“The East in Script and Print”—VFL Exhibition Opening

The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library—part of Special Collections in the Saint Louis University Libraries—announces the opening of an exhibition of manuscripts from South, East, and Southeast Asia, “The East in Script and Print: Manuscripts in Asia from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries.”

Ben Halliburton cropCurated by Ben Halliburton, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies research assistant in the Vatican Film Library and doctoral student in the Department of History of Saint Louis University, this exhibition focuses on the different cultures and practices involving pre-modern manuscripts outside the Christian and Arabic worlds. It is presented in two cases, divided into texts from the Indosphere and the Sinosphere. All are drawn from the VFL’s teaching collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts, some on display for the first time ever.

Especially noteworthy, among the examples from the exhibit, are a leaf from a nineteenth-century manuscript of the Bhagavadgita written with black, red, and gold lettering and two eighteenth-century manuscripts from the Indian subcontinent written on palm leaves. Additionally, in keeping with the long history of printmaking in Asia since its invention in China around the third century AD, there are several leaves taken out of printed texts from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, including a children’s reference guide from Kansei-era Japan.

Saint Louis University Libraries, Special Collections, MS 045, folio a, recto

Saint Louis University Libraries, Special Collections, VFL MS 045, folio a, recto

The exhibition is free and open to the public and will be on display Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, through 1 August 2016 in the Vatican Film Library of Pius XII Memorial Library (Room 105). For further information, contact Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library, at 314-977-3084, lengles@slu.edu.

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The Underground Rail Road (1872)

Rare Books is kicking off Black History Month with the latest issue of “Students in the Stacks,” in which student assistant Claire Peterson discusses a work by African American author William Still about the experiences of escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. Stay tuned throughout the semester for more of Claire’s Civil War discoveries!

The title page of William Still’s The Underground Rail Road (1872). (Book shown: E450 .S85 1872)

In The Underground Rail Road: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships, Hair-Breadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others or Witnessed by the Author…  (1872), William Still – abolitionist, businessman, and the youngest of eighteen children – tells the story of fugitive slaves’ escape and liberation. The book is the only first-person account of the Underground Railroad written and self-published by an African American.

The frontispiece portrait of the author, William Still.

The “Hardships, Hair-breadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of the Slaves in their Efforts for Freedom…” promised in the work’s title are recounted through letters, portraits, and illustrations.

Still’s narratives help the men and women whose stories he tells to cast off all remnants of their former enslavement, not only giving them opportunity to use their newly found voices, but presenting their stories with the compassion and respect that had so long been withheld from them. Here, former slave Robert Brown is depicted in the midst of his dangerous escape across the swollen Potomac at night.

Henry Box Brown, who ingeniously managed to mail himself out of slavery in Richmond, VA and into freedom in Philadelphia, PA.

Romulus Hall, who managed to escape slavery on foot only to die of “lockjaw and mortification” after sustaining wounds on a long and unforgiving journey. To the last, he adamantly maintained, “I am glad I escaped from slavery!” (52).

Still dedicated the work “to the friends of freedom, [and] to heroic fugitives” who either gained or died in pursuit of liberty.

Still’s dedication honored the men and women whose stories he recounted.

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Marbling Workshop in the Rare Books Reading Room

Research Librarian Amanda Albert shows off the beautifully marbled paper she produced at December’s Marbling Pop-Up Station.

If you missed Rare Books’ Marbling Pop-Up Station during finals week, here’s your chance to learn trough marbling and to create vibrant, Valentine-worthy decorated papers! On Thursday, February 11th, we will be holding a marbling workshop in the Rare Books reading room (Pius XII Memorial Library Room 307) from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. In the hour-long workshop, you’ll first be introduced to traditional marbled designs such as Turkish Stone, French Snail, Fine-Combed, and Peacock. You’ll see manifestations of each pattern on the covers, endpapers, and edges of books in our eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collections, and will learn about historical trends in marbling (such as changes in pattern popularity and pigment preference). You will also learn about the techniques that marblers used to produce each pattern.

More lovely results from December’s Marbling Pop-Up Station.

Then (and this is the fun part!), you’ll be given the opportunity to create your own marbled papers. You can either mimic historical patterns or create free-form designs, and will have the time and the freedom to experiment. Ink gall, which slows the spread of the paint across the surface of the water, will be available, and you’ll be able to mix your paints to create the desired palette. Each participant will have the opportunity to create multiple sheets of marbled paper, and, by the end of the hour, to carry them away dry and ready for use.

Examples of traditional marbling patterns from our collection. These are just some of the designs that you’ll learn about — and take a stab at replicating — in our February 11th workshop. (From left to right: the placard, or drawn stone pattern; French snail paper; and a fine-combed design.)

Space constraints mean that the workshop will be limited to eight participants, and advance registration is required. So please register soon to reserve your place!

Combed paints floating on the size (thickened water) solution in a marbling trough, waiting to be adhered to paper.

