The Mysterious Art of Floating Ink

The "floating inks" of a marbling trough, ready to be captured on paper.

The “floating inks” of a marbling trough, ready to be captured on paper.

One of the many books holding a marbled treasure inside its covers. (Book shown: 1750.2 Penn)

One of the many books holding a marbled treasure inside its covers. (Book shown: 1750.2 Penn)

Our books like to keep many secrets (from centuries-old flowers pressed carefully among their pages to the carcasses of bookworms who gorged to death on words), but among my favorites is their hidden cache of vibrant, marbled papers. The art of marbling, which most likely originated in Japan (read about Japanese marbling, or “suminagashi,” here), but first made its book arts debut in sixteenth-century Persia, has always had an air of mystery. This mystique stems in part from the magical quality of the technique, which (counterintuitively) uses a fluid process to imitate stone. Colorful droplets of paint floated on thickened water are combed into a design that is then applied to fabric or paper laid onto the surface of the water. Manipulation of this “floating ink” (as the Japanese aptly name it) is mesmerizing to watch (seriously — check out this video of the process used to make a nonpareil pattern), but easy to replicate. In fact, the basic process of marbling is so simple that early commercial marblers safeguarded their craft by veiling it in mystery. They kept the ingredients used to treat paper, thicken water, and produce certain effects from the public, and doled out the secrets of the art to new craftsmen only sparingly. Guild masters would teach their apprentices only one or two marbling techniques apiece, enabling them to produce a handful of designs without posing the threat of serious competition in a tight-lipped industry working to produce such high-demand art (Loring 17).

Another popular hiding spot for marbled designs: the edges of the text block. (Book shown: 1742.2 Blyth v. 3)

Another popular hiding place for marbled designs: the edges of the text block. (Book shown: 1742.2 Blyth v. 3)

An example of the Turkish Stone pattern on eighteenth-century boards. (Book shown:

An example of the Turkish Stone pattern on eighteenth-century boards. (Book shown: 1794.2 Becanus)

The secrecy surrounding the production of marbled paper also affected its spread from east to west. While it appears to have spread naturally (albeit gradually) from Persia, through Turkey, and into continental Europe by the end of the sixteenth century, its initial foray across the Channel to England was just as clandestine and somewhat underhanded. Duties on imported paper were so high at the time that the first marbled papers acquired by bookbinders were imported under-the-radar as wrapping paper for Dutch toys (Loring 19). (If only Amazon packages came wrapped in marbled paper…)

Stormont patterned boards (Book shown:

Stormont patterned boards. (Book shown: BX 3702 .T53 1817 8vo)

By the seventeenth century, however, what had been a closely guarded decorative technique unknown outside of Japan and Persia had come into widespread use in Europe, and marbling was used to adorn endpapers, both board and leather book covers, and the edges of text blocks. An array of decorative styles and techniques (all of which are pictured in either this handy style guide from the University of Washington or in Iris Nevins’s book Traditional Marbling) developed regionally before coming into wider use. Some common designs in our collection are Turkish Stone, French Snail, Stormont, French Shell, and Fine-combed (or “Nonpareil”).

An example of a French shell pattern adorning the boards of a nineteenth-century book. Doesn't it look like cells under a microscope? (Book shown: 1816.2 Ignatius of Loyola)

This is not, in fact, a magnified view of an animal’s cellular structure, but an example of a French Shell pattern adorning the boards of a nineteenth-century book. (Book shown: 1816.2 Ignatius of Loyola)

The most technically basic marbling design is Turkish Stone, a pebbled pattern achieved by dropping paint on the water and applying it to paper without further manipulation. This technique was popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Variations on the pattern include Stormont and Shell, both of which involve mixing additive into the dye to produce specific effects. Stormont, a design technique of the mid-eighteenth century, uses turpentine, which, when mixed with the body color (the color applied last to the water solution and therefore most prominent on the finished paper), produces a lacy effect. Shell, on the other hand, is achieved when the marbler mixes his dyes with oil. The oil prevents the dye from spreading far across the size (the thickened water), and creates patterns of concentric circles in which the body color nests.

