Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

For the Birds: Color Our Collections – Round 4!

February 2nd, 2021

A little bird told us that the fifth-annual Color Our Collections week has arrived! Started by the New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016, Color Our Collections is a week of coloring fun where libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world share coloring pages featuring their collection materials.

We are happy as larks to share KU Libraries’ fourth coloring creation – and it is definitely one “for the birds” this year! Featuring artwork from the John Gould Ornithological Collection at the Spencer Research Library, our newest coloring book is full of birds from around the world; the images are all pre-publication illustrations related to three of John Gould’s books: A Monograph of the Trochilidae, Birds of Asia, and The Birds of Great Britain.

You can download and print a PDF copy of the coloring book via the Color Our Collections website. While you are there, be sure to check out the submissions from our birds of a feather at other institutions! As a preview, here are three pages from the book. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Are you a fan of the collections at Spencer? Has your eagle eye ever come across an image in our materials that would make a great coloring page? Tell us about it in the comments or email us at ksrlref@ku.edu!  

We hope that this coloring fun will help you feel free as a bird even when you cannot fly the coop during the pandemic! Happy coloring, everyone!

Emily Beran
Color Our Collections

Treatment and rebinding of MS E279, part 2

January 22nd, 2021

All the way back in October 2019, I wrote about starting on the treatment of MS E279, Historia flagellantium…De recto et perverso flagrorum usu apud Christianos…Ex antiquis Scripturæ, patrum, pontificum, conciliorum, & scriptorum profanorum monumentis cum curâ & fide expressa, by Jacques Boileau. This volume is the manuscript, dated 1691 and with annotations believed to be in the author’s own hand, for the printed version of the same title published in 1700. Spencer also holds a copy of the printed edition at Summerfield B2655.

The volume was weakened by past water and mold damage and so required especially careful handling throughout the treatment process. After photographing the volume in its pre-treatment condition, I first cleaned the residual mold using soft brushes and low-suction HEPA vacuum, working in our bio-safety cabinet to reduce my exposure to the mold (and prevent contamination of other collection material). After the volume was cleaned, I removed the damaged binding and took apart the sewing.

A damaged folio from MS E279 before treatment, at left, and being mended during treatment, at right.
A damaged folio from MS E279 before treatment, at left, and being mended during treatment, at right. Click image to enlarge.

The most time-consuming part of the treatment involved mending tears, filling losses, and guarding the sections (adding a reinforcing strip of thin Japanese tissue along the fold to strengthen it prior to sewing). The manuscript also has numerous notes and additions pasted in which needed reinforcement or reattaching. Once all the mending was complete, the volume was ready to be sewn and bound. In discussions with Special Collections curator Karen Cook, we considered different options for rebinding the book and settled on a conservation paper case binding, which would provide gentle support for the fragile text.

I sewed the volume with fine linen thread over three cords, adding new endpapers, and added sewn endbands of the same linen thread around rolled paper cores. After lining the spine with Japanese paper, Western laid paper, and linen, I attached a new case of medium-weight handmade paper. The case is attached only by the linen spine linings and by the sewing and endband supports which are laced through the case. The result has an appearance that is similar to and visually compatible with historic limp bindings. This structure has the added benefit of being easily removed if future caretakers of this volume wish to rebind it in a different fashion.

MS E279 after treatment in its new paper case binding, with linen spine lining and laced sewing supports.
MS E279 after treatment in its new paper case binding, with linen spine lining and laced sewing supports. Click image to enlarge.
The title page of MS E279 shown before treatment, at left, and after treatment, at right.
The title page of MS E279 shown before treatment, at left, and after treatment, at right. Click image to enlarge.

The newly-bound volume is housed in a clamshell box along with the old boards. While this manuscript is still fragile, the repairs and new binding will allow it to be consulted by researchers in the reading room, which was not possible in its prior condition. To view this manuscript or any of Spencer’s collections, you may make an appointment to visit the reading room during our updated hours.