If you can’t make it to this workshop, never fear – Rare Books has two more book arts-related workshops in store for you during the spring semester. In one, you’ll have the chance to learn about historical paste paper, the “poor cousin” of marbled paper, made through a much less impressive (and less finicky and expensive) process, but with a beautiful range of possible results. Another will give you the chance to create your own basic book structures.

Examples of my own marbled papers (and how I’ve used them). Make your own greeting cards, gift tags, origami, pamphlets, and more after the workshop!

In the meantime, you’re always welcome to visit the exhibit behind our book arts programming, The Binder’s Art: Techniques in the History of Decorative Bookbinding. On display in Pius 307 through the spring semester, this exhibition of rare books showcases a variety of finishing techniques used by binders from the sixteenth through the early twentieth century. While you wait for our upcoming workshops, draw inspiration from the work of artisans whose bindings not only helped to preserve the books in our collection, but turned them into works of art!

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The Secret Service, the Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape (1865)

This latest installment of “Students in the Stacks” features a book that student assistant Claire Peterson discovered while exploring materials related to the Civil War. Throughout the semester, we’ll be posting more from Claire’s list of Civil War finds, so check back often. Espionage, abolition, sensationalist journalism, and women’s work in wartime are just some of the topics covered in this fascinating assortment of books. 

A frontispiece portrait of the author, Albert D. Richardson, opens The Secret Service. (Book shown: E468.9 .R52 1865)

The Secret Service is the memoir of Albert Deane Richardson, a war correspondent who worked for the New-York Daily Tribune beginning in 1861. It follows his work in the South, his capture by the Confederates in May of 1863, his year and a half in prison, and his eventual escape.

The desperately poor conditions of a Confederate prison hospital.

A failed escape attempt by Union soldiers from a Confederate prison.

The work is illustrated by engravings of Richardson and seven other army correspondents, as well as by images of capture, prison life, and Richardson’s escape aided by an “unnamed heroine.”

The “unnamed heroine” (Melvina Stevens) aiding Richardson in his escape from prison.

In addition, the text includes a piece of sheet music, titled “A Song for the ‘Nameless Heroine’ Who Aided the Escaping Prisoners,” with words and music by B.R. Hanby.

A grateful song written in honor of the woman who aided Richardson’s escape.

Richardson’s nameless savior (Melvina Stevens, according to L.P. Brockett).

The “nameless heroine” is identified as Miss Melvina Stevens in L.P. Brockett’s Woman’s Work in the Civil War (1867). Brockett calls Stevens “a young and beautiful girl who from the age of fourteen had guided escaping Union prisoners past the most dangerous of the rebel garrisons and outposts, on the borders of North Carolina and East Tennessee, at the risk of her liberty and life” (Brockett 782).

Stay tuned for more about Woman’s Work in the Civil War, which also made Claire’s list.

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On Gentlemanly Conduct

The trials and tribulations of young men’s educations — in comportment and otherwise — certainly equaled those of young women. Just ask the boy in Fontaine’s “L’Enfant et le Maitre d’Ecole”! (Book shown: PQ1808 .A1 1834)

For me, “conduct book” conjures up a stuffy, pedantic tract preaching morality and social restraint to young ladies, but even the briefest exploration of our rare book collection reveals just how limiting this assessment of the genre is. Yes, much conduct literature was addressed to women, but men weren’t off the hook when it came to comportment – in fact, as landowners, politicians, professionals, or tradesmen, they were expected to cultivate public personae as well as maintain moral standards in their private lives. Our pre-1820 collection yields examples of two formats in which seventeenth- and eighteenth-century men’s conduct books were published: a general guide for the public, The Gentleman’s Library (1744); and a book of letters addressed to the author’s children, Instructions to a Son Containing Rules of Conduct in Publick and Private Life (1743) by Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll.

Title page to The Gentleman’s Library. (Book shown: 1744.2 Gentleman’s Library)

While both works advise young men on everything from language and dress to marriage and religion, they diverge in tone, audience, and format. The Gentleman’s Library professes to fill a hole in conduct literature for men by taking a place on the shelf beside well-known women’s equivalents, The Ladies’ Library and Advice to a Daughter. In the introduction, the anonymous author, “Celadon,” recounts how the idea for this book came about through playful banter with “the brisk Florimel, and her witty Associates” (GL 1) at a dinner party. Chastised by these clever ladies for his impertinent behavior, he recognizes the need for a book from which men can draw examples of proper conduct. The use of classical names and archetypal characters in the introduction veils the author’s identity, making him a sort of educated, authoritative “everyman.” He carries this persona throughout the work, addressing men of varied stations both directly (advising that boys destined for trade don’t waste time learning “the Roman Language,” but rather focus on “Writing a good Hand” and “Casting Acompts” [GL 41-42]) and indirectly (by translating all classical references into English for the Latin illiterate).