Spanish Marbling. Note the lines running diagonally from the top left of this board to the bottom right; this is what distinguishes Spanish Marbling from Stone. (Book shown:

Spanish Marbling. Note the lines running diagonally from the top left of this board to the bottom right; this is what distinguishes Spanish Marbling from Stone. (Book shown: Toulouse K.006.02 4to)

Spanish Marbling is another design that begins as a simple stone pattern. A striped overlay effect is created by rocking the paper gently back and forth as it is laid on the size. (Interestingly, legend has it that the first Spanish Marbled pattern was a mistake, resulting when one marbler jostled the trough of another just as the second was a laying his paper onto the size. I’ll stick with my favorite story, though, which attributes the pattern to a hung-over seventeenth-century craftsman whose shaky hands prevented him from transferring paint cleanly from size to paper [Loring 27].)

A close-up of French snail-patterned endpapers. (Book shown: )

A close-up of French Snail patterned endpapers. (Book shown: 1723.2 Bourdaloue v. 1)

The French Snail pattern has been used on endpapers since the mid-seventeenth century, and, browsing through our seventeenth- and eighteenth-century books, its popularity is apparent. “Snails” – small, curled waves drawn at intervals to further embellish another design – crawl across numerous pages in our pre-1820 collection.

Nonpareil -- the darker-toned, nineteenth-century revival of fine-combed patterns. (Book shown:

Nonpareil — the darker-toned, nineteenth-century revival of fine-combed patterns. (Book shown: PR 1578 .A1 1843 v. 1)

Finally, Fine-combed patterns, created when the teeth of a comb are run through a stone design, have been popular since the introduction of marbling into Europe. The earliest designs are in light, whimsical pastels, while older, nineteenth-century revivals of this classic design favor a dark palette of predominantly deep red.

One of my attempts at marbling -- dye pinwheels ready to be combed.

One of my attempts at marbling — dye pinwheels ready to be combed.

I don’t know about you, but the beauty and vibrancy of these old patterns, combined with the seeming simplicity of the process used to make them, left me with the hankering to try marbling myself. Now that the art is no longer a closely guarded secret, marbling kits for beginners are available in most art supply stores. I found my Jacquard Marbling Kit on Amazon, but you can find a number of options from numerous vendors. The kit contains alum (which, when dissolved in water, is used to treat paper so that paint adheres to it) and carrageenan (or “Irish moss,” a seaweed derivative used to thicken water so that paint floats on its surface), as well as several paint colors. The set-up was as simple as expected: I simply soaked paper in an alum solution, mixed the carrageenan with water, and went crazy with the colors! Clearly, I have a natural talent for marbling. See how closely my pattern mimicked the intended fine-combed design?

I could play it like a cat and say, "I meant to do that"... But in my attempt at marbling (pictured at right), I was really trying to achieve the beautiful uniformity of the early fine-combed design at left. (Book shown:

I could play it like a cat and say, “I meant to do that”… but in my attempt at marbling (pictured at right), I was really trying to achieve the beautiful uniformity of the early fine-combed design at left. (Book shown: BX 2179 .F8 I5 1651 8vo)

Better luck next time, I suppose – and there will definitely be a next time! For now, I invite you to come see some fine examples of marbling in SLU’s collection (there’s so much more than what is pictured here) and, hopefully, to take inspiration for your own marbling adventures.

A sample of my attempts. I may not have achieved the pattern I was looking for, but I still had fun trying!

A sample of my attempts. I may not have achieved the pattern I was looking for, but I sure had fun trying!

 

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A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library at Holkham Hall: A New Publication from the VFL

The Vatican Film Library announces the recent publication of the first volume in A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library at Holkham Hall by Suzanne Reynolds. The Holkham Hall catalogue is the inaugural title in the VFL’s new series, Manuscripta Publications in Manuscript Research—a subsidiary publication of Manuscripta: A Journal for Manuscript Research, which is published for the Vatican Film Library by Brepols Publishers. This series will comprise monographs, essay collections, and catalogues pertaining to medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies.

Suzanne Reynolds
A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library at Holkham Hall. Vol. 1, Manuscripts from Italy to 1500. Pt. 1, Shelfmarks 1–399.
XXIV+389 p., 57 b/w ill. + 196 color ill., 230 x 330 mm. (2015). ISBN 978-2-503-52900-4, Hardback, 170,00 Euros. To order, contact Brepols Publishers.

The Holkham Hall catalogue is planned in four volumes. Vol. 1, pt. 2 will cover manuscripts from Italy to 1500, shelfmarks 400 and onward. Vol. 2 will cover manuscripts to 1500 from Britain and the rest of Europe outside of Italy, principally from the library of Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634). And Vol. 3 will cover all other manuscripts after 1500.