“I Cannot and Will Not Recant Anything…”

January 13th, 2021

“ …for to go against conscience is nether right nor safe.”

Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521

Five hundred years ago, on January 3, 1521, the Catholic Church excommunicated Martin Luther, a German priest and professor of theology, due to the ideas expressed in his Ninety-five Theses (1517) and the content of some of his subsequent writings. While considered an outlaw in many regions of Europe after his excommunication, Luther’s beliefs served as a primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

Original copies of some of Luther’s works can be viewed at Kenneth Spencer Research Library today. Two of the earliest are Von Kauffshandlung und Wucher (On Commerce and Usury) and Warnunge (Warnings), published in 1524 and 1531, respectively.

Image of the title page of Von Kaufshandlung und Wucher by Martin Luther, 1524
Title page of Von Kauffshandlung und Wucher by Martin Luther, 1524. Call Number: Summerfield B1360. Click image to enlarge.
Image of the title page of Warnunge by Martin Luther, 1531
Title page of Warnunge by Martin Luther, 1531. Call Number: Summerfield B1359. Click image to enlarge.

Both items are written in German and feature elaborate title pages with decorative woodcut borders. Warnunge also shows evidence of annotation throughout – including the use of a manicule, or a “little hand” to highlight aspects of the text.

Image of two annotated pages of text in Warnunge by Martin Luther, 1531
Two annotated pages of text in Warnunge by Martin Luther, 1531. Note the use of a manicule – or a “little hand” to highlight aspects of the text – in the upper left-hand corner. Call Number: Summerfield B1359. Click image to enlarge.

Beyond these featured items, Spencer’s collections include a sizable number of materials related to the people and conflicts associated with the Protestant Reformation. While many of the library’s items are not printed in English, the value of these holdings is in their connection to this chaotic time in history and how the Reformation shaped the future of Europe and Christianity. Items include additional published writings by Martin Luther as well as writings and sermons in defense of both Protestantism and Catholicism.

Emily Beran
Public Services

John Gould (1804-1881): Birdman in the Australian Bush

December 22nd, 2020

When John Gould set out with his wife Elizabeth and eldest son (three younger children remained in England with their grandmother) in 1838 on the five-month sea voyage from England to Australia, his goal was to observe birds in the wild, collect specimens and enable Elizabeth, an artist, to make drawings for their planned book about Australian birds. Their first stop was Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land), where the Goulds were befriended by the governor, Sir John Franklin, and his wife. Elizabeth, who was pregnant, stayed with the Franklins and made drawings of plants and animals. Meanwhile, Gould explored the bush in Tasmania and on the Australian mainland in New South Wales and South Australia, including Kangaroo Island. After the birth of another son, the Gould party travelled to New South Wales, where Elizabeth’s brothers, Charles and Stephen Coxen, had settled. Following the Goulds’ return to England in 1840, The Birds of Australia appeared in 36 installments, the first on December 1, 1840 and the last in 1848. Elizabeth had died in 1841, so the later parts were illustrated by another artist, Henry Constantine Richter, working under Gould’s close supervision. The lithographic crayon drawings, printed in black and hand-watercolored by hired colourists, contributed to the success of this landmark early book about Australian ornithology.

Gould also wrote the descriptive text accompanying each illustration with assistance from his accomplished and devoted secretary, Edwin Charles Prince. The comments about many of the birds of southeastern Australia were based on Gould’s own observations. Although John Gilbert, an assistant who accompanied the Goulds to Australia, had supplied specimens and notes about birds from other parts of Australia (before being killed by Aborigines near the Gulf of Carpenteria), the examples discussed here are firsthand accounts that reveal Gould’s keen observational skills, deep interest in birds, and nascent ambivalence toward the killing of birds for sport, food, and scientific collection.

