Posted onFebruary 6, 2018byAshley Gosselar at the Special Collection Research Center
Reunion of atomic scientists on the 4th Anniversary (1946) of the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction, December 2, 1942, pictured in front of Bernard A. Eckhart Hall at the University of Chicago. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf3-00232, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Exhibition Dates: February 19 – April 13, 2018 Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL
On December 2, 1942, scientists at the University of Chicago produced the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction beneath the West Stand of Stagg Field, the University’s athletic stadium. This experiment, crucial to the control of nuclear fission, drove a rapid nationwide expansion of the Manhattan Project, the secret federal research and engineering program charged with producing a nuclear bomb.
Chicago’s role in the Manhattan Project did not end with the successful operation the first nuclear reactor. Buildings across the University of Chicago campus were converted for use by the code-named Metallurgical Laboratory. The Met Lab conducted extended research on the structure of uranium, developed the process for separating plutonium from uranium, and investigated nuclear radiation’s biological effects and safety issues. At the end of World War II, the Metallurgical Laboratory was transformed into the first United States federal laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory.
Chicago’s Met Lab also took the lead in organizing scientists’ political response to the devastation caused by atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Concerned about the future development and use of nuclear weapons, Met Lab veterans created the Atomic Scientists of Chicago and began publishing the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. They joined scientists from other Manhattan Project sites across the country and pressed successfully in 1946 for the passage of the Atomic Energy Act (McMahon Act) and creation of the civilian Atomic Energy Commission.
The Met Lab scientists achieved great technical success in their contribution to the creation of a powerful new military weapon. Yet the sobering consequences of their work moved them to enter the political arena and make the first critical arguments to control nuclear weapons and turn nuclear energy toward peaceful ends.
Based on archives and manuscripts in the Special Collections Research Center, Science and Conscience presents unique historical documents and artifacts, many not previously exhibited. Items on display are drawn from records of scientists’ organizations and the papers of those who worked on the Manhattan Project and at Chicago’s Met Lab, including Enrico Fermi, James Franck, Herbert L. Anderson, Samuel K. Allison, Samuel Schwartz, Francis W. Test, Lawrence Lanzl, John H. Balderston, Jr., Albert Wattenberg, Eugene Rabinowitch, Paul Henshaw, William B. Higinbotham, and Donald MacRae, among others.
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., and, when University of Chicago classes are in session, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Free and open to the public.
Use of Images and Media Contact
Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download by members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.
Major General Leslie R. Grooves, director of the Manhattan District, pins a Medal of Merit on physicist Enrico Fermi for his contribution to the success of the Atomic Bomb Project. They are pictured at the University of Chicago with other scientists who also received the award. From left: Major Groves; Harold C. Urey, the Martin A. Ryerson distinguished professor of Chemistry; Dr. Fermi; Samuel K. Allison, director of the university’s Institute for Nuclear Studies; Cyril S. Smith, director of the university’s Institute for the Study of Metals; and Robert S. Stone of the University of California Hospitals. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
Autographed endpapers in Henry DeWolf Smyth’s A General Account of the Development of Methods of Using Atomic Energy for Military Purposes under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945).
The Smyth Report was the first public account providing details of nuclear research conducted by the United States during World War II. This copy of the book, from the library of Metallurgical Lab staff member Melvin Bengston includes signatures of James Franck, Harold Urey, Samuel K. Allison, Eugene P. Wigner, Edward Teller, Herbert L. Anderson, and many other scientists and staff who worked on the Manhattan Project in Chicago.
Gift of Diana King
Rare Book Collection
James Franck, winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics, professor of Physical Chemistry (1938-1947) at the University of Chicago, and director of the Chemistry Division of the university’s Metallurgical Laboratory (World War II). Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
Enrico Fermi, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Physics and professor at the University of Chicago. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
Albert Wattenberg, pile construction, photograph, undated. Wikimedia Commons.
Stagg Field (Old), West Stands Wall 5. Capes Photo. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
Posted onJanuary 9, 2018byAshley Gosselar at the Special Collection Research Center
The papers of anthropologist, linguist, and University of Chicago professor Norman A. McQuown are now available to researchers at the Special Collections Research Center. A new guide is also available for the records of the Department of Anthropology’s Chiapas Project, which McQuown was heavily involved in.