An example of how the author of The Gentleman’s Library makes his work accessible to all literate men — even those who don’t know Latin. (Book shown: 1744.2 Gentleman’s Library)

While the author of The Gentleman’s Library offers his mixed audience mainly sound advice, he has an inclination for florid phrases and pedantry (though he claims to detest both). He may come down hard on those he sees as ridiculous (the world’s “intolerable Fops” [GL 48], “Retailers of Fragments” [GL 32], and “Tattlers” [GL 315]), but sometimes veers into ridiculousness himself. Here’s a classic example of his Polonius complex at play (he swears, he uses no art at all!):

“The best Art of Speech shews itself under a natural Dress. Our Discourse should never smell of Study and Elaborateness: It is a Pedantry that deserves not the Benefit of Pardon… Too much Fancy is not necessary in our Conversations; it begets vain and puerile Ideas, which tend neither to make us wiser nor better” (GL 79-80).

Title page to Instructions to a Son. (Book shown: 1743.2 Argyll)

While “Celadon” may not have intended such passages to read, “do as I say, not as I do,” Archibald Campbell’s Instructions to a Son is full of references to the author’s mistakes as negative examples.  Written in simple language reflective of the author’s humility, this collection of letters, composed by the Marquis of Argyll in 1661 as he awaited execution for political offenses, is the cautionary legacy of a father preparing his children for a future without his guidance. He alludes to the social and financial hole he has dug his children into, reproaching himself, but also directing them to take solace in religion, follow the moral example of their mother, and heed the mentors to whom he has entrusted their educations. He sets down advice for future milestones, such as choosing a pious spouse, heads off any thoughts they might have of avenging his death, and transfers authority to his eldest son and heir (whom, he says, “is my substitute” [16]). The overall collection of thoughts on various topics, from how to comport oneself at court (or better yet, how to steer clear of it) to the proper exercise of body and mind, is a heart-wrenching, private goodbye that, through publication, has been made a general example.

There’s much more to be explored in both works – from how The Gentleman’s Library engages with Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education to how both authors view religion as central to education and marriage as not only a source of personal happiness, but a means of maintaining social order – and I encourage you to visit Rare Books to engage with the texts firsthand. However, I think it only fair that the authors, bolstered by the authority of two-hundred-plus years in print, have the last word.  (Besides, I wouldn’t wish “Celadon” to label me a “chattering fop.”) Thus, gentlemen (and ladies!), I leave you with the following gems of wisdom to help you navigate the new year with greater acumen:

On Education: Don’t swallow a dictionary.

“Garlic and Onions are not half so nauseous at second Hand, as to be rudely breathed upon by a Retailer of Fragments: The Man looks monstrous that stalks about like a walking Library, and is for spouting his Pagan Quotations on every Company: This is a Vice and a Crudity of Learning: ‘Tis plain there must be an Indigestion of Knowledge, when the Party is so oppressed with its Vapours” (GL 32-33).

On Dress: Vanity is not a becoming accessory.

“There are a Set of such intolerable Fops in the World, that seeing but a new fashioned Shoe, will look upon their own, and blush, and can no longer believe themselves dressed: That come to Church, only to shew themselves: Are proud of a soft Hand, which they preserve so by a scented Paste; Laugh with or without Reason, because either way they shew the Whiteness of their Teeth; They study an engaging Turn of the Head, and a sort of Sweetness and Languishing in the Eyes, which they never forget to make use of, as Graces to set themselves off: Their very Gaits are contrived, and artificial, and every Step they take borrow’d from a Minuet: ‘Tis true, they wear Breeches and a Hat, and have some aukward Pretence of Humanity; but they are so strongly offensive to good Sense and Reason, that I had rather see an honest Hodmandod, with his Girdle of raw Guts about him” (GL 48-49).

On Marriage: Cheaters never prosper (though their children might?).

“[T]he Matrimonial Contract is mutual; and a Failure on either Side is equally a Violation of Faith, and a Breach of the Confederacy… But when a Woman proves perfidious, the Misfortune is incorporated with the Family, the adulterous Brood are palmed upon the Husband, and grow up to the Inheritance of his Estate. Now when the Man goes astray, the Wife cannot pretend to such great Damages. To be plain, the Aggravations on our Side will very near amount to the same Injury: May not the Extravagance of a Strumpet’s Support, and the Charge of educating her Bastard Progeny, run out that Estate which should be the Inheritance of a lawful Issue, and be a Canker to the Fortune of a virtuous Wife…?” (GL 248-249).

On Marriage: Wealth isn’t the most important thing, but

“Money is the sinew of love, as well as war; you can do nothing happily in wedlock without it” (Argyll 33).

On Conflict: Be the bigger person.

“[T]ake an exact care that your actions be just, be not offended at every injury, wink sometimes at your wrong, but beware of unnecessary revenges… [B]ear off all the affronts that be put upon you with an inviolable invincible mind, and let them see you are above them” (Argyll 12).

Finally: Don’t take your education for granted – because in the end, it’s all you have.

“We may be plunder’d of our Wealth, defrauded of our Lands, and our Books may become the Prey of some malicious Accident; but that Chance which robs us of our Library, cannot take from us the Advantages we have reap’d by our prior Resort to it…” (GL 31).