Image of the Rose-breasted Cockatoo / Cacatua eos in The Birds of Australia (1848)
Rose-breasted Cockatoo / Cacatua eos in The Birds of Australia (1848), vol. 5, plate 4. Call Number: Ellis Aves H141. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Gould’s text enlivens this static picture of Rose-breasted Cockatoos by describing the breathtaking experience of seeing flocks in motion. “The Rose-breasted Cockatoo possesses considerable power of wing, and like the house-pigeon of this country [England], frequently passes in flocks over the plains with a long sweeping flight, the group at one minute displaying their beautiful silvery grey backs to the gaze of the spectator, and at the next by a simultaneous change of position bringing their rich rosy breasts into view, the effect of which is so beautiful to behold, that it is a source of regret to me that my readers cannot participate in the pleasure I have derived from the sight.”

Image of the Spotted Pardalote / Pardalotus punctatus in The Birds of Australia (1848)
Spotted Pardalote / Pardalotus punctatus in The Birds of Australia (1848), vol. 2, plate 35. Call Number: Ellis Aves H141. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The nesting habits of Australian birds were also intriguing. Gould writes that the Spotted Pardalote’s nesting habits differ from known members of its genus in nesting underground; “availing itself of any little shelving bank that occurs in its vicinity, [it] excavates a hole just large enough to admit of the passage of its body, in a nearly horizontal direction to the depth of two or three feet, at the end of which a chamber is formed in which the nest is deposited. The nest itself is a neat and beautifully built structure, formed of strips of the inner bark of the Eucalypti, and lined with finer strips of the same material.”

Image of the Spotted-sided Finch / Amadina lathami in The Birds of Australia (1848)
Spotted-sided Finch / Amadina lathami in The Birds of Australia (1848), vol. 3, plate 86. Call Number: Ellis Aves H141. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Above ground, Gould was surprised to find that Spotted-sided Finch nests are “frequently built among the large sticks forming the under surface of the nest of the smaller species of Eagles…both species hatching and rearing their progeny in harmony. He observed “little finches…sitting on the small twigs close to their rapacious but friendly neighbor…a Whistling Eagle.”

Image of the Piping Crow-shrike / Gymnorhina tibicen in The Birds of Australia (1848)
Piping Crow-shrike / Gymnorhina tibicen in The Birds of Australia (1848), vol. 2, plate 46. Call Number: Ellis Aves H141. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Some birds could co-exist with European settlers. Gould comments that the Piping Crow-shrike (Gymnorhina tibicen) “…is a bold and showy bird which, when not harassed and driven away, greatly enlivens and ornaments the lawns and gardens of the colonists by its presence, and with the slightest protection from molestation becomes so tame and familiar that it approaches close to their dwellings, and perches around them and the stock yards in small families of six to ten in number. Nor is its morning carol less amusing than its pied and strongly contrasting plumage is pleasing to the eye. To describe the notes of this bird is beyond the power of my pen, and it is a source of regret to myself that my readers cannot, as I have done, listen to them in their native wilds…”

Image of the Allied Kite / Milvius affinus in The Birds of Australia (1848)
Allied Kite / Milvius affinus in The Birds of Australia (1848), vol. 1, plate 21. Call Number: Ellis Aves H141. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Equally bold but less welcomed by colonists, a raptor, the Allied Kite (Milvius affinis), has a “confident and intrepid disposition [that] renders it familiar to every one, and not unfrequently costs it its life, as it fearlessly enters the farm yard of the settler, and if unopposed, impudently deals out destruction to the young poultry, pigeons, &c. tenanting it. The temerity of one individual was such, that it even disputed my right to a Bronze-winged Pigeon that had fallen before my gun, for which act, I am now almost ashamed to say, it paid the penalty of its life; on reflection I asked myself why should advantage have been taken of the confident disposition implanted in the bird by its Maker, particularly too when it was in a part of the country where no white man had taken up his abode and assumed a sovereign right over all that surrounds him.”

