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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Enhancing online catalog records for rare books is a high priority for the University of Chicago Library in the University’s capital campaign. Detailed cataloging is an essential tool for researchers to discover handwritten annotations, special bindings or illustrations, and other features of individual copies of rare books. The Library has long recognized the scholarly value of this work, but without additional funding the project could take as long as 20 years to complete.
Julie and Roger Baskes
Prominent Chicago cultural philanthropists Roger and Julie Baskes stepped forward this spring as the right donors for this endeavor. In his seven years on the Library’s Visiting Committee, Mr. Baskes said, he was impressed by “the Library’s extraordinary commitment to keeping its collections physically and instantly accessible, at the very center of the campus” through the construction of the Mansueto Library. An avid and knowledgeable book collector, Mr. Baskes has also nurtured a long affiliation with Chicago’s Newberry Library, serving as a trustee and previously as chairman of the board. Over the last 30 years, he has cultivated a one-of-a-kind personal collection of rare and historical books with maps.
In doing so, Mr. Baskes explained, “I became aware of the extraordinary collections of rare books at the world’s great research libraries, especially as the catalogs of these libraries began to be accessible online, and discovered that the University of Chicago Library is one of the world’s most important repositories of rare books. Julie and I also understand that however rare, beautiful, or extensive such materials may be, their value to scholars is entirely dependent upon their accessibility.”
The electronic bookplate for gifts from the Roger Baskes Collection.
With that in mind, Mr. and Mrs. Baskes made a $250,000 commitment to support the cataloging project. “Twenty-first century readers and students of rare books and manuscripts, whether part of the University of Chicago community or from other parts of the world, will come to the Library after they have learned from its online catalog that there exist materials important to their research,” Mr. Baskes said. “We believe that little would add to the value of the Library’s remarkable Special Collections more than the enhancement and editing of its catalog, and we are honored to support it.”
Along with their monetary support, Mr. and Mrs. Baskes are also donating rare and historical books with maps that they have collected. So far the Library has received approximately 100 titles ranging from the 18th century to the late 20th. In addition to American, English, and French books with maps, the gifts include books in Japanese, Armenian, and Ottoman Turkish. When they are cataloged, the associated online records will bear a custom electronic bookplate (pictured) and will be readily retrievable by searching the catalog for the donor name.
“We have long understood the importance of improving access to our rare book collections by providing more detailed and accurate catalog records,” said Alice Schreyer, Interim Library Director and Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections. “Roger and Julie’s gift will make the unique features of our collections known to a wide range of scholars who would otherwise not discover them.”
In recognition of their gift, a group study space in the Special Collections Research Center will be named the “Julie and Roger Baskes Group Study.” Students, faculty, and visiting scholars use this room to work collaboratively with rare and historical materials.
Continuing our collections news, one of our more frequently used collections, The Committee to Frame a World Constitution Records, has been re-housed into new, more usable containers. This collection, which documents efforts to formulate a world constitution in the post-War era, includes correspondence, administrative and financial records, manuscripts submitted to Common Cause, and drafts of the World Constitution itself. Robert Hutchins, Mortimer Adler, Robert Redfield, Richard McKeon, and other University of Chicago faculty and administrators were involved in the effort. The re-housed records also incorporate additional materials not included in the original finding aid.
The Stephen A. Douglas Papers are once again available for research. The collection has been reprocessed to incorporate additional materials. Most of these additions were to Series II: Political, Series III: Personal, and Series IV: Oversize. There are also new Lincoln items within the collection.
Posted onMay 5, 2014byThe University of Chicago Library
By Alice Schreyer, Assistant University Librarian for Humanities, Social Sciences, & Special Collections and Curator of Rare Books
Daniele Metilli, an Italian computer engineer and software developer, is the prize winner of a contest to identify the script used for handwritten annotations in a rare 1504 Venice edition of Homer’s Odyssey in Greek, held by the University of Chicago Library. The contest featured a $1000 prize for the first person to identify the script, provide evidence to support the conclusion, and execute a translation of selected portions of the mysterious marginalia. Coordinated by the Library’s Special Collections Research Center, the contest was sponsored by M.C. Lang, who donated his extensive Homer collection to the University of Chicago in 2007.
