Tag Archives: SCRC Kiosk

Committee to Frame a World Constitution Records Re-housed

Committee to Frame a World Constitution PosterContinuing 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.

Stephen A. Douglas Papers available for research

Stephen A. Douglas

Stephen A. Douglas

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. 

Homer mystery script contest winner and results

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.

Two images showing the mystery script. One illustrates how French and shorthand notations are mixed together in the annotations, the other shows the date of April 25, 1854 written in French in the margin.

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.  

Image showing examples of stenography and tachygraphy to compare the two shorthand systems.

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:

    

An image of the shorthand note that turned out to read “l’enfanta”

L’enfanta

“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.’”

An image of the note that turned out to read que recherchaient tous les princes dans les entours” together with the letter-by-letter deciphering.

“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!   

 

Contest Closed: mystery script identified in rare edition of Homer’s Odyssey

File_2382A researcher has identified the script used for annotations in the 1504 edition of Homer’s Odyssey held by University of Chicago Library. We will announce the results in a few days.

Thanks to all the linguists, classicists, and other amateur detectives who responded to our call for assistance. We hope you enjoyed working on the puzzle.

Identify mystery text, win $1000

Example of Mystery Text

Example of Mystery Text

Calling all historians of cryptography and stenography, Sherlockians (see “The Dancing Men”), and other amateur detectives!  The collection of Homer editions in the Special Collections Research Center – the  Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana(BHL) – includes a copy of the rare 1504 edition of Homer’s Odyssey that contains, in Book 11 (narrating Odysseus’s journey into Hades) handwritten annotations in a strange and as-yet unidentified script.  This marginalia appears only in the pages of Book 11 of the Odyssey; nowhere else in the volume.  Although the donor of the BHL is suspicious that this odd script is a form of 19th-century shorthand (likely French), he acknowledges that this hypothesis remains unsupported by any evidence offered to date.

The donor of the BHL is offering a prize of $1,000 to the first person who identifies the script, provides evidence to support the conclusion, and executes a translation of selected portions of the mysterious marginalia.  In addition to the photographs in this post, the volume is available to consult in person in the Special Collections reading room.  Please visit the Special Collections website for information about requesting items to get started. The contest is open to all, regardless of University of Chicago affiliation. Please direct submissions to the contest, or questions, to Alice Schreyer, Assistant University Librarian, Humanities and Social Sciences and Rare Books Curator, or Catherine Uecker, Rare Books Librarian.

Mystery Text

Mystery Text

Homer. Odysseia. Venice: Aldus, 1504. PA4018.A2 1504 vol. 2

 

Free Public Lecture in Honor of “Imaging/Imagining” Exhibition

Join us for a special event in celebration of our recent exhibitionimaging2 “Imaging/Imagining the Human Body in Anatomical Representation” 

Thursday, April 17th at 5pm

Lecture: “Seeing Into and Seeing Through: The Promise and Peril of Imaging”
Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th Street, room 122

Dr. Richard B. Gunderman, author of X-Ray Vision: The Evolution of Medical Imaging and its Human Significance, will explore the exhibition’s themes in a free public lecture. Dr. Gunderman is Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, and Vice Chair of Radiology at Indiana University.

imaging4

Free. Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis.
Gallery will be open immediately after for viewing.

Stephen A. Douglas Papers Temporarily Unavailable

Stephen A. Douglas

Stephen A. Douglas

The Stephen A. Douglas Papers are currently being re-processed and thus are not available for research. Please contact Special Collections before planning a visit to use this collection, or with any questions you may have about the project.  We anticipate the collection being ready for use again on June 1, 2014.

Norman Maclean Papers available for research

Norman Maclean

Norman Maclean

Author and University of Chicago professor Norman Maclean’s papers are available for research in the Special Collections Research Center.  Raised in Montana, Maclean earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1940 and taught English until he retired at age 70. He then began writing, and  achieved national fame for works he wrote after his retirement, including the novel, A River Runs Through It. The collection includes correspondence, administrative and teaching materials from the University of Chicago, materials related to the creation and publication of his writings, and an array of additional materials. Maclean died in 1990. 