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An Iberian Adventure

Fig 1. University of Lleida, original medieval structure

Fig 1. University of Lleida, original medieval structure

Presenting a paper at a foreign conference can be a stimulating experience: one meets new colleagues and catches up with old friends, and the official repasts offer tempting local dishes to savor. An added high is the possibility of presenting in the language of the country—which recently was beseeched of me two weeks before the event. Early in 2015 I was invited to participate as one of three keynote speakers in a colloquium to be held at the University of Lleida (a town in Catalonia, an hour by train from Barcelona) focused on codicology: De la ploma a la biblioteca: Camí vital del llibre manuscrit (From the Pen to the Library: Vital Paths of the Manuscript Book). The conference was scheduled for November 5–6, and I had initially asked if they would like me to read my paper in Spanish, and if so, would they translate my English version for me. “No,” was the answer, “just give us a short abstract in Spanish and everybody will be happy.” Midway in October I was putting the finishing touches on the paper, when I was informed that there would be a lot of students attending this colloquium and for their sake would I, pretty please, agree to actually deliver it in Spanish? Well, fortitude! I managed to produce a credible translation in a week, which I sent to the organizers for a quick grammatical review.

Fig. 2. Susan L’Engle, opening of lecture

Fig. 2. Opening of lecture

The University of Lleida, founded between 1297 and 1301, was the first university established in Catalonia and in the entire Crown of Aragon. Although banned in 1717 with the rest of the Catalan universities it was re-founded in 1991 and maintains its original medieval structure, to which new buildings have been added. The November colloquium was held in the old building (Figure 1), which, however, has been modernized within, and is outfitted with state-of-the-art smart classrooms and lecture halls. In the main auditorium I opened the event with a paper entitled “Porque Es Importante la Codicologia?” (Why Is Codicology Important?) (Figure 2), and did my best to keep to proper Castilian pronunciation. Following the paper I invited the audience to gather around a table to examine and discuss manuscript leaves from my personal collection that I had brought for this purpose. This unanticipated windup was a great success, generating an animated question-and-answer session that drew on many points I had brought up in my presentation (Figure 3).

Fig. 3. Q&A, discussion of manuscripts with students & scholars

Fig. 3. Q&A, discussion of manuscripts with students & scholars

My involvement in this codicology panel was linked to a grant I was awarded in 2013, along with six other international scholars, to pursue research on a topic within the theme “Illuminated Manuscripts during the Last Centuries of the Middle Ages for the Monarchy, Church, and Aristocracy in the Kingdoms and States of Southern Europe.” This project was formulated by two Spanish professors and scholars (Gemma Avenosa, Department of Romance Philology, University of Barcelona and Josefina Planas, Department of Art History, University of Lleida), and funded by the Spanish government. Its first result was a conference held in Lleida in November of 2014 that included papers presented by some of the project’s scholars, and this year’s colloquium was the second.


Fig. 4. Guido delle Colonne, Historia destructionis Troiae (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 17805, fol. 22v).

Fig. 4. Guido delle Colonne, Historia destructionis Troiae (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 17805, fol. 22v).

My personal research for this project was conducted in February–March 2014 on a manuscript of Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae (History of the Destruction of Troy), held at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid. The manuscript, datable to around 1350, was produced in Venice and was beautifully written and lavishly illuminated with narrative compositions to illustrate the various episodes of the story of the Trojan War (Figure 4). While studying the manuscript I discovered an element, previously unrecorded, which revealed an unexpected feature about its manufacture. Normally, the writing and decoration of medieval manuscripts was executed on animal skin—in this case goatskin, common to Italy—and the quantity of parchment necessary to produce a particular text would be prepared especially for each commission. As I paged through the Madrid manuscript I noticed that, besides the neatly transcribed text and its illustration, most of the parchment leaves had strange shadowy patterns on their surface, comprising oddly-arranged little squares occasionally joined with strings of words (Figure 5).

Fig. 5. Guido delle Colonne, Historia destructionis Troiae (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 17805, fol. 148r), showing traces of erased musical notes and lines of chant.

Fig. 5. Guido delle Colonne, Historia destructionis Troiae (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 17805, fol. 148r), showing traces of erased musical notes and lines of chant.

It soon became clear that these ghostly markings were actually traces of musical notes and lines of chant, and that instead of utilizing newly-prepared parchment, parchmenters had taken a previously-executed choir book, scraped down and pumiced its leaves to remove text and music, and then reconfigured them for a second incarnation as a book of narrative prose. Ever since Antiquity this process had often been employed to recycle still-useful parchment from out-of-date or unwanted manuscripts, and the superimposed material is called a palimpsest. What seemed odd was that this manuscript represented an extremely luxurious commission, and its indubitably rich patron would not have needed to economize on parchment. I included details of this discovery in the paper I presented in Lleida, and questioned the audience if anyone had encountered examples of this practice taking place among noble commissions during the Middle Ages. Various people offered thoughts and conjectures on this subject throughout the two days of the conference.

