Feature Story

UChicago Library acquires papers of cartoonist Daniel Clowes

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 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 The New 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)

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.

Prof. Hillary Chute, the conference organizer and expert on contemporary comics, has included Clowes’ work in her courses and interviewed him for her book Outside the Box.

“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.

The Daniel Clowes Archive is open to researchers.

A University of Chicago news release

A rare manuscript is rebound

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

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  

Sixteenth-century thread from the John Adam Service Book

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)

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?

Digitization of John Adam Service Book

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, cove

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.

Elizabeth Day McCormick Apocalypse

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.”

High-resolution images of 57 of the Goodspeed manuscripts are currently available online at goodspeed.lib.uchicago.edu.

‘I Step Out of Myself’: Portrait Photography in Special Collections

Julio Antonio Mella.  1928. Photograph by Tina Modotti (1896-1942). Frances Hooper Papers. Special Collections Research Center.  The University of Chicago Library.

Julio Antonio Mella, 1928. Photograph by Tina Modotti (1896-1942). Frances Hooper Papers. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library.

Exhibition Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL
Dates: January 12 – March 20, 2015
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. while classes are in session.  Consult hours.lib.uchicago.edu for Special Collections Research Center hours.
Free and open to the public

Curators: Ashley Locke Gosselar, Laura Alagna, Brittan Nannenga, and Eileen Ielmini

Associated web exhibit: lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/istepoutofmyself/

“I Step Out of Myself”: Portrait Photography in Special Collections highlights outstanding examples of fine art and photojournalistic portraiture held in the Special Collections Research Center. Displaying selections rarely on public view, the exhibition will draw from the work of a varied group of 20th-century photographers: Eva Watson Schütze, Carl Van Vechten, Layle Silbert, Mildred Mead, Yousuf Karsh, Alice Boughton, Joan Eggan, and Tina Modotti. From the romance of Schütze’s portraits of domestic life at the turn of the 20th century, to the stylized glamour of Van Vechten’s celebrity photographs in the 1930s, to the unflinching presentation of raw poverty in Mildred Mead’s portraits of residents of Chicago slums in the 1950s, “I Step Out of Myself” explores the wide range of technique, style, subject matter, and emotion found in modern photographic portraiture.

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for members of the media, and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.  Contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

French illustrators at war: An interview with the curators

Harris and Edelstein explore WWI illustrations in a Special Collections exhibition

Neil Harris and Teri J. Edelstein

Neil Harris and Teri J. Edelstein

En Guerre: French Illustrators and World War I runs through January 2, 2015, in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery at the University of Chicago Library. In this edited interview, co-curators Neil Harris, Preston and Sterling Morton Professor of History and Art History Emeritus, and Dr. Teri J. Edelstein speak with Rachel Rosenberg about the role of French illustrators in World War I, the satiric and surprising aspects of their art, and the origins of the exhibition.

What role did French illustrators play in World War I, and how would you say that affects their illustrations?

Sur le pont

Louis Lefèvre. “Sur le pont.” Rondes glorieuses. [S.l.: s.n., n.d.]. 1ière série. On loan from a private collection.

HARRIS: The French had a very well developed illustrated tradition by the time the war began, and that was one of their assets in the war. They recognized this on a whole series of levels. A number of the illustrations are funny. That is, they’re satirical—they’re pointed. These artists were aware of the ironies of war and are part of a long French tradition of political caricature. Many illustrations in this show are by artists who were—I wouldn’t say twisting the knife in the back of the government, but skeptical about official wisdom. They glorified ordinary people as best they could while raising questions about the war’s logic. The illustrations convey a more complicated set of messages than the propaganda posters of the time.

EDELSTEIN: The posters, by and large, were made officially by government or quasi-government agencies. They were recruitment posters. They urged people to buy national bonds. The illustrations in this exhibition reflect a much more nuanced and personal take on the war. Many of the illustrators were motivated by patriotism, and many of these artists served in the war.