Maclean’s distinguished teaching career at the University of Chicago began when he accepted a graduate assistantship in English at the University in 1928. He was promoted to instructor in 1930. Maclean earned his Ph.D. in English literature in 1940 with a dissertation on lyric poetry, and was made an assistant professor in 1941. He was promoted to associate professor in 1944, and attained a full professorship in 1954.

Maclean’s gift for teaching was recognized multiple times throughout his career. He won a teaching award early on in 1932, and was awarded the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1941 and again in 1973. Quantrell recipients are nominated by students and the award is a high honor for faculty. Though tough, Maclean’s courses were popular among students. His demand for excellence was tempered by a keen sense of fairness and a generosity of spirit toward the students he mentored. In 1962 he was installed as the William Rainey Harper Professor of English Literature, a position he held until his retirement in 1972.

Upon retirement, Maclean embarked on a second career as a writer. He eased into authorship with two well-received critical essays published in 1952, and a handful of autobiographical and witty essays published in the early 1970s. His most significant work of fiction, A River Runs Through It, was published in 1976 by the University of Chicago Press – the first work of new fiction ever published by the Press. A River Runs Through It consists of a novella of the same title and two short stories. The book was a critical success, a popular bestseller, and a contender for the 1977 Pulitzer Prize. Multiple filmmakers and production companies vied for the film rights to the book, and it was eventually adapted for film in 1992 under the direction of Robert Redford.

The University of Chicago named an undergraduate dormitory for Maclean — Maclean House — in 1991. Every year, residents celebrate “Maclean Day,” during which the House president gives a speech that celebrates Norman Maclean and the House community. In 1997 the University’s alumni association established the Norman Maclean Faculty Award which recognizes emeritus or senior faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to teaching and student life on campus.

 

 

Library publishes ‘Homer in Print’ catalogue

Homer in Print: A Catalogue of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library, is now available for consultation or check out at the Library and for purchase from the University of Chicago Press.

Homer in Print cover

Homer in Print cover art. Jacket design by Jerry Kelly, using a roundel by Bruce Rogers from his 1932 edition of the Odyssey.

Homer in Print traces the print transmission and literary reception of the Iliad and the Odyssey from the 15th through the 20th century. Over 175 mini-essays provide new details of each included edition’s textual, intellectual, and publishing history. Three long-form essays contributed by scholars Glenn W. Most and David Wray, and collector M. C. Lang,  place these editions within a wider context, exploring their role in ancient and modern philology, translation studies, and the history of printing. An extensive and strikingly illustrated testament to the power and popularity of Homer over the past 500 years, Homer in Print is an essential text for students and teachers of classics, classical reception, comparative literature, and book history. This volume, a product of new research and sharp scholarship, evidences Homer’s ability to captivate the imaginations of poets, editors, and readers throughout the centuries.

Edited by Glenn W. Most and Alice Schreyer and published by the University of Chicago Library, the Homer in Print catalogue and the collection it documents provide the foundation for the upcoming exhibition Homer in Print: The Transmission and Reception of Homer’s Works, on view at the Special Collections Research Center from January 13 to March 15, 2014.

2014 Robert Platzman Memorial Fellowship applications now open

The University of Chicago Library invites applications for short-term research fellowships for the summer of 2014. Any visiting researcher residing more than 100 miles from Chicago, and whose project requires on-site consultation of University of Chicago Library collections, primarily archives, manuscripts or printed 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 an evaluation of the research proposal and the applicant’s ability to complete it successfully.  Applicants should explain why the project cannot be conducted without on-site access to the original materials and to what extent University of Chicago Library collections are central to the research.  Up to $3,000 of support will be awarded to help cover projected travel, living, and research expenses.  Applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are encouraged.

The deadline for applications is February 22, 2014.  Notice of awards will be made by March 15, 2014, for use between June 1, 2014 and October 1, 2014.

For more information please see our website about the Platzman Fellowship program.

Our website also contains a list of last year’s recipients and their projects.