Norman McQuown was best known for his efforts to document and study indigenous languages in Mexico and Central America and for his work in the field of non-verbal communication. He studied, conducted field and archival research, taught, and wrote on a wide range of languages, including Huastec, Quiche Maya, Yucatec Maya, Nahuatl, Totonac, Turkish, Russian, and Esperanto. He published in English, Spanish, and German, was comfortable writing and conversing in a large number of additional languages, and wrote frequently on the process of language teaching and learning. His papers document his research, writing, teaching, and administrative work.
The Chiapas Project records document the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology’s research projects in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas from 1956-1964. The projects aimed to investigate the language, culture, environment, and history of local Maya communities. The records contain administrative and financial material, project reports, and photographs. The McQuown Papers contain a significant amount of additional material from the Chiapas Project.
Norman A. McQuown was born in Peoria, Illinois on January 30, 1914. He received his AB in 1935 and MA in 1936, both in German, from the University of Illinois. He earned his PhD in linguistics from Yale University in 1940, where he studied under Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield and wrote his thesis on the Totonac language. From 1939-1942 he taught in Mexico and worked on a Turkish Language project for the American Council of Learned Societies. McQuown continued in this area during World War II, where he served as a Turkish specialist and editorial supervisor for the Language Section of the Army Service Forces.
After teaching briefly at Hunter College in New York City from 1945-1946, McQuown came to the University of Chicago in 1946 and remained there for the rest of his career, spending time as chair of both the anthropology and linguistics departments. Throughout his career, teaching and creating resources to help others learn remained important to him, and he edited, compiled, or translated a significant number of instructional texts for language learning.
McQuown was involved in a wide range of research activities. He made numerous trips to Mexico and Guatemala to conduct field work for the Man in Nature project, Chiapas project, and other work. He conducted archival research at libraries in Europe and the Americas and compiled catalogs of sources available on indigenous languages at various institutions. McQuown was also an early user of computers to document and study languages.
In addition to his work on indigenous languages, McQuown was a core contributor to TheNatural History of an Interview, a project in which he and colleagues conducted an in-depth microanalysis of a personal interview and related family interactions, covering both verbal and nonverbal communication. The manuscript was never published in English, but their work in the area of nonverbal communication was considered particularly groundbreaking.
McQuown was dedicated to preserving research and fieldwork, both his own and that of others. He did significant work to organize and provide access to the papers of Manuel Andrade, a professor of anthropology and linguist who passed away unexpectedly shortly before McQuown arrived at Chicago. McQuown was also the Founding Director of the University of Chicago’s Language Laboratory and Archives, now the Digital Media Archive, and established and made numerous contributions to what is now known as the Microfilm Collection of Manuscripts on Cultural Anthropology at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library.
Norman McQuown married Dolores Elrine Milleville on November 7, 1942. They had two daughters, Kathryn Ann and Patricia Ellen. Patricia predeceased him. Norman McQuown died in Chicago on September 7, 2005.
Posted onDecember 15, 2017byAshley Gosselar at the Special Collection Research Center
The personal papers of political theorist, ethicist, author, and professor, Jean Bethke Elshtain are now available for research in the Special Collections Research Center. The papers primarily document Elshtain’s career in academia and her activities as a public intellectual called upon to address issues related to feminism, war, and political ethics. They reveal the remarkable breadth and depth of her work on subjects as wide-ranging as bioethics and Jane Addams.
Jean Bethke Elshtain
Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013) grew up in Tinmath, Colorado, a small farming community outside of Fort Collins. At the age of 10, Jean contracted polio and was moved to Denver for treatment. Her mother obtained a job at the hospital in order to be near to her daughter, and eventually Jean was brought home to recuperate and learn to walk again.
Jean went on to earn an A.B. in history at Colorado State University, an M.A. in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a second M.A. in history at the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in Political Science at Brandeis University. Elshtain held teaching positions at Colorado State University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Chicago where she was the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, Political Science, and the Committee on International Relations for 18 years.
In addition to her active teaching career, Elshtain was a prolific writer and public speaker. She authored more than 500 scholarly articles, occasional and opinion pieces, and reviews in a wide range of publications. Elshtain authored more than a dozen books.