HARRIS: Many were wounded. There was a total mobilization in France, so almost all of their artists who were fit and of age—and who were not foreign nationals, like Picasso—went to war. Many went to the front. They were wounded—in some cases, killed. The enemy was demonized by many of the artists. The Germans, and the Austro-Hungarians, and the Turks were caricatured mercilessly—particularly the leadership. So that wasn’t nuanced. But what was more nuanced was the way French illustrators presented the experiences of the war and focused on the poilu—the ordinary French soldier— who was a key figure in every history of the war.

Conte de fées

Lucien Laforge. “Conte de fées.” Paris: Librairie Lutetia, [n.d.]. World War I Printed Media and Art Collection, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania.

Is there a particular example of a satiric or subtle illustration that stands out for you?

HARRIS: One is by Lucien Laforge, a socialist, an anarchist, who worked for left-wing journals. He did a broadside called Conte de fées that tells a story of the war as a fairytale. The German ogre is beheaded by three little girls playing in a garden. Figuring out what he meant by this is difficult. Was it an implied critique of what the French referred to as the bourrage de crâne, the war fever that overtook people’s minds? Is it satirical? Is Laforge poking fun at the reductionist character of the war? Or is he, in fact, endorsing the war? It’s hard to say.

Are there aspects of the exhibition that you expect to particularly surprise your audience?

EDELSTEIN: I think people will find it unexpected and riveting to see the extent to which the subject of World War I appears in fashion illustration. The reason for this is threefold. One, fashion was a very important French industry. Two, fashion was an area where the French felt they could nationalistically distinguish themselves from their enemies. They felt that French fashion was at a great remove from German so-called fashion. Three, the illustrators employed by fashion were, by and large, out of work for the duration of the war, so they turned their attention to finding jobs elsewhere. Many issues of La baïonnette feature satirical cartoons that hinge on the notion of French fashion. We also have individual prints on patriotic themes connected to the war that were done by fashion illustrators.

Modes de printemps

Odette Champion. “Modes de printemps: Berlin-Vienne-Constantinople.” Fantasio. Paris: Félix Juven, [ 1915]. Gift of Neil Harris and
Teri J. Edelstein, The University of Chicago Library.

Some of the items on display in En Guerre and included in the associated catalogue have long been a part of the Library’s collections, but a great many are part of your personal collections or were collected by you and subsequently donated to the Library. How did you become interested in collecting World War I illustrations, and how did the Library help in developing the exhibition?

HARRIS: We didn’t really start with the war. I had been collecting French illustrated books since the 1970s. At a certain point, we realized that the centenary of World War I was approaching and we had more than enough for an exhibition. And the Library has a number of things that have been very important, most significantly La baïonnette, a quite amazing illustrated magazine done during the War. We hope that when people come to the show they will observe that these things survive only because there’s a library that takes care of them.

EDELSTEIN: The Library and the staff of Special Collections have been endlessly supportive. We’re delighted with our work with the Library.

Visit the associated web exhibit at lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/enguerre

120 years old, 30 years young, and a library for all time

The John Crerar Library’s history of nurturing research and learning in the sciences continues

Crerar-rendering

It holds a place of distinction in the world of libraries. In 2014, we celebrate the 120th anniversary of the founding of the John Crerar Library, and the 30th anniversary of the library’s move to the University of Chicago. Since its beginnings, the Crerar Library has offered unique collections and innovative technology and services that nurture research and learning in Chicago. And we see this as only the beginning of the Crerar Library’s history; its core values are as important today and in the future as they were at the Library’s founding.

John Crerar

John Crerar, University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf 1-02009. Special Collections Research Center.

The John Crerar Library was founded in 1894 and first opened its doors to the citizens of Chicago on April 1, 1897, with a collection numbering over 30,000 volumes. Located in the Marshall Field Building, it was to be, according to John Crerar in his 1886 will, a “library for all time” and the City of Chicago. Indeed it has been. In 2014, collections have grown to 1.4 million volumes, services have evolved, and facilities have changed; however, the library has remained open not only to Chicagoans but also to researchers from around the world interested in the sciences.