Image of the Partridge Bronze-wing / Geophaps scripta in The Birds of Australia (1848)
Partridge Bronze-wing / Geophaps scripta in The Birds of Australia (1848), vol. 5, plate 67. Call Number: Ellis Aves H141. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

While “a most delicate viand for the table,” the Partridge Bronze-wing (Geophaps scripta) is less endangered due to its isolation. “It is to be regretted that [it] should be so exclusively a denizen of the plains of the interior that it is available to few except inland travelers…It is withal so excessively tame, that it is not unfrequently killed by the bullock-drivers with their whips, while passing along the roads with their teams.”

Image of the Adelaide Parakeet / Platycercus adelaidiae in The Birds of Australia (1848)
Adelaide Parakeet / Platycercus adelaidiae in The Birds of Australia (1848), vol. 5, plate 22. Call Number: Ellis Aves H141. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Gould’s regret for the predicted disappearance of the Adelaide Parakeet (Platycercus adelaidiae) did not curtail his specimen collecting. “This beautiful Platycercus…may in a few years be looked for in vain in the suburbs of this rapidly increasing settlement [Adelaide], as it…is even now much persecuted and destroyed by the newly arrived emigrants, who kill it either for mere sport or for the table; for, like the other Platycerci, all of which feed on grass seeds, it is excellent eating. It was only by killing at least a hundred examples, in all their various stages of plumage, from nestling to the adult, that I was enabled to determine the fact of it being a new and distinct species.”

We may disagree with him, but Gould was a man of his times, and his views are part of the history of ornithology. Although the science of ornithology has since moved on, aided by technological innovations not dreamed of in Gould’s lifetime, the artistry of the beautiful illustrations in his books still attracts modern viewers. These illustrations allow us to see the birds through the eyes of Gould and his artists, and it is equally worthwhile to read Gould’s eloquent written observations about them. The John Gould Ornithological Collection, accessible at the University of Kansas Libraries website, offers the opportunity to pair pictures and descriptive text while reading digitized copies of Gould’s books on the Internet. A nearly complete set of John Gould’s publications, along with about 2000 pieces of preliminary art from his workshop, was bequeathed to the University of Kansas in 1945 as part of Ralph Nicholson Ellis, Jr.’s natural-history library. The Gould books and artwork were digitized with funding support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Karen Severud Cook
Special Collections Librarian
Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Hugh Orr
Member, Royal Geographical Society of South Australia

Banned Books Week 2020: Index Librorum Prohibitorum

September 22nd, 2020

Since the 1980s, librarians and readers have marked the last week in September as Banned Books Week – an effort to bring attention to banned or challenged books, celebrate the freedom to read, and promote discussions about the problem of censorship. While Banned Books Week has only been around since the late 20th century, the attitudes and actions that sparked the week’s inception are far from new. For centuries, people have sought to limit access to materials they deemed problematic.

In honor of Banned Books Week (this year September 27-October 3), I wanted to highlight a centuries-old list of banned books: the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books). The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of banned titles and authors published by the Catholic Church, starting in the 16th century. Here at Spencer Research Library, we have several early editions of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

The cover of the Index librorum prohibitorum, 1564
The title page of the Index librorum prohibitorum, 1564
The cover (top) and title page (bottom) of the Index librorum prohibitorum, 1564. Call Number: Summerfield B1548. Click images to enlarge.
The cover of the Index librorum prohibitorum, 1596
The title page of the Index librorum prohibitorum, 1596
The cover (top) and title page (bottom) of the Index librorum prohibitorum, 1596. Call Number: Summerfield A793. Click images to enlarge.

Works included on the list were considered heretical or immoral by the Church with additions and changes continually being added throughout the years. The final edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was published in 1948; Pope Paul VI abolished the list entirely in 1966.

The Index included works by a variety of philosophers, scientists, and authors. Some notable people who appeared on the list (and whose work can be found at Spencer Research Library) include:

As times and ideas changed, titles and authors could also be removed from the list as they were no longer considered inappropriate by the Church. This was the case for Dante Alighieri, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Victor Hugo – all of whom were included on the list for a time.

Happy reading, everyone!

Emily Beran
Public Services