Mr. Metilli is currently enrolled in a digital humanities course and aiming for a career in libraries and archives. Working with Giula Accetta, a colleague who is proficient in contemporary Italian stenography and fluent in French, Mr. Metilli identified the mystery script correctly as the system of tachygraphy invented by Jean Coulon de Thévénot in the late 18th century.
Two runners-up reached the same, correct conclusion: Vanya Visnjic, a PhD student in classics at Princeton University with an interest in cryptography was the second contestant to identify the script and provide translations. Gallagher Flinn, PhD student in linguistics at the University of Chicago, also submitted correct identification and translations.
Based on the mix of French words with the script and a legible date of April 25, 1854, Mr. Metilli and Ms. Accetta began with the assumption that it was a system of French stenography in use in the mid-19th century.
At left: Mixture of French and shorthand notations. At right: Date written in the margin.
After rejecting several 19th-century French stenographic systems, they found a chart comparing one of them to the “tachygraphie” system invented by Jean Coulon de Thévenot (1754-1813) and published in Méthode tachygraphique, ou l’art d’écrire aussi vite que la parole (1789). They found an 1819 edition revised by a professor of stenography, N. Patey, online and, armed with two contemporary French translations of the Odyssey – one published in 1842, the other in 1854-66—began their work.
Excerpt from a table comparing stenography and tachygraphy.
In Thévenot’s system, inspired by the shorthand system of Tironian notes that are said to have been invented by Cicero’s scribe and used into the Middle Ages, “every consonant and vowel has a starting shape, and they combine together to form new shapes representing syllables,” Mr. Metilli writes. “The vertical alignment is especially important, as the position of a letter above or below the line, or even the length of a letter segment can change the value of the grapheme. This explains why most notes in the Odyssey shorthand are underlined, the line being key to the transcription.”
Below are two examples of the translations submitted by Mr. Metilli and Ms. Accetta, together with their explanation of the methodology they used:
“The note seems to refer to the underlined verb τέκεν, which is on the same line and can be rendered in French as enfanta, ‘gave birth.’ We immediately recognized the last two letters of the word as the syllables fan-ta. We then identified the first syllable as an l and the second as an an, representing the French phonetic value for en. The word can thus be transcribed as l’enfanta, meaning ‘she gave birth to him.’”
“K-R-CHAI-R-CHAI-TOU-LAI-PRAIN-S-DAN-L-AN-TOU-R-S, or “que recherchaient tous les princes dans les entours”
“This note is on the same line as the underlined Greek sentence τὴν πάντες μνώοντο περικτίται, meaning ‘whom all the neighboring princes wooed,’ Using the table provided by Patey we could identify all the shorthand letters: The sentence clearly reads ‘que recherchaient tous les princes dans les entours,’ which is an exact French translation of the Greek words. This is our best match for now and it gives us the certainty that the method we employed is correct.”
Mr. Metilli and Ms. Accetta are continuing to work on the annotations, hoping to discover some clues to the mystery of the author or an explanation for why they only exist in book 11 of the Odyssey. Mr. Metilli is posting and updating his report on his website.
Most projects that use rare books, archives, or manuscripts from the Special Collections Research Center’s collections do not generate such worldwide excitement, but each one contributes to learning and scholarship. M.C. Lang donated his Homer collection to the University of Chicago because he wanted it to be used by students and researchers. A group of graduate students and faculty members produced a catalogue of the collection that formed the basis for an exhibition, now available online. Their work illustrates the potential of this collection and many others in Special Collections.
As Mr. Metilli observed, social media and electronic resources made it possible for him “to identify the shorthand and translate the first fragments in a few hours on a Thursday night. If I didn’t have access to online sources such as Google Books, the Greek Word Study Tool of the Perseus Digital Library, and the French corpora of the CNRTL, I probably wouldn’t have won. What great times we live in!” It was also, for him, another confirmation of his desire to work in libraries or archives. “Where else would I find such wonderful mysteries to solve?” he wrote.
Mr. Metilli, Mr. Visnjic, and Mr. Flinn all expressed appreciation to the donor for providing the opportunity to work on such a fun puzzle. We hope you enjoyed the puzzle, too!