Developing outstanding collections has been a priority for the John Crerar Library since its beginnings. John Crerar did not specify the scope of the library but indicated that it must not contain nastiness and immorality, such as dirty French novels and all skeptical trash and works of questionable moral tone. Envisioned by its earliest leaders to complement and not compete with the existing Newberry and Chicago Public Libraries, the John Crerar Library included philosophy, physical and natural sciences, the fine arts and sociology and economics.

In 1906, the Library expanded the collection in response to requests by local medical institutions to bring medical literature together with related science material already located at Crerar. The collection of valuable medical and surgical literature formed by Dr. Nicholas Senn and originally given to the Newberry Library was moved to the John Crerar Library with the approbation of Dr. Senn. In later decades the social sciences and arts collections were transferred to other libraries, in order to focus Crerar’s collections on the sciences, medicine, and technology. Today, the Library continues to respond to changes in user needs, areas of research, and the University’s curriculum. One example is purchasing electronic databases, journals, and books, in response to the preference of researchers in the sciences for electronic material. Another is a change to the collection scope in support of the Institute for Molecular Engineering following its establishment at the University in 2011.

The John Crerar Library in the Marshall Field Building

The John Crerar Library, Marshall Field Building, Technology Reading Room 1. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf2-01946. Special Collections Research Center.

Pioneering innovative uses of technology and user services is a hallmark of the John Crerar Library. In 1912, Crerar was one of the first libraries in the U.S. to offer a photoduplication service, providing copies of material from the collection to researchers outside Chicago instead of lending material. The Research Information Service (RIS) offered intensive expert research assistance. Established in 1946, it was, reportedly, the first fee-based research service of its kind in the country. The Corporate Members Program was established in 1951 to provide companies access to research materials. In 1952, Crerar became one of the first libraries in the U.S. to use a Teletype machine. The National Translation Center, first supported by the Special Libraries Association and the National Science Foundation, and later by the Library of Congress, was based in the John Crerar Library from 1953 to 1993 and was the central location for translations in the U.S.

Today, the Crerar Library continues its tradition of providing high-tech services tailored to meet the needs of our users. The Library has partnered with the Research Computing Center to equip our Kathleen A. Zar Room for 3D visualization with interactive touch technology. The Computer Sciences Instructional Laboratory (CSIL) makes its home in Crerar, in support of the College and Department of Computer Science. Crerar’s expert staff members provide point-of-need reference service, in-depth research consultations, and instruction sessions using the latest online resources. In collaboration with faculty, staff, and other specialists from across campus and around the world, they contribute to 21st-century initiatives such as the Google Books digitization project and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

A 3D visualization in Crerar

A 3D visualization in Crerar. (Photo by Nicholas Labello)

The John Crerar Library began thanks to the philanthropy of one individual but continues to thrive due to the dedication and support of many. This dedication and support has taken many forms throughout the years. In 2002, a gift from University Trustee Harvey Plotnick supported creation of online records for 20,000 titles in the John Crerar Collection of Rare Books in the History of Science and Medicine, located in the Special Collections Research Center. The 2010 acquisition of the rare book collection of the Rush University Medical Library was made possible by a bequest from the estate of Erica Reiner, the John A. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in the University’s Oriental Institute, who specialized in the history of Babylonian science including medicine. The John Crerar Foundation, established in 1981, provides ongoing support for Library programs ranging from the digitization of collections to the presentation of exhibits to the annual John Crerar Foundation Science Writing Prize for College Students. The creation of the Kathleen A. Zar Room and the technology that enables innovative research and teaching in this space is supported by the Kathleen and Howard Zar Science Library Fund—which also supports a biennial symposium series and collection development at Crerar. Throughout the years, support has come from these and many others, all helping the Library to expand collections, preserve materials, and enhance services, programs, and spaces.

The bequest that John Crerar gave to Chicago in his will has nurtured science research, teaching, and learning in Chicago for 120 years, and we are committed to seeing that it does so far into the future.

Non est mortuus qui scientiam vivificavit.
He has not died who has given life to knowledge.