She maintained a rigorous public speaking schedule and was invited to lecture or comment upon topics related to feminism, bioethics, political ethics, the place of religion in modern society and in democracy, and war. A devout Christian, Elshtain was unafraid to incorporate theology and the history of religion into her discussions of contemporary events and politics.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, her writings on St. Augustine and the Just War doctrine prompted the George W. Bush administration to include her among a group of scholars and religious figures invited to the White House to meet with the President. The Just War doctrine was later used to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Elshtain was a public supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, Elshtain was appointed to the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2006-2013) and to the President’s Council on Bioethics (2008). She also served on the board of the National Humanities Center (1996-2013), the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (2003-2011), and the Scholars Council of the Library of Congress (2001-2013).
Elshtain received many prestigious appointments, fellowships, and awards throughout her lifetime, including nine honorary degrees. She co-directed the PEW Forum on Religious and Public Life (2001-2004), and was on the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study (1994-1996) and the Institute for American Values (1994-2008). She was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1996), and a Guggenheim Fellow (1991-1992). She held the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Library of Congress (2003), and was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar (1997-1998). In 2002 Elshtain was given the Frank J. Goodnow Award by the American Political Science Association, the highest honor bestowed by that organization. She delivered the esteemed Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 2005-2006, which led to her final major work, Sovereignty: God, State, and Self.
Jean Bethke Elshtain died in Nashville, Tennessee on August 11, 2013.
The Jean Bethke Elshtain Papers were processed and preserved with generous support from the McDonald Agape Foundation.
Posted onOctober 31, 2017byAshley Gosselar at the Special Collection Research Center
Professor Emerita Christina von Nolcken went live on Facebook on October 31, 2017 to teach viewers about a rare Canterbury Tales manuscript in the Special Collections Research Center. The manuscript, also known as the McCormick manuscript of the Canterbury tales, is one of the 57 relatively complete manuscript copies of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and one of two containing a passage from the “Tale of Melibeus.” Dr. von Nolcken connects the manuscript to the history of the Chaucer Research Project at the University of Chicago. The records of the Chaucer Research Project, as well as other medieval manuscripts acquired for the project, are available for research at the Special Collections Research Center. This video is one in a series of videos of UChicago faculty discussing their favorite items in the Special Collections Research Center. See Dr. Mindy Schwartz describe a 19th-century surgical kit and Dr. Ada Palmer discuss a Renaissance astronomy text.
Dr. Christina von Nolcken speaking about our Canterbury Tales mss and the Chaucer Research Project. #facultyfavorites
Posted onOctober 25, 2017byBecky Beaupre Gillespie, Law School Communications at D'Angelo Law
Ronald H. Coase and his wife, Marian, had just buckled themselves into their seats on the last leg of a journey from Chicago to Stockholm when an unusually loud and clear voice came over the in-cabin announcement system, jolting them to attention.
It was early December 1991, and their flights so far had been mercifully calm and relaxed. Less than two months earlier, the couple had been visiting Tunisia when a Reuters reporter approached them and became the first to tell the 80-year-old economist—a University of Chicago Law School professor well regarded as a founder and leader in the field of law and economics—that he’d won the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. (“I didn’t know a thing,” Coase later recounted. “I’m really pretty fortunate to be in a place where it’s so difficult to reach me. It’s a good place to learn about it—a place so ancient.”)
Now, as the plane prepared for takeoff, someone on the cabin crew wanted everyone to know that a new Nobel laureate was on board—and that champagne would be served in his honor.
“And it was, immediately, the trays of glasses having already been prepared,” Marian recalled in a 15-and-a-half page handwritten account of their visit to Sweden for the Nobel Prize ceremonies. “We were grateful that there was no spotlight on the plane to shine on us.”
So began the trip of a lifetime: one documented not just in news stories extolling Coase’s work on transaction costs and the nature of firms—but one chronicled in about a dozen Nobel-focused folders that are part of Ronald Coase Papers, which became publicly available earlier this year at the University of Chicago Library’s Special Collections Research Center. The collection, a 186-box treasure trove of research files, drafts, lectures, personal and professional correspondence, notes, reports, photographs, clippings, artifacts, and more, offers insight into both the mind and the man, a Law School legend who died in 2013 at age 102. Marian Coase died in 2012.
The materials documenting Coase’s 1991 Nobel Prize are just a small part of the 112.5-linear-feet collection. But they paint a picture of an extraordinary experience that only 923 global leaders in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature, economics, and peace have shared. When Coase won the economics prize—which wasn’t established until 1969 and is technically the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel—it was a distinction he shared with only 30 others, nearly half of them associated with the University of Chicago.