Publisher’s description: The manuscript library at Holkham Hall is among the most significant private collections in the world—yet no catalogue of its riches has ever been published. The volumes in this series will cover all the Holkham manuscripts and open up these hidden treasures to scrutiny for the first time.

This first volume in the Catalogue is devoted to the heart of the collection at Holkham Hall: manuscripts made in Italy in the Middle Ages and the age of humanism. This first part of Volume 1 covers one hundred and twenty-seven Italian manuscripts: biblical and liturgical codices (notably a lavishly illuminated Book of Hours made for Lorenzo de’ Medici), patristic texts, and the exceptional collection of Latin classical authors collected by Thomas Coke (1697–1759). New attributions to illuminators and significant discoveries in textual history and provenance will stimulate new research; every manuscript catalogued is generously illustrated, and a full bibliography and indices are also included. A substantial historical introduction, drawing on unpublished archives at Holkham, reconstructs in detail for the first time the formation and development of the Holkham manuscript library in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Suzanne Reynolds is Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. She was Curator of Manuscripts at Holkham Hall until 2014, and Lecturer in Medieval Literature at the University of Birmingham from 1992–1998. She has published widely on glossed and illuminated manuscripts, the history of the classical tradition, and the history of collecting.

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Battling Inherent Vice in Rare Books

What do tending livestock and working in a rare book room have in common? Both have a tendency to make your hands look like this:

The outcome of a morning spent measuring unstable books for protective enclosures: dirty hands and a sense of accomplishment.

Fortunately for me, dirty hands spell job satisfaction. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been mocked by friends, family, and fiancé alike for measuring productivity by the color my hands turn the tap water after a day of work. (At my last job: “I stabilized books for four hours this morning, and my hands were absolutely black. It was great!”) Yet, satisfaction aside, isn’t it curious for books to be so grimy? The inquisitive among you may (understandably) be wondering, why is it that shifting books for an hour leaves your hands roughly as grubby as would weeding a garden for the same amount of time?

See? Pretty tidy...

See? Pretty tidy…

The answer is not that I make a habit of sweeping the floor of the stacks with my bare hands (ew), nor is it that our books are just that filthy. Paper does attract dust, as you may have noticed in your own experience from the fine veil of particles that accumulates on bookshelves at home, and the majority of our collections – which range from incunabula (the earliest printed books, produced before 1501) to current faculty publications – have been around long enough to attract a legion of dust bunnies burrowing snugly beneath dust blankets. Fortunately, thanks to routine collection maintenance, neither we nor the books are living beneath the accumulated airborn detritus of centuries here in the rare book room. We routinely sweep the floors and dust the shelves in rooms where our books live, and valiant student worker Micah Miller vacuumed the edges of materials in our pre-1820 collection as recently as 2011, keeping the dust at bay with the type of vacuum (equipped with a HEPA filter and soft brush attachment) recommended for book cleanings by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).[1] Kudos to his dust-busting (periodic cleanings are an important part of any book conservation program), but the question still remains: what is making my hands so dirty?

An example of deteriorating leather, which comes away in a powdery dust called “red rot.” Wouldn’t this make a mean episode of The Magic School Bus? (Book shown: 1810.2 Walsh-ii)

An example of deteriorating leather, which comes away in a powdery dust called “red rot.” Wouldn’t this make a mean episode of The Magic School Bus? (Book shown: 1810.2 Walsh-ii)

The main culprits are the books themselves, which are made from organic materials plagued by inherent vice. Rakishly exciting though it sounds (Alec D’Urberville, anyone?), in conservation circles, “inherent vice” refers to materials containing agents that naturally cause deterioration over time, independent of outside forces. The treated leather used in most pre-industrial book bindings is prone to gradual decay. The leather absorbs sulfur dioxide from the air and, through a process of oxidation, produces sulfuric acid. The acid weakens the chemical structure of the leather through hydrolosis, which, on a molecular level, breaks down chains of collagen (a protein in animal hide also found in human skin). The visible result of this process is slight cracking of the leather, which gradually deteriorates and comes away in a fine, reddish-brown powder called “red rot” (or, as a former colleague at the University of Illinois used to call it, “mummy dust”).