The Computer Science Instructional Lab

The Computer Science Instructional Lab opened in Crerar in 2013. (Photo by Jason Smith)

 

To learn more about the history of the John Crerar Library, visit our web exhibit A Library for All Time: The History of the John Crerar Library.

Brenda Johnson named Library Director and University Librarian

Brenda L. Johnson, an internationally respected leader in the field of library science, has been appointed Library Director and University Librarian, Provost Eric Isaacs announced Oct. 16. Her five-year term begins Jan. 1, 2015.

“The Library plays a key role in the life of faculty and students at the University of Chicago,” Isaacs said. “Brenda’s expertise in supporting both physical collections and the proliferation of digital resources, along with her history of collaboration and innovative thinking, make her an outstanding leader for this important enterprise.”

Brenda Johnson

Brenda Johnson

Johnson currently serves as Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries at Indiana University, Bloomington—a position she has held since 2010. She succeeds Judith Nadler, who retired in June after nearly five decades of service to UChicago.

Before coming to Indiana University, Johnson was University Librarian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She spent more than 20 years at the University of Michigan, where she served as Associate University Librarian for Public Services, a position with responsibility over that institution’s 19 libraries.

She is active in the national and international library community through service and leadership on a variety of executive boards and committees, such as the board of governors of HathiTrust, the board of directors of CLOCKSS (a digital repository for web-based scholarly publications), the Committee on Institutional Cooperation Library Directors Group, the board of directors of Kuali OLE (Open Library Environment), and the Association of Research Libraries’ Scholarly Communications Steering Committee.

Johnson has become a nationally and internationally recognized voice on topics such as the rapid pace of change in information discovery and dissemination, the development of multi-institution “collective collections,” and research and learning environments, as well as the need for library transformation that fosters scholarly engagement and support. Her recent international speaking engagements have taken her to London, Shanghai, Kyushu and Yokohama, Japan.

“The University of Chicago Library is a unique and influential institution among academic libraries,” Johnson said. “I am truly honored by the opportunity to lead it through a time of transformation for all libraries, and eager to collaborate with faculty, students and staff to ensure its vitality in the years to come.”

Diane Lauderdale, professor of Health Studies, is chair of the Library’s faculty board and chaired the search committee that recommended Johnson for the position of Library Director.

“Brenda Johnson is an experienced library director and well-respected leader in the international academic library community,” Lauderdale said. “She will bring to the University of Chicago a deep understanding of collections, public and technical services and new technologies. We have an outstanding collection and staff here, but like all university libraries, face challenging decisions in the next few years about our physical and digital collections. The search committee felt confident that Brenda had the experience, insight and vision to lead our library to an even higher level of excellence.”

At a time of change for libraries nationwide, the University of Chicago Library has flourished as a center of intellectual inquiry recognized throughout academia and a dynamic learning environment for UChicago students. With its 11.9 million volumes, noted collections in a broad range of fields, including global resources and commitment to keeping its collection on campus, the Library has become a destination for scholars and a model for other institutions worldwide.  

The Joseph Regenstein Library and the adjoining Joe and Rika Mansueto Library are located in the heart of the Hyde Park campus—a testament to the Library’s continued importance to scholarly and campus life at the University, Isaacs said.

The Mansueto Library is the most recent addition to the library system. Mansueto houses cutting-edge facilities for book preservation and digitization, as well as a high-density underground storage system with the capacity to hold 3.5 million volume equivalents. The library was designed to fulfill scholars’ needs for easy access to print resources at a time when many other research universities are moving their collections to off-site storage.

The library is named in honor of Joe Mansueto, AB’78, MBA’80, and Rika Yoshida, AB’91, who gave a $25 million gift to the University in 2008. Architect Helmut Jahn designed the facility’s iconic glass dome, which encloses a light-filled reading room and an underground storage system that descends 50 feet below ground.

Alice Schreyer, Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections, has been leading the Library on an interim basis since Nadler’s retirement. She will continue in that role until Johnson’s arrival.