This year, University of Chicago Professor Richard H. Thaler, the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, was honored “for his contributions to behavioural economics”—becoming the 49th Nobel laureate in economics, and the 29th associated with the University of Chicago. Although Coase won his prize more than a quarter century ago—in a year of particularly elaborate festivities designed to mark the Nobel Prizes’ 90th anniversary—the artifacts in the Coase Papers offer a hint of what Thaler, and his wife, might expect when they travel to Sweden in December for the awards banquet and other events.
The Coase Papers include dinner invitations from ambassadors, printed University of Chicago Law School thank you notes (“I would have liked to reply individually but the numbers made this impossible”), news clippings, congratulatory notes, laureate information, letters nominating Coase for the Nobel in the 1970s and 1980s, and an official program emblazoned with a gold Nobel Prize seal. And then there’s Marian Coase’s neatly written account, assigned to its own folder. It is relayed with an attention to detail, as if she hoped to keep the particulars of their visit from being lost to history. She describes moments of splendor, from listening to Georg Solti conduct Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 at Stockholm Concert Hall (“Fortunately, we sat near enough to hear the machinery at work … I understood, from the sound of the first chord, why Solti … commands such high praise. It wasn’t just satisfying Brahms, it was great Brahms”) to dining at the Royal Palace at a dinner given by the King and Queen of Sweden.
“The meal was chosen with the skillful restraint of a grand gourmet who was, I was informed, the King himself,” she wrote. “He was also responsible for hunting the deer whose meat, exceptional in both flavor & in texture, was the star offering of the main course.”
Marian marvels again and again at the efficiency, organization, and planning expertise displayed by the Nobel Foundation, and she tells of the “intricate maze of events” that were at once spectacular and exhausting.
The couple, who had been traveling until mid-November that year, had only two and a half weeks in Chicago before leaving for Stockholm. Preparations had been intense, with Ronald fielding congratulatory notes and interview requests while writing his 45-minute Nobel lecture and three-minute banquet remarks and Marian assembling appropriate “special events” wardrobes, something she’d never troubled about in previous travels. Garment alterations stretched to the last minute; in fact, she’d set down her needle and thread “only moments before rushing off to O’Hare Airport.”
In addition to the time pressure, there had been the sudden shock of sad news: Ronald Coase’s friend and colleague George Stigler, the 1982 Nobel laureate in economics and a member of the University’s economics faculty, had died suddenly on December 1, just days before Coase left for Stockholm. The grieving Coase offered a tribute as a prologue to his prize lecture, Marian wrote, adding that his words “seemed to lead his friend into the auditorium to acknowledge all the allusions to him in the Lecture.” Afterward, numerous people came by to tell Ronald that he’d given a fine eulogy. (Stigler actually formulated and named the Coase Theorem based on an argument Coase made in his well-known 1960 paper on transaction costs, “The Problem of Social Cost.” In his lecture, Coase made this distinction.)
The action-packed week hit its crescendo the next day when 1,300 people gathered for the much-anticipated Nobel Prize ceremony and banquet.
“One was warned not to make too many demands on one’s energy the day before as the day itself would be long & arduous & it all was going to be televised,” Marian wrote. “Everyone was counted on to be punctual and not to make mistakes. The Laureates were taken to the auditorium & rehearsed—& no doubt the King and Queen went through their paces as well.”
The demanding pace ultimately took its toll, and Coase fell ill with a cold and fever on the flight home. On Christmas Day, Ronald and Marian Coase finally “abandoned ourselves to sleep & awoke, unbelievably, 18 hours later,” Marian reported. “It was no longer Christmas but late in the morning of the 26th.”
Despite the physical impact, the week had included various thrilling extras. The day after the banquet, Ronald, who had explored the economics of lighthouse management in some of his work, was taken for a private visit to the Swedish Lighthouse Authority. Two days before the banquet at Stockholm City Hall, the Coases were able to make a private visit to the building to admire the “bold design that had made a strong impression on us when we saw it forty-five years ago,” Marian wrote. And on the way back to the States, they had a nice stop in Paris.