Fig. 6. Final conference lunch just after the rector’s presentation of the manuscript facsimiles.

Fig. 6. Final conference lunch just after the rector’s presentation of the manuscript facsimiles.

At the concluding luncheon the charming and sociable Rector of the University of Lleida (Roberto Fernández) entered with a flourish, kissed all the women, shook hands with all the men, and during the final toast presented the three keynote speakers with beautiful and weighty facsimiles of an eleventh-century manuscript (dated 1047) of the Commentary of Beato de Liébana on the Apocalypse, MS Vit. 14–2 of the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid (Figure 6). The group picture shows, from left to right: speaker José-Luis Gonzalo; organizer Josefina Planas; the Rector; speaker Susan L’Engle; organizer Gemma Avenosa; and speaker Francisco Gimeno. On the table in the foreground lie the three gift facsimiles, surrounded by copious libations consumed during the meal and flutes holding the sparkling final toast, a Spanish Cava. Since I feared that it might go missing if placed in my suitcase, the facsimile rode home over my shoulder in a tote bag, always kept within eyesight. Another reward garnered from my five days in Spain was a notable improvement in my Spanish!

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A Christmass Gift

A (secular) Christmas scene from Our Young Folks (1869). (Book shown: AP200 .O8 v.5)

SLU’s rare book collections contain a number of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christmas works, from copies of Charles Dickens’ The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and A Christmas Carol to the whimsical depictions of Christmas tree decorating and beneficent Santas spread across the pages of Our Young Folks, an 1865-1873 Boston children’s periodical. However, Christmas publications produced before the nineteenth century (and thus before many of today’s most ubiquitous Christmas traditions became popular) are thinner on the ground. Those that we do have are solemn religious texts, such as The Christian Advent, or, Entertainments for that Holy Season (1759), a book of “moral reflections” and “pious thoughts and aspirations.” The dizzying leap in language, tone, and content from this book’s biblical commentary to Dickens’ well-known A Christmas Carol makes Christmas’s transformation from “holy day” to “holiday” almost palpable.

Different takes on Christmas from The Christian Advent (left) and A Christmas Carol (right). (Books shown: 1759.2 Baker and PR4572 .C5 1922)

Carrolls buried behind 347 pages of psalms. (Book shown: BS1422 1700 12mo)

You can imagine my delight when I found an earlier work that acts as a bridge between these two books. Tucked away in the back of an unassuming little volume of psalms (not something that would make you look twice here at SLU) is a collection of seventeenth-century Christmas carols. The songs in Carrolls for the Severall Dayes of Christmass are a deeply religious celebration of the Christmas season, and, much like reflections in The Christian Advent, are structured by the Christian calendar. Ours is a partial and repetitive copy comprising only the first ten pages of the text (some of which appear twice – a binder’s blooper), but the carols we do have were written for Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), and New Year’s Day. Everything from the book’s title (where an antiquated spelling draws attention to the “mass” at the heart of “Christmas”) to an emphasis on the religious roots of now secular holidays (such as Jesus’s circumcision on New Year’s Day) speaks of the author’s focus on the Christian origin of Christmas.

Yet while these carols, like The Christian Advent, are wedded to the Christian calendar, the form they take (like A Christmas Carol) is much more palatable to Christian and secular celebrants alike. Through poetry, the author grapples with unfathomable aspects of his faith, and the result is beautiful, wondering verse. Take this example from the first song, a celebration of the nativity (and the bewildering confluence of God and peasant child):

Now infinite hight is low

And infinite depth is shallow,

The greatest length is short,

The greatest largeness narrow;

Eternity by time

Is measur’d and clos’d up;

Immensity confin’d

And in a stable shut.

Two carols: their “titles” and their designated tunes. (Book shown: BS1422 1700 12mo)

Some rhymes may seem jarring to the modern ear, but this might be excused by quirks in the pronunciation of seventeenth-century British dialects and the fact that these verses were meant to be presented fluidly through music. While Carrolls for the Severall Dayes of Christmass contains no sheet music, each song was written to the tune of a song well-known at the time. Three of the songs in SLU’s copy, in fact, were to be sung “To the tune of Neen Major Neale” (also known as “Ingean Major Neale,” or “Major Neale’s Daughter”), a popular Irish melody, while the other three were written to an English tune, “I do not Love cause thou art faire.” The author’s assumption that his readers would recognize these tunes indicates how popular they were, and serves as a reminder of the orality of popular culture at the time.

Something to sing this New Year’s Day? (Book shown: BS1422 1700 12mo)

Although both the melodies and the lyrics of these carols have fallen out of common knowledge, their history is well preserved. They first appeared in A Pious Garland, a collection of Christian songs and poems composed by Luke Wadding, Bishop of Ferns, in 1684. The book was reprinted in various forms between 1684 and 1731. Our copy, a reprint of only the Christmas tunes, is undated, but, as the imprint indicates that it was printed “by William Weston Printer and Stationer to the Kings Most Excellent Majesty of Great Britain at St. Germain en Lay,” it was likely published between 1688 and 1701, when James II was in exile in France.