A University of Chicago news release

UChicago launches Kuali OLE and new Catalog

Academic librarians develop open-source software to meet faculty and student needs

The University of Chicago Library is pleased to announce its launch of the Kuali Open Library Environment (OLE) and a new Catalog based on VuFind.

An open-source, community-based library management system, Kuali OLE was created by a partnership of some of the nation’s leading university libraries, including the University of Chicago Library. Kuali OLE, which provides the Library’s technical infrastructure, is intentionally designed to function with a wide range of user interfaces chosen by various individual libraries, including Chicago’s new Catalog.

“We are especially pleased that by implementing Kuali OLE and VuFind we will be providing both a business system and a patron access module that are open source—planned, designed, governed and owned by the library community,” said James Mouw, Associate University Librarian for Collections Services at University of Chicago and Treasurer of the Kuali OLE Board. “Community ownership of key library systems affords us the ability to manage, develop, and enhance our infrastructure as new technologies emerge and the needs of our scholarly community evolve. The ability to move quickly and effectively, working in partnership with other academic research institutions with similar needs is something we have not had with commercial systems.”

Kuali OLE

Kuali OLE was founded by a partnership of research libraries that now includes University of Chicago, Indiana University (lead), SOAS—University of London, Lehigh University, Duke University, North Carolina State University, University of Florida, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. The partners pooled resources and expertise beginning in 2008 with several grants from the Mellon Foundation to develop this next-generation library system. Chicago and Lehigh University are the initial implementers. Other partners plan to adopt the new system in summer 2015.

Kuali OLE partners

Kuali OLE partners

UChicago Library staff members have played an integral role in the development of Kuali OLE since the design phase in 2008 and continue to do so by developing specifications, participating in software development, undertaking migration planning, providing subject specialist expertise, and testing new development. They hold several key leadership positions on the Kuali OLE team, and dozens more are participating in working groups supporting development activities. Development continues with the next Kuali OLE release due in summer 2015.

New University of Chicago Library Catalog

UChicago Library staff members have tailored VuFind, a library catalog originally developed at Villanova University, to meet the needs of local users. Design goals for the Catalog were drawn from an extensive series of interviews with UChicago faculty and students, conducted to ensure that the new tool meets the needs of researchers. Initial designs were refined throughout the first half of 2014, following the public beta testing of the Catalog by users beginning on February 14, 2014.

Alumna tries out the new Library Catalog

Sylva Osbourne, AB’14, tries out the new Library Catalog. (Photo by Lloyd DeGrane)

“Participating in the VuFind open-source project has allowed the Library to take advantage of commonly requested features already developed by the VuFind community while giving us the latitude to create functionality unique to UChicago needs,” said Elisabeth Long, Associate University Librarian for Digital Services.  “The level of engagement by our faculty and students in helping us design this new Catalog has been especially gratifying.”

The new Catalog features a simple, clean visual design while retaining all of the functionality that patrons identified as valuable in the pre-existing UChicago systems. It also adds new features requested during interviews, including display of the current availability of items on the search results page, as well as easier access to ebooks and ejournals.

“The successful, coordinated launch of these two new Library systems, designed to improve discovery and management of growing collections, could not have been accomplished without the creativity and talent of University of Chicago Library staff,” said Alice Schreyer, Interim Library Director and Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections at the University of Chicago. “We are proud to collaborate with our colleagues to develop these new systems that will benefit researchers from around the world.”

Scholarship as a living process

Exhibition shows UChicago researchers in mid-thought in Mexico

Researching Mexico: University of Chicago Field Explorations in Mexico, 1896-2014 is on display in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery through October 4, 2014. An associated web exhibit is available online. Co-curator Seonaid Valiant, UChicago History Ph.D. Candidate 2014, explains how her dissertation research and other academic experiences influenced her approach to creating the exhibition.

Has field work in Mexico been particularly important to University of Chicago faculty? Why focus a Special Collections exhibition on this subject?