Afterward, as Ronald settled into life as a Nobel laureate, someone compiled an album, pages of which are preserved in the collection. Affixed to the sticky pages with clear plastic overlay are yellowing news clippings, including a Chicago Tribune story featuring a photo of Marian and Ronald locked in a tender kiss, and a hand-drawn note of congratulations with multiple signatures. There’s a picture, too, of a blue ribbon labeled “Nobel Prize Economics” drawn in marker by a 12-year-old who appears to be a family friend.
The same child wrote him a poem that also relays the magnitude of the experience:
There once was a scholar named Coase,
Whom for the Nobel Prize they chose.
He was surprised at a prize of this size,
And now for pictures he does pose.
Hats off to Dr. Ronald Coase!
The University of Chicago Library invites applications for short-term research fellowships for the summer of 2018. Any visiting researcher, writer, or artist residing more than 100 miles from Chicago, and whose project requires on-site consultation of University of Chicago Library collections, primarily archives, manuscripts, rare books, or other materials in the Special Collections Research Center, is eligible. Support for beginning scholars is a priority of the program. Applications in the fields of late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century physics or physical chemistry, or nineteenth-century classical opera, will receive special consideration.
Awards will be made based on the applicant’s ability to complete the proposed on-site research successfully within the timeframe of the fellowship. Applicants should explain why the project cannot be conducted without on-site access to the original materials and the extent to which University of Chicago Library collections are central to the research. Up to $3,000 of support will be awarded to help cover estimated travel, living, and research expenses. Applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are encouraged. Awards may be used between June 1, 2018 and September 28, 2018.
Applicants must provide the following information:
A cover letter (not to exceed one page) including the project title; a brief summary; estimated dates of on-site research; and a budget for travel, living, and research expenses during the period of on-site research
A research proposal not to exceed three double-spaced pages. Applicants should include references to specific archival finding aids and catalog records of particular relevance to their proposed project whenever possible.
A curriculum vitae of no longer than two pages
Two letters of support from academic or other scholars. References may be sent with the application or separately.
The University of Chicago Library has acquired the papers of cartoonist Daniel Clowes, Lab’79, giving researchers access to never-before-seen notes and sketches from the acclaimed comic book author.
The materials in the collection—notes, outlines, narrative drafts, character sketches, draft layouts, line art, book dummies and more—reveal the start-to-finish artistic process behind three of Clowes’ award-winning graphic novels: The Death-Ray (2011), Ice Haven (2005) and Mister Wonderful (2011). The collection also includes ephemera related to two major exhibitions of Clowes’ work.
Daniel Clowes at the “Comics: Philosophy and Practice” conference at the University of Chicago in 2012. (Photo by Jason Smith)
“Daniel Clowes’ work is renowned for its sharp satire and compelling characters. This collection offers rare insights into Clowes’ creative process and the challenges and complexities of his art. It will be an exciting resource for scholars at the University of Chicago and beyond,” said Daniel Meyer, director of the Special Collections Research Center, which will house the Daniel Clowes Archive.
Clowes’ first professional work appeared in Cracked magazine in 1985. In 1989, he created the seminal comic book series Eightball, which ran for 23 issues through 2004 and earned him a large following and multiple industry awards.
Eightball generated several graphic novels, including Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, Pussey! and Ghost World, his breakthrough hit about the last summer of a teenage friendship. The 2001 film adaptation of Ghost World, based on a script by Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff, was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.
Ice Haven, an intricate tale of kidnapping and alienation in a small Midwestern town, and The Death-Ray, the unlikely story of a teenage superhero in the 1970s, both appeared in Eightball before their publication in book form. Clowes’ “middle-aged romance” Mister Wonderful began as a serialized comic for TheNew York Times Magazine was collected in an expanded hardcover edition in 2011. Materials related to Ice Haven, The Death-Ray and Mister Wonderful are featured in the Daniel Clowes Archive.
Clowes’ comics, graphic novels and anthologies have been translated into more than 20 languages, and his work has been the subject of numerous international exhibitions. A major retrospective of his work debuted at the Oakland Museum of California in 2012 and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2013.
L-R: Hillary Chute, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Seth, and Chris Ware at the at the “Comics: Philosophy and Practice” conference at the University of Chicago in 2012. (Photo by Jason Smith)
“I couldn’t be more honored and pleased (and, frankly, astonished) to have my archival materials included in the University’s Special Collection,” Clowes said. “The University of Chicago, both the physical campus and the institution, was central, almost overwhelmingly so, to my formative life, the first 18 years of which were spent three blocks away from this very site, and there could no more appropriate place for these papers to find their home.”
