Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Meet the KSRL Staff: N. Kıvılcım Yavuz

October 22nd, 2019

Today’s profile features N. Kıvılcım Yavuz, who joined the Spencer Research Library 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

A Holinshed’s Chronicles Provenance Puzzle

February 6th, 2018

Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland is widely regarded as a book that inspired and informed many of William Shakespeare’s history plays, as well as tragedies such as Macbeth and King Lear. Last year Kenneth Spencer Research Library (KSRL) purchased the first edition (1577) with the aim of making the book and its 212 lively woodcut illustrations available to visiting classes and researchers. The bookseller’s description said that this copy had been in private family ownership for generations, but we never dreamed that it would be possible to trace the book back to its original owner. After unpacking the two volumes, we leafed through them page by page looking for manuscript annotations.

On the title page of volume one “William Kyllygrewe” had signed his name twice in Tudor script:

Title page of volume 1 of Holinshed's Chronicles (1577), with William Killigrew's signature

Title page of Volume 1 of Raphael Holinshed’s
Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande.
At London: Imprinted for Iohn Hunne, 1577.
Call Number: Pryce D11. Click image to enlarge.

Could William Kyllygrewe have been the original owner of the book? Browsing through the rest of the book revealed some marginal notes and manicules (sketches of a pointing hand) marking passages of interest to some past reader. There is no other handwritten evidence of ownership.

However, there is an eye-catching pictorial map in the section about the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that concludes volume two. The text recounts the conflict between the Catholic forces supporting Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Protestant forces of Queen Elizabeth during 1571-1573. The hostilities culminated in the “Lang Siege” of Edinburgh Castle.

The map shows the Protestant artillery bombarding Edinburgh Castle before achieving victory.

Map showing the Protestant artillery bombarding of Edinburgh Castle from volume 2 of Holinshed's Chronicles, following p. 1868

Map of the siege of Edinburgh Castle, from Vol. 2 (following page 1868) of
Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande.
Call Number: Pryce D11. Click image to enlarge.

Text on the back side of the map lists the chief participants in the siege. General Sir William Drurie commanded the Protestant forces with the aid of ten Gentlemen and Captaines. One of them was “Henrie Killigrew hir maiesties ambassadoure at that present in Scotland.” Listed next are thirteen “Gentlemen as went thither to serve of their owne free willes.”

Among the gentlemen who participated “of their own free willes” is William Killigrew.

List of participants in the Siege of Edinburgh Castle, including the names of Henry and William Killigrew.

List of participants in the siege from the verso of the map of Edinburgh castle,
from Vol. 2 (following page 1868) of Holinshed’s Chronicles of England,
Scotlande, and Irelande
. Call Number: Pryce D11. Click image to enlarge.

Allowing for the variations in spelling usual at that time, could he be the William Kyllygrewe who owned this book? In his shoes, wouldn’t you want to own a book in which you and your brother are mentioned as major players in a recent military victory?

Some genealogical investigation of the Killigrew family tree with its numerous Henrys and Williams revealed that the Henry Killigrew (d. 1603) and William Killigrew (d.1622) were the fourth and fifth sons of John Killigrew and Elizabeth (née Trewennard) of Arwennack in Cornwall. As younger sons they needed to make their own way in the world and did so successfully as royal courtiers. William was elected Member of Parliament a number of times and was appointed to various government offices, including Groom of the Privy Chamber to Elizabeth I in 1576 and Chamberlain of the Exchequer under James I in 1608.  In 1594 he took an 80-year lease on Kempton and Hanworth, adjoining royal manors in Middlesex near London. In 1603 he was knighted.

While the biographical information did not answer the question whether this William Killigrew had owned our copy of Holinshed’s Chronicles, his prominence suggested that surviving documents signed by him might be located and compared with our owner’s inscription. The Discovery database at the website of The National Archives at Kew near London in England led to an archival record in the Surrey History Centre for a letter held written by William Killigrew to Sir William Moore on 3 June 1579, just two years after the publication of Holinshed’s Chronicles.

Killigrew’s letter concerns the Bishop of Winchester’s meadow at Farnham in Surrey.

Letter from William Killigrew to Sir William Moore, 3 June 1579

Letter from William Killigrew to Sir William Moore, 3 June 1579.
Surrey History Center. Letter Ref. Number 6729/1/56.
Reproduced by permission of the More-Molyneux family and
Surrey History Centre. Click image to enlarge.

Killigrew planned to pasture his horses there but was asking Moore, one of the Bishop’s executors, to reduce the rent because the meadow was “very much choked with sand and gravel by reason of the great floods.” It was exciting for us to discover that the Killigrew signature on the letter is a close match to the ownership inscriptions in our Holinshed’s Chronicles.

William Killigrew signature detail from the title page of volume 1 of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande. William Killigrew signature from a letter from William Killigrew to Sir William Moore, 3 June 1579

Details of William Killigrew’s signatures: Holinshed’s Chronicles (left)
and the letter to Moore (right). Click image to enlarge.

In fact, the search for a William Killigrew signature need not have led so far afield. Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s large collection of English Historical Documents includes, as it turns out, a 26 October 1601 deed of covenant by William Killigrew and his son, Robert, agreeing to sell a messuage (dwelling house, outbuildings, and land) in Clerkenwell Parish, Middlesex to John Gregorye and his wife, Judith.

William Killigrew’s signature is clear at the bottom of the deed, although Robert’s signature to the right is only partly legible

Deed of covenant by William Killigrew and his son, Robert, agreeing to sell a messuage (dwelling house, outbuildings, and land) in Clerkenwell Parish, Middlesex to John Gregorye and his wife, Judith.

Deed of covenant signed by William Killigrew, 26 October 1601.
A Miscellany of Deeds and Manorial, Estate, Probate and Family Documents, 1194-1900.
Call Number: MS 239: 2357. Click image to enlarge.

Once again, the signatures match.

William Killigrew signature detail from the title page of volume 1 of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande. William Killigrew signature detail from 1601 deed of covenant.

Details of William Killigrew’s signatures: Holinshed’s Chronicles (left)
and Killigrew-Gregorye deed (right). Click images to enlarge.

The manner in which the copy of Holinshed’s Chronicles descended from the hands of William Killigrew in family ownership until Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased it is still uncertain. The bookseller’s description suggests that a female Killigrew relative may have taken the book with her when she married into the Grenville family. More research remains to be done.

Karen Severud Cook
Special Collections Librarian