The relationship between the University of Chicago and Mexico has always been incredibly significant—particularly for the social sciences—but that relationship isn’t as well known as it could be. For more than a hundred years, University of Chicago professors across many disciplines have developed important, ongoing working relationships with the people, academic institutions, and government of Mexico. As a result, the Special Collections Research Center has developed collections of fascinating documents and artifacts that have been donated by professors over the years.

Howard Taylor Ricketts, Mexico City, 1910

Howard Taylor Ricketts, Mexico City, 1910

For many scholars, Mexico afforded opportunities and adventures—particularly for researchers in the field—that were unavailable elsewhere. Telling the personal stories of these researchers and scholars highlights how passionate, interesting, and dramatic the life of the mind can be. Howard Taylor Ricketts’s tragic story, for example, demonstrates how this work can be both crucially important and dangerous. Invited by the Mexican government in 1909 to research the cause of a typhus outbreak in Mexico City, Ricketts worked with Mexican doctors, nurses, and government officials to confirm the source of the problem. He succeeded, but not before he contracted a fatal case of typhus. We included the funeral ribbon placed on his coffin by the Mexican government to show how his sacrifice was recognized.

Were some of the faculty members featured in the exhibition important to your development as a graduate student?

Curating this exhibition was a way of connecting my own work back to that of my predecessors and highlighting the tradition of Mexican scholarship at the University. For example, Friedrich Katz, whose papers are part of the exhibition, was my mentor when I first entered the History Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago. When I knew him, near the end of his life, he was a world-renowned and well-respected scholar of the Mexican revolution, but as I sorted through the unprocessed boxes that contained his papers, I was fascinated to discover correspondence detailing his struggle, as an ambitious academic, to leave East Germany. He finally found a home at the University of Chicago, where he could pursue scholarship without the threat of anti-Semitism and censorship. After the publication of his biography of Pancho Villa in 1998, Katz was named an honorary citizen of the state of Chihuahua and awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Mexican government.

How is the exhibition connected to your dissertation research?

In my research, which is focused on foreign archaeologists battling with Mexican government officials at the turn of the 20th century, I explore how scholastic ideas develop and travel among scholars informally before transitioning to more formal discourse and then finally to publication. I trace these ideas through the discussions, friendships, and rivalries that scholars have had with each other and with government officials. That has made me particularly attuned to the idea of scholarship as a dynamic process, inflected by personal relationships and private lives, and academic discourse as something that has to be actively constructed.

Redfield family

Redfield family in Mexico, 1929

In keeping with this interest, many of the items selected for this show represent the research process rather than final publications. One of the goals of the exhibition is to give the public a glimpse of scholarship in action and to present it as a living process. The papers and artifacts created by these professors during the course of their field work give us access to their reflections and preparations in various phases of their work. In the exhibition, we’ve aimed to capture these thinkers in mid-thought, before their final conclusions have been drawn, and to present their intellectual achievements as emerging from a process of engagement with the raw materials of their research. Research notes, correspondence, and diaries give a more intimate, nuanced portrayal of each scholar’s development and place their intellectual work in a fuller context.

For example, the letters from the anthropologist Robert Redfield to his wife, Margaret Park Redfield, interweave thoughts about his work in Chichen Itza in 1932 with family concerns and show how important his wife’s role as confidant and sounding board was as he began to develop his scholastic plans in an informal way.

How did you come to co-curate the exhibition, and what made you interested in doing so?

I was delighted when Kathleen Feeney, Head of Archives Processing and Digital Access in Special Collections, invited me to co-curate the exhibition with her. Kathleen knew that I was already familiar with many of the relevant collections, both because of the research I had conducted for my dissertation and because of the work I had done there as a graduate student archives processing assistant in Special Collections. One of the things that drew me to study history was the excitement of working directly with documents and artifacts in archives. Curating this exhibition with Kathleen, I knew, would give me a chance to share some of my favorite items and the stories that went with them, as well as my passion for the materials and the mission of Special Collections.

Which are your favorites?

The Frederick Starr notebooks, the corridos in the Robert Redfield papers and the lantern slides in the Adolf Carl Noé papers. These, along with the diaries, linguistic note cards, letters, and portraits in some of the other collections, tell a larger story about the freedom of investigation that University of Chicago scholars have consistently found in Mexico.