Some songs penned by Bishop Wadding in the late seventeenth century are still sung throughout Britain today, but it is the Kilmore Parish of County Wexford, Ireland that has truly kept the music alive. Thus, these songs are often referred to as either the Kilmore Carols or the Wexford Carols.

Last year, Irish singer Caitriona O’Leary drew international attention to the Wexford Carols with the release of a Christmas album of that name. In the album, O’Leary revives Wadding’s carols (along with songs written by William Devereux in the early eighteenth century), by setting them either to their original tunes or to common folk tunes of the time. You can learn more about O’Leary’s project – “musical paleontology,” in the words of Eric Fraad of Heresy Records – from the video below. The beginning features O’Leary’s rendition of the first song in Carrolls for the Severall Dayes of Christmass (and the first song in her album), “An Angel This Night.”

Wadding’s carols are a Christmas gift for us all, hidden in the stacks (but so very nicely wrapped). (Book shown: BS1422 1700 12mo)

Wadding’s music, come alive off the page after more than three hundred years, speaks for itself, and SLU’s fragment of the carols has been tucked back on the shelf, snug in its residence among the psalms. Reverent, hauntingly poetic, and lovingly wrapped in beautifully marbled paper: what a fitting Christmas gift from SLU’s collection to you.

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Jessica McQuillan wins James Davis Scholarship to Rare Book School

mcquillanjJessica McQuillan, MS, Library Associate Sr. for Rare Books in the University Libraries’ Special Collections Department, has been awarded the James Davis Scholarship to Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Every year, hundreds of applicants compete for scholarships to attend Rare Book School’s program, which offers seminar-style courses in the history, care, and use of written, printed, and digital materials. The program attracts booksellers, collectors, conservators, educators, and librarians from North America and abroad to its range of courses, covering subjects such as descriptive bibliography, the history of bookbinding, rare book cataloging, digitizing the historical record, and many others. A distinguished faculty of scholars and professionals utilize the program’s collections to engage students in a hands-on, intensive examination and analysis of textual artifacts.

Of this year’s forty announced winners, a few have been selected to receive named scholarships that bring their own special recognition. The James Davis Scholarship is awarded to one applicant each year who shows “an especially strong record of good citizenship and stewardship in the bibliographical community.” Jess began establishing her record of good citizenship and stewardship at SLU’s Special Collections in July of 2015 upon her arrival, when she immediately began making significant contributions to conservation and outreach. In addition to her regular conservation duties, she made a special project out of identifying pamphlets that were still housed in acidic envelopes and getting them fitted for acid-free enclosures. During the process of becoming familiar with the library’s rare printed collections, she has engaged the community in her discoveries and cultivated a growing following for our activities on the blog and Twitter. An emissary from the stacks, her charming dispatches in Special Collections Currents reveal aspects of the collection previously undescribed. One of her greatest efforts has been to gather significant examples of decorative binding elements into an exhibit called The Binder’s Art, which opened in October with her curator’s talk and continued during finals week with a pop-up marbling station in the Pius lobby.

Special Collections is grateful for Jess’s efforts and proud of the recognition she has achieved for her contributions to the SLU bibliographical community and beyond.

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The Home Cook Book (1878)

Were pickled oysters missing from your Thanksgiving spread? Was your turkey in need of matrimony sauce? Perhaps your guests craved suet pudding and superior bread?

Yum, matrimony… (p. 181)

If any of these dishes tempt, disgust, or intrigue you, it’s time to consult our 1878 edition of The Home Cook Book: Compiled from Recipes Contributed by Ladies of Toronto and Other Cities and Towns. This is a book that far surpasses our modern concept of a cookbook as a collection of recipes. Instead, it might best be described as a domestic manual divided into three main parts: an etiquette book, an interlude of didactic tales, and the “meat” (and vegetables, sauces and desserts) of the book: the recipes.

Read up on etiquette to avoid committing “the grossest rudeness” this holiday season! (p. 24)

The first four chapters are devoted to rules of etiquette in entertaining, and contain useful tips for the (presumably middle- or upper-class) nineteenth-century housewife. For instance, every good party hostess should have “some novelty at hand” to prevent “a very stupid half hour” (26). This novel interest could be anything from a “personage” to a “pretty girl” (clearly not the same), or simply “the latest spice of news to tell” (26). Crank up the gossip machines!

Also included are instructions for decorating one’s table for a party (let it be known that “artificial contrivances, like… tin gutters lined with moss and filled with flowers for the edges of a table… are banished by the latest and best taste” [28]) and controlling the speed at which you eat (“quiet celerity” is preferable to “majestic deliberation” [29]). Interestingly, this section contains advice for both women and men, though instruction for gentlemen is mostly limited to propriety in their behavior to ladies (and thus, their behavior within the home sphere).