Clowes has longstanding ties to the University of Chicago. Born and raised in Hyde Park, he attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools before moving to New York to study at the Pratt Institute. His grandfather, James Lea Cate, was a scholar of medieval history and historiography and a UChicago professor from 1930 to 1969. His stepmother, Harriet Clowes, worked in development at the University of Chicago Library from 1976 to 1980.
In 2012, Clowes participated in the “Comics: Philosophy and Practice” conference sponsored by the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago. That event brought together 17 world-renowned cartoonists for three days of public conversation.
“Dan Clowes is one of the most important cartoonists working today—and, crucially, he helped to invent the ‘graphic novel’ field as we know it today in his decades of groundbreaking work. His work has been a huge influence on many, many cartoonists—and on me, both as a person and a scholar of comics,” said Chute, associate professor in English and the College. “I could not be more honored and thrilled that the University has acquired an archive by an artist of this caliber.”
The Daniel Clowes Archive adds to the University of Chicago Library’s growing collection of materials related to word and image studies. The Library holds an extensive collection of contemporary comics, including many comics and zines published in Chicago, as well as the Walter C. Dopierala Comic Book Collection, which contains more than 2,000 popular mid-century comic books. The Library plans to add to its comics archive in the years to come.
Posted onMarch 23, 2015byRachel Rosenberg at the University of Chicago Library
Conservation and digitization of a New Testament manuscript collection support scholarship and teaching
Most book conservators never have the opportunity to reconstruct a 16th-century Byzantine binding from scratch. For Ann Lindsey, Head of Conservation at the University of Chicago Library, that opportunity came in February, in connection with a major project to digitize all 68 New Testament manuscripts in the Edgar J. Goodspeed Manuscript Collection.
Ann Lindsey reconstructs a 16th-century Byzantine binding with historically sympathetic materials in the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library’s Conservation Laboratory. (Photo by Robert Kozloff)
The role of the Conservation program at the Library is to maintain collections over time, ensuring that they can be used by current scholars and future generations. Most of the manuscripts in the Goodspeed Collection, which date from the 5th to the 19th centuries, have required only minor treatments, if any, to be handled safely during the digitization process.
But the John Adam Service Book, one of the last eight items in the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection to be digitized, presented an unusual case where the disbinding and rebinding of a rare manuscript were merited. Originally handwritten in Greek in the 15th to 16th century on paper produced in Italy, it was rebound in the 1850s, with a typical 19th-century cloth cover, and illustrated by its namesake, John Adam, near Epirus, Greece. By the time it was acquired by the University of Chicago Library in 1930, its spine covering was missing. When Lindsey examined the Service Book in anticipation of digitization, she found that any further handling of the manuscript would cause the exposed spine and 19th-century oversewing to damage the original 15th- to 16th-century pages.
Lindsey conferred with her colleagues in Special Collections and Preservation, and the group concluded that the original manuscript would be best preserved, and scholars would be best served, if the book were disbound, digitized, and then rebound, using historically sympathetic materials so that researchers could consult it as needed and get a better sense of what the book was like when it was first bound and used in the 16th century.
A forensic investigation of the John Adam Service Book’s binding
Above: Ann Lindsey points to the threads that remain from the John Adam Service Book’s 16th-century binding (Photo by Robert Kozloff). Below: A photomicrograph of thread from the John Adam Service Book. By analyzing the thread under a microscope, Lindsey confirmed that it is linen.
A handful of linen threads are all that remain of the original binding—but they provided the evidence that Lindsey needed to determine that the book originally had a Byzantine binding, a rarity in American libraries.
Most European books from the 15th and 16th century were bound in the Western style, sewn from start to finish on top of cords, with each stitch going through all of the pages of the book. The threads are then secured in multiple places along the spine. If the folds of such pages were cut as part of a subsequent rebinding process and the spine were to be broken later, the threads would come out in many small pieces.
The folds of the John Adam Service Book were cut when the book was rebound in the 19th century. But the threads Lindsey found upon examining the book are long, notched, and made of linen—all signs that this manuscript originally had a Byzantine binding. When employing this method, bookbinders cut a notch in the back section of each page. They sewed the first section of pages to a wooden board, the second section to the first section, the third section to the second, and so on, tucking the thread into notches and securing it with link stitches. Because a Byzantine binding was used, when the folds were cut and the 19th-century binding was later broken, the thread emerged in long pieces.