Chiapas animals and index card

Toy animals used to identify indigenous words, circa 1950s

Did you make any new discoveries as you curated the exhibition?

Curating Researching Mexico brought home for me how important it is for today’s scholars to be able to work directly with archives and original artifacts associated with their predecessors. Many of the most interesting items on display were only discovered in the process of preparing for the exhibit, by methodically investigating the Special Collections holdings.

For example, we were surprised to uncover the collection of toy animals that now forms one of the exhibition’s most unusual displays. In their field work, the linguists in the Chiapas Project asked native indigenous language speakers to identify these toy animals in their own languages. Finding the animals and the lists of translations not only delighted us but helped us to understand the process that the researchers used to collect words one at a time, finally gathering enough materials for textbooks in Tzeltal, Yucatec, and Quiche.

In bringing unseen materials like these to the public eye, we want to hint at the unexpected connections and discoveries that can be made through archival research and encourage students and scholars to examine primary sources in archives for themselves. Finding these little-known stories can be a thrilling experience, and preserving and sharing them with other scholars, academics, students, and the public is an important part of the work of the University.

College book collectors win Brooker Prize

Student winners focus book collections on spoken word, manga, and European imperialism

Brooker Prize winners and committee members discuss the winning collections.

Brooker Prize winners and committee members discuss the winning collections. (Left to right) Mox Schults, Drew Synan, AB’13, G. Philip Crean IV, Kareem Mohammad, Sarah Wenzel, and Alice Schreyer.

Impressed by this year’s applications, the Committee for the T. Kimball Brooker Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting broke with tradition by honoring three outstanding University of Chicago students: fourth years Kareem Mohammad and Mox Schults, and second-year G. Philip Crean IV.

In a typical year, the Library awards two Brooker prizes: one to a fourth-year student and another to a second-year. After considering this year’s entries, the Brooker Prize Committee decided to honor two fourth-years, who each received $1000. Mox Schults won for his collection A Library for Babel(ing): Books for Reading Aloud. Driven by the power of the spoken word, Schults designed a collection of publications meant to foster human interaction by being read aloud in groups. His project, “Mouth Thought,” brings together a fluid group of people at the University and Blackstone Library to read aloud with a focus on sharing literature from as many languages and cultures as possible. Schults wrote, “I intend to cultivate this collection and to be carrying it with me the rest of my life, and to organize “Mouth Thought” events wherever I go—to engage people with words on the page, with different languages and cultures, and, above all, with each other.”

Book from Mox Schults’s winning collection

Book from Mox Schults’s winning collection

Kareem Mohammad won for his collection Works by Clamp, Four Female Manga Creators. He began collecting manga—Japanese comic books or graphic novels–14 years ago, inspired by his favorite childhood television show, only to quickly become immersed “in an established and fascinatingly complex entertainment genre abounding with classics that had pushed the limits of animation.” In describing his favorite manga, Kareem explains, “the works represented an exquisite blend of striking artwork, exotic storytelling, and robust character development that spoke to me on a deeper level than any other piece of fiction I had encountered. I found the story to be exceedingly relevant and the physical collection would ultimately serve as a symbolization of the transformation I was undergoing as a student of the University of Chicago.”

Second-year G. Philip Crean IV won $750 for his collection The Rise and Fall of European High Imperialism, focusing on the origins of both the Industrial Revolution and World War I. “I have loved my short time collecting and plan to maintain it as a life‐long endeavor,” Crean states in his application. “[M]y collection will never be complete, and my task will never be done. So long as I see a heretofore unknown work listed in a footnote, I know I will still have books to search for and enjoy.” 

This year’s Brooker Prize Committee members were Alice Schreyer, Assistant University Librarian for Humanities, Social Sciences, and Special Collections; Jennifer Scappettone, Associate Professor in the Department of English, Committee on Creative Writing, and the College; Sarah Wenzel, Bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas; and Drew Synan, AB’13, last year’s fourth-year Brooker Prize winner.

 

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!