This cookbook sure likes to talk about itself… A sample of Jennie and Annie’s wild romp through the world of domestic chores. (p. 41)

Before we reach any actual recipes (this is a cookbook, isn’t it?), there comes an odd little interlude of two didactic tales. In the first part of the book, housekeeping is presented not so much as a skill that a woman acquires through hard work and industry, but as “one of those things to be imbibed without effort in girlhood” (10). The first tale, titled “The Little Housekeepers,” demonstrates the “imbibing” process by detailing the work of two young girls left to left to clean and cook while their maid is away and “Little Mother” (or so the doctor calls her – a reminder, if you needed one, that this is 1878) has sprained her ankle. Annie and Jennie dance about their tasks, clearing the table; washing the dishes (“no disagreeable work, you may be sure” [38]); tidying the bedrooms, including their brother John’s (I mention this because, as one who was also a little girl with a brother Jon, I cannot imagine a more horrifying prospect); and making lunch. The whole affair is a joyous romp, as you would expect a day’s worth of drudgery by two youngsters accustomed to leaving work to adults would be, interspersed with bouts of “kissing and petting mamma” (38). There is a marked simplification of the language used as we move from the introductory chapters to this story, and we can only hope that this child-friendly turn is for the benefit of any “little housekeepers” who might be reading the tale, and not their “Little Mothers.”

A well organized nineteenth-century kitchen, as pictured in Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The American Woman’s Home. (Book shown: TX145 .B415 1869)

When the maid frees Annie and Jennie from their labors, we are left with Susan, the capable Mrs. Patmore of a second didactic tale. Susan paints a rosy picture of the kitchen as the “pleasantest room in the house” (43), cozily outfitted with paintings and plants, newspapers, and a window to let in fresh air and birdsong. Her romantic narrative is paired with a practical run-down of how the ideal kitchen ought to be equipped. From table to coffee pot, all of the “Necessary Utensils” of a working kitchen are listed in the style of a probate record (sans monetary values).

When it comes to setting up house, it’s all about utensil, utensils, utensils. My kitchen is coming up short here, folks — how about yours? (pp. 48-49)

A sneak peek of the fun you’re in for if you (gently) crack open The Home Cook Book.

Having set the scene, detailing all the tools and comforts that the kitchen ought to have, the authors at last come to the recipes themselves. You’ll find, on your initial perusal, that these 137-year-old recipes are surprisingly familiar to the modern palate. Many contain ingredients – butter, sugar, a variety of meats and vegetables – standard to the twenty-first-century kitchen. Differences in how familiar dishes were prepared, however, give us a glimpse not only of how middle- and upper-class Canadian families ate in the late nineteenth century, but also of what foods they considered essential to a healthy diet. Four entire chapters are devoted to the preparation of animal proteins (fish, shellfish, poultry and game, and meats), and butter is a near ubiquitous ingredient rather than a culinary villain. (Another domestic manual of the time, The American Woman’s Home [1869] by Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, lists butter among the primary food groups, and details how rancid butter has the power to ruin an entire meal. The message: butter was in everything.) Eggs pop up in surprising places, such as in a recipe for hot chocolate which calls for “the yolks of eggs well beaten” (343). Presumably, as the eggs are stirred in rather than used as a makeshift strainer as they sometimes were for coffee grounds, the yolks add a layer of richness to an already thicker drink than that to which we are accustomed today.

Salads and sauces and pickles, oh my! This (abridged) epic of the dinner table certainly inspires you to “plunge your fingers into the salad bowl.” (p. 109)

Other “sore thumbs” to the modern eye are the three chapters devoted to pickling, two chapters on puddings and their requisite sauces, and a multitude of recipes starring foodstuffs usually discarded today (such as suet). Unsurprisingly, nineteenth-century cooks were more apt to use all available ingredients (including fats) at their disposal, and needed ways to extend the shelf-life of perishable ingredients. They also seemed to favor cooked over raw food, even in the case of fresh vegetables. “Salad” recipes feature lightly pickled produce, fish, hard-boiled eggs, and cooked vegetables served cold.

Throughout the book, vagueness in measuring ingredients and naming dishes gives recipes both a charming and a foreign air. How many modern cookbooks would direct readers to use such inexact measurements as “a tea cup of salt” (135) or “butter size of hen’s egg” (66)? Names of many dishes are likewise inexact. Recipes such as Ada King’s “Cheap and Good Cake” and Mrs. J.D. King’s “Lovely Sponge Cake” may make me nostalgic for the dense, raisiny brown-bread of my mother’s that I dubbed “Gorgeous Bread” as a child, but they certainly don’t give me a clear picture of the recipe’s end-product.

I was somewhat horrified to find that lightning strikes were grouped with such common ailments as tooth and head aches! (p. 378)

Even more fascinating is that some recipes are not, by modern standards, recipes at all. The last two chapters, titled “Miscellaneous” and “Sick Room and Medicinal Receipts,” are an almost comically bewildering jumble of directions for making toiletries, home cleaning products, and remedies for both common and serious health complaints. Here we find instructions for everything from cleaning carpets and mixing cold cream to treating hydrophobia (“the bite of a mad dog”). A cholera remedy and a “Fig Paste for Constipation” (371) occupy a single page, and a “Remedy for Smallpox” follows “How to Get Rid of Flies” (374). No attention is paid to logically grouping recipes, and the resulting order appears to have been determined purely by how recipes fit together on the page.