Once Lindsey identified the type of binding, she was able to infer much about the book’s construction. Byzantine bindings used quarter sawn hardwood front and back boards, had decorative grooves, and were covered in goat skin. A new binding made of historically sympathetic materials should include all of those features.
“It’s Ann’s remarkable expertise in seeing and interpreting evidence that we all respect so much,” said Daniel Meyer, Director of the Special Collections Research Center. In addition to her master’s degree in Library Science, Lindsey has a certificate of advanced study in conservation from the University of Texas and conservation experience gained at the Huntington Library and the University of California, Berkeley, before she came to Chicago to lead the Library’s conservation efforts. Her knowledge of how to rebuild a Byzantine binding came from a special class entirely devoted to the subject.
Disbinding and rebinding
Lindsey uses link stitches to bind the second group of pages to the first group, which she previously sewed to a front board made of quarter sawn white oak. Quarter sawing positions the wood’s rings almost straight up and down so that the board does not curve over time. (Photo by Robert Kozloff)
With a plan in place to create a new binding that would resemble the original one, Lindsey painstakingly humidified each folio slightly so that the 19th-century glue would soften and could be removed with a microspatula, along with the binding threads. Lindsey then gathered folios into sets of four, which she “guarded” with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste at the edges to strengthen it in preparation for rebinding. The sets of pages were carefully delivered to the Digitization Laboratory, also in the Mansueto Library, where high-resolution images of each page were created by Photographer Michael Kenny and will be posted to the Goodspeed website.
Once digitized and returned to the Conservation Laboratory, Lindsey sewed the boards and pages together in the Byzantine style, attaching half the pages to the front board and the other half to the back board, before lashing the two halves together, lining the spine with linen, and sewing a heavy end band across the two boards and the newly reconstructed spine. As the final step, she used a dark brown goat skin to cover and hold the book together.
Lindsey greatly enjoyed the woodworking and leatherworking that the project required, but the stitching of the binding is her favorite part. “The sewing is the process where you start putting it back together,” she said. “It’s the heart of the book—and its literal backbone. It’s what makes a book work well.”
Why digitize the full Goodspeed Collection?
Michael Kenny prepares to digitize a page of the John Adam Service Book. (Photo by Robert Kozloff)
The Goodspeed Manuscript Collection is the first collection of bound early manuscripts that the University of Chicago Library committed to digitize in its entirety—and that work is expected to be completed within the next year. The Library’s Special Collections Research Center is digitizing materials from its archives, manuscripts, and rare book collections as funding permits in order to enhance access to scholars. In choosing where to begin among the early manuscripts, Special Collections staff members were drawn to the Goodspeed Collection because of its focus and coherence.
“The Goodspeed Collection was brought together for one principal purpose,” explained Meyer. “Edgar Goodspeed was working with other scholars on a new translation of the New Testament and gathered early manuscripts of the New Testament that could inform the translation.”
All the Goodspeed Manuscripts relate to the New Testament in some way. The John Adam Service Book is a trephologion, or festal menaion, a liturgical book that includes text for the great feasts that fall within the fixed cycle of services of the Orthodox Church, such as those for the Birth of the Virgin, The Great Martyr Demetrius, and the Birth of Jesus.
The Rockefeller McCormick New Testament, cover, front (binding).
Edgar Goodspeed, DB 1897, PhD 1898, became Chairman of the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature in 1923 and soon after began seriously collecting New Testament manuscripts for the University of Chicago. Goodspeed regarded such manuscripts as essential to humanities research, just as laboratories are essential to the natural sciences, and expected them to be invaluable not only to his own work, but to the research of many at UChicago.
It seems safe to assume that if Goodspeed were alive today, he would jump at the opportunity to have the collection digitized, for he regularly sought ways to raise both scholarly and public awareness of the unique manuscripts at Chicago, and encouraged the publication of facsimile editions that would allow scholars to study the manuscripts from afar. His first major discovery, The Rockefeller McCormick New Testament, uncovered almost by chance in an art dealer’s shop in Paris in 1927, was an unparalleled historical and iconographical find, featuring a fine cursive hand, splendid gilt covers, and more than ninety miniature illustrations. Only the second complete Byzantine New Testament manuscript to be brought to the U.S., it attracted sensational publicity in the press and on radio and was reproduced in a three-volume facsimile edition suitable for scholarly research by the University of Chicago Press in 1932.
