “dz”) in our transcription, which can now be viewed in full on FromThePage.

Image of of folio 16r of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with enlarged sections illustrating the preference for /ct/ instead of /tt/ in the spelling of words.
Examples of preference of /ct/ instead of /tt/ in the spelling of words on fol. 16r of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge. Full transcription of fol. 16r can be found on FromThePage.

The scribe of Pryce MS P4 also displays some familiarity with the Latin language. For example, the beginning of Book II and Book III are marked with rubrics in Latin: “liber secundus” (book two) and “liber tercius” (book three) on the upper margins of fol. 8r and fol. 14r respectively. This in itself is not indicative of knowledge of Latin, as it was relatively common to use Latin in the rubrics even when the main text was in a vernacular language. The scribe, moreover, in many cases seems to favor spellings in Latin when writing in Italian. For example, they consistently use the Latin form /ct/ instead of /tt/ in the spelling of words, writing “quactro” for “quattro” (four), “octo” for “otto” (eight) and “tucti” for “tutti” (all), etc.

Image of of folio 7 verso of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with blown up segments showing examples of Latin abbreviations, such as "per" and "con."
Examples of Latin abbreviations on fol. 7v of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge. Full transcription of fol. 7v can be found on FromThePage.

Another significant characteristic of the scribe of Pryce MS P4 is the use of abbreviations that derive from Latin even though the text copied is in Italian. Albeit limited in number, the use of Latin abbreviations is pretty consistent throughout the text, notably the letter p with stroke through its descender representing letters /per/ and the sign resembling the Hindu-Arabic numeral 9 for letters /con/ as well as the combination of the letter q and the letter n with a macron as an abbreviation for the word “quando” (when), which derives directly from Latin.

Image of of folio 10 verso of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with blown up segments show spaces left for initials at the beginning of each stanza.
Spaces left for initials at the beginning of each stanza on fol. 10v of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge.

As mentioned, each folio contains 24 lines; i.e., three stanzas. These 24 lines are continuous and there are no spaces left in between stanzas therefore it looks like there are no indications of stanzas in Pryce MS P4. A closer look, however, reveals otherwise. A space was reserved for an initial letter (presumably decorated) at the beginning of each stanza by the scribe. Consistent throughout the manuscript, at the beginning of each folio, there is a 3-line space left for the initial of the first stanza of that folio and a 1-line space for each of the initials of the second and the third stanzas. Thus, either the scribe was aware that the text was in stanzas of eight lines or the exemplar they were using had some sort of division of stanzas.

The decorated initials, however, were never filled in. In most cases, another hand, possibly the one responsible for supplying the rubrics, has supplied the initials in the form of somewhat enlarged letters. Yet, this was not done in a consistent or systematic manner. On fol. 10v, for example, the first initial, the letter S, was supplied in the 3-line space left for the initial of the first stanza, the second initial was completely forgotten and then the third initial was supplied incorrectly as the letter d, only to be corrected later on as the letter Q. In other cases, such as fol. 21, it seems that only guide letters—small letters placed in the spaces provided for initials that indicate which letters are to be added later—were provided. Presumably the guide letters also were inserted by someone other than the main scribe of the text, as their presence is not consistent.

Image of of folio 21r of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with blown up segments showing spaces left for initials, which now only contain guide letters, at the beginning of each stanza.
Spaces left for initials, which now only contain guide letters, at the beginning of each stanza on fol. 21r of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge.

Although there are not a lot of interventions in the main text that can definitively be ascribed to another person, it is clear that others have worked on Pryce MS P4 in addition to our anonymous scribe. Not only are there different strategies for supplying the initials but also the handwriting of the rubrics and the labels of the maps and other illustrations found in the manuscript is markedly different than that of the main text. There may even have been readers leaving their marks on the leaves as there are manicules—symbols in the shape of a pointing hand that are used to draw attention to certain parts of the text—on two separate folios. As we complete our transcription Pryce MS P4 this week, we will surely find more interesting features.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from H. P. Kraus in 1968, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open. In the meantime, you can see more of Pryce MS P4 on Digital Scriptorium and FromThePage.

Read more about Pryce MS P4:

“La Sfera Challenge” website also maintains a wider bibliography on La Sfera and its manuscripts.

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Meet the KSRL Staff: N. Kıvılcım Yavuz

October 22nd, 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 N. Kıvılcım Yavuz, who joined Spencer 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

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.

An Easter Pizza in Umbria, Italy in 1842

May 24th, 2012

Easter Sunday …  after dinner they brought us an enormous sort of cake to look at – it is made of flour, lard, cheese, & quantities of eggs – the name is Pizza – or Torta – one of these we saw must have been 4 feet in circumference – it is made at Easter – only in this part of the country not in Rome – it is rather good – very light – but too strong of the cheese – they eat this cake – sausages – eggs which have been blessed (so has the cake) and wash it down with the best wine which is stored up for the occasion – such is their Easter feast. …

Entered by Pauline Trevelyan in her diary,  Spoleto, Italy, 27 March 1842 , call number: MS C133

Traditional pizza recipes vary greatly in different regions of Italy. In her journal entry for Easter Sunday 1842 Pauline Trevelyan describes her first taste of Umbrian Easter pizza, a tall round loaf of cheese-flavored bread traditionally served with sliced Italian sausage and hard-boiled eggs. The photograph featured below shows the tasty recreation of that meal submitted to the recent University of Kansas Libraries edible book competition.


Umbrian Easter pizza entry at the Edible Book Festival, 2012
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