Mrs. J.R. Silliman took pride in her sponge cake, and her dish certainly has more of a presence than the “Lovely Sponge Cake” that follows. (p. 319)

At this point you may be wondering, what are we to make of this odd little book? Despite its quirks of organization, The Home Cook Book gives us a valuable snapshot not only of the late-nineteenth-century North American diet and the culture of entertaining that surrounded it, but also of women’s roles at the time. In the domestic realm, women were the authorities, and – as evidenced by The Home Cook Book, compiled and sold by Toronto women for the benefit of a children’s hospital – the genre of domestic manuals was one in which women had a voice and could exercise it to promote social change outside the home. Compilation cook books were a venue for sharing information locally, but also must have been empowering to the housewives who saw their names in print. Most recipes are attributed to a specific contributor, whose name appears beneath the name of her dish. Some women even elevated their names to the recipe’s title, as with “Sally Munder’s Way of Dressing Cold Meat” (93). How thrilling must it have been to a woman who took the traditional path, dedicating herself to her home and family, to briefly take on the role of authoress?

Food as memory: Mrs. Savage preserves a family recipe. (p. 127)

It seems particularly appropriate that individual women were credited for their contributions to a cookbook, for these acknowledgements of “authorship” recognize how women and families individualize(d) recipes in their own kitchens. Food is integral to cultural, familial, and individual identity, and is powerfully evocative of memory (just see the Missouri History Museum’s books full of visitors’ coffee memories in Coffee: The World in Your Cup & St. Louis in Your Cup – it’s remarkable how a single drink conjures memories of home, holidays, and loved ones for so many people from around the world). You can see how Mrs. Savage’s recipe, “My Mother’s Favourite Pickles,” preserves not only cucumbers, but her memories of cooking with her mother. Many of the book’s dishes – presumably their contributors’ best – are likely family recipes, handed down with their charmingly vague-but-appreciative names and the inexact measurements of cooks who learned them not by reading, but by example. For some of these women, this may have been the first time their recipe was written down, which would, to them, have amounted to preserving a family treasure.

This book has a hard-working history — especially when it comes to cakes! (p. 304-305)

These family recipes, personal and beloved to the women who submitted them for publication, picked up another layer of women’s history when they were appropriated by those who purchased the book. Cook books arguably bear the marks of use more than any other genre, and this copy of The Home Cook Book has been spattered, stained, and so often flipped through with messy fingers that it is practically falling apart. As heavily used technical manuals, cookbooks such as this one occupy a unique place in book history, bearing testament to the wear and tear of life in a busy kitchen.

For keeping your recipes in order, straight pins work a charm! (p. 167)

Though The Home Cook Book opens with a letter from a man addressed to its male publishers, the book is, both intellectually and physically, a women’s artifact. The opening chapters emphasize cookery and housekeeping as instinctual activities, to be simultaneously lauded as women’s “profession” and discredited as simplistic, requiring only a short book to supply “the place of the Academy” (v). Yet this short book belies any assumption that women’s roles were free of sweat and striving. Every woman’s name, printed proudly above her recipe, and every stain upon the page is an artifact of effort.

The real, tangible mark left by a previous owner on her cookbook. (p. 72)

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Meditations on the Life of Christ: Scenes from Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library—part of Special Collections in the Saint Louis University Libraries—announces the opening of an exhibition of medieval and Renaissance manuscript facsimiles, “Meditations on the Life of Christ.”

Between the end of the 2015 academic semester and the beginning of the New Year, many communities prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Much as people in the Middle Ages turned to icons and sacred images for focused spiritual meditation, this exhibition provides an opportunity for us all to reflect on the many stages and events in Christ’s brief life, as recorded in biblical, devotional, and apocryphal sources.

Life of Christ publicity 427x640The original manuscripts—here reproduced in photographic facsimiles—were produced in Europe and western Asia from the ninth through the sixteenth centuries. Representing a variety of devotional, biblical, and liturgical texts, they were read and used in monasteries, cathedrals, and in private homes. Craftsmen and illuminators, working in the artistic styles and imagery of their respective time periods, created decorative motifs and narrative compositions to embellish these books and illustrate the story of Christ’s birth, the activities and episodes of his ministry, his death, and resurrection. Each exhibition case concentrates on specific aspects of his life:

Case 1: Nativity and Childhood, Mission and Miracles
Case 2: Nativity and Childhood
Case 3: Nativity, Childhood, Mission
Case 4: Passion and Crucifixion: The Last Supper
Case 5: Passion and Crucifixion
Case 6: Resurrection and Ascension

The exhibition is free and open to the public and will be on display in the 2nd floor gallery during Pius XII Memorial Library’s regular hours, through 31 January 2016. For further information, contact Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library, at 314-977-3084, lengles@slu.edu.

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