The attention generated by Goodspeed’s early collecting efforts helped to fuel interest in the acquisition of additional New Testament manuscripts and led to expanded faculty expertise in iconography and textual editing at Chicago. Many other acquisitions made possible by Goodspeed captured the imagination of scholars and the public, among them, the Elizabeth Day McCormick Apocalypse. The only known illustrated Apocalypse in Greek at the time, it gained renown for its 69 remarkable miniatures dating to roughly 1600. A facsimile edition was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1940. By the time he retired in 1948, Goodspeed had built one of the most impressive collections of New Testament manuscripts then held at any American university. In recognition of his achievement, this collection of early Greek, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian, Arabic, and Latin New Testament manuscripts bears his name today.
The Elizabeth Day McCormick Apocalypse, fol. 15r. John, Letter to Smyrna: Christ’s voice emanates from heaven, upper left; John stands at center, dictates to the deacon Prochorus who is writing, seated on bench at right.
The Goodspeed Collection continues to function as a treasure trove for scholarship and teaching, now fueled by the growing availability of the digitized facsimiles online. Current faculty who use the collection include Hans-Josef Klauck, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the Divinity School, who has taught a course on Revelation and the Elizabeth Day McCormick Apocalypse using both the original manuscript and online digital facsimiles. “In my judgment, the digitization of the codex was an exciting experience and provided a great chance for better, more advanced and more exciting teaching in my very field,” Klauck concluded.
Divinity School Dean Margaret M. Mitchell was a member of the original team that planned and obtained funding for the digitization project and has delved deeply into another item in the collection, the Archaic Mark—the first Goodspeed manuscript to be digitized. Resolving a 70-year debate, she collaborated with Library staff and technical experts in micro-chemical analysis and medieval bookmaking to definitively determine that this Gospel of Mark was not a genuine Byzantine manuscript but rather a fascinating late-19th- or early-20th-century forgery.
The Library expects that more scholarly discoveries will be made, and additional students around the world will benefit as the remainder of the Collection is posted online. Already, the Goodspeed Collection website has delivered an average of more than 38,000 pages per year to more than 2,800 users around the world, including 57 percent from North and South America, 30 percent from Europe, and 10 percent from Asia.
“When we began the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection project in 2005, the University of Chicago was among the first to propose digitizing entire manuscripts instead of selected pages,” explained Alice Schreyer, Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections. “We received a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services for this innovative approach, which is now widely accepted. We are thrilled to be completing this important work, which will support many types of scholarship for decades to come.”
On April 15, 2015 the University of Chicago Library will host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon in the Special Collections Research Center. The subject focus of the event is great women in University of Chicago history. Experienced Wikipedia editors and new users alike are welcome to participate. Librarians in Special Collections have chosen specific events, organizations, and people without existing Wikipedia articles to be created as part of this event. As well as short articles that can be expanded upon. The list includes some notable names to be researched and added to Wikipedia: Georgiana Simpson, Gertrude Dudley, and Marlene Dixon. This is a great opportunity to learn how to edit Wikipedia but also learn about the role of women in shaping and sustaining the University.
Those in attendance will be able to consult primary source material in special collections as well as print and electronic secondary sources to verify facts. Staff will be on site to offer help navigating online resources to help editors build new articles or enhance existing articles.
Wikipedia has a lot to offer and gain from working with the University Library. This event provides an opportunity to learn how articles are built and maintained and provide on-site access to databases and one-on-one assistance from reference librarians in navigating these sources. New users shouldn’t shy away from attending.
The event begins at 4:00 p.m. and ends at 8:00 p.m. Dinner will be provided. Come for all or part of the evening. Registration required, please RSVP by 4/12/15. Email: email@example.com or sign up on Facebook.
Participants are asked to bring their own laptop and power cord.
New to Wikipedia?
Create an account on Wikipedia, if you don’t have one already. There are a lot of benefits for doing so, particularly with collaborative events like edit-a-thons.
Once your account is made, try running through The Wikipedia Adventure, an automated tutorial that will help cover some of the basics of using Wikipedia. It takes about an hour to complete, and it’s an excellent resource for getting started.