Delaminating sheepskin binding (shelfmark)

Delaminated sheepskin binding (Book shown: PN 6349 .S83 1665 8vo)

While red rot results from a natural process, it can be hastened and exacerbated by a number of factors. First of all, the type of animal hide used affects leather longevity. Sheep, calf, and goat skin were all commonly used in fifteenth- to eighteenth-century bindings, and while calf and goat tend to produce fairly hardy cases, sheep skin has a tendency to delaminate – to not only lose its sheen, but to peel away in layers. This is due to differences in a sheep’s coat, which forms a thick, insulating, deep-rooted fleece made up of crimped hair rather than straight (like that of cows and goats).[2] The deep roots of this crimped hair mean that when hair follicles are removed during tanning, sheepskin is left with a tiny gap between dermal layers.[3] As the resulting leather ages, the top layer tends to peel away, leaving the exposed under-layers more susceptible to deterioration.

When you picture a cow today, the ubiquitous white and black Holstein most likely comes to mind. The Holstein is an example of a cow that has been bred for specific traits – rapid growth, high milk production, and docility – that have changed its appearance and the quality of its hide. This pretty little lady, a Kerry heifer, is now a rare breed. She represents the older cattle ideals of high intelligence, ability to forage, and a thicker coat, and is more similar in traits and appearance to the cattle whose hides were used to make early bindings. (Rosie, taken at Plimoth Plantation in 2010)

When you picture a cow today, the ubiquitous white and black Holstein most likely comes to mind. The Holstein is an example of a cow that has been bred for specific traits – rapid growth, high milk production, and docility – that have changed its appearance and the quality of its hide. This pretty little lady, a Kerry heifer, is now a rare breed. She represents the older cattle ideals of high intelligence, ability to forage, and a thicker coat, and is more similar in traits and appearance to the cattle whose hides were used to make early bindings. (Rosie, taken at Plimoth Plantation in 2010)

The original quality of the animal hide will also affect the hardiness of the resulting leather, and agricultural changes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in which farmers began to favor larger, more productive livestock over smaller, hardier, and (literally) thicker-skinned animals began to affect leather durability.[4] Additives from vegetable tannins, which came into widespread use in the processing of animal hides during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, have also been found to exacerbate the deterioration process.

A book in a phase box (our enclosures like to go incognito) and two banded volumes. (Books shown: 1700.2 Crasset v. 1-3)

A book in a phase box (our enclosures like to go incognito) and two banded volumes. (Books shown: 1700.2 Crasset v. 1-3)

Unfortunately, since red rot is a natural process that springs directly from qualities intrinsic to processed leather, there is no known way to treat or reverse it. All we can do is track the deterioration of books in our collection and, when necessary, stabilize or conserve them through the application of supports (such as conservation bands) and enclosures. This is an ongoing project at SLU, where Rare Books staff do periodic sweeps of the whole pre-1820 collection, making note of books’ condition, banding items in need of structural support, and measuring them for custom-made enclosures. The upside? The process of deterioration is a slow one, so these materials should still be around – and available for use, whenever you choose to come look at them – for a long time yet.

For my part, I can look forward to many years of satisfaction in using my “dirty hand gauge” of productivity. Maybe I should look into a patent?

[1] https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.3-cleaning-books-and-shelves

[2] http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/collectioncare/2013/09/heres-looking-at-you-kid-under-the-microscope-with-leather.html

[3] http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/collectioncare/2013/09/heres-looking-at-you-kid-under-the-microscope-with-leather.html

[4] http://blog.thepreservationlab.org/2015/01/18th-and-19th-century-leather-a-conservation-challenge/

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“Charlotte Jenner her book”

Front endpapers of British Curiosities, rife with writing in at least three hands

Living history has nothing on rare books (entrance to the 1627 English Village at Plimoth Plantation, 2010)

Living history has nothing on rare books (entrance to the 1627 English Village at Plimoth Plantation, 2010)

Holding a rare book is the closest I’ve come to time-walking. Perhaps this assertion seems dubious coming from someone who spent childhood summers chopping rutabaga to be stewed in an open hearth and teaching other kids Nine Men’s Morris in a short gown, cap, and petticoat. (My first foray into living history was as my mother’s shadow when she worked at Indian House Children’s Museum in Deerfield, MA.) Yet I maintain that when you want to immerse yourself in the worldview of a previous century, texts from the period are a good place to start. Often you can find an old text prettily bound, prefaced, and annotated in a modern edition that you simply pull off the shelf of a library or secondhand bookstore and take home. This ease of use affords you the leisure to read and reread, to become acquainted with an author’s language by interacting with the text both intellectually and literally, through underscores, highlighting, or notes (although please, no Mr. Bean moments in the library — keep annotations and alterations to your own books!). It can be freeing to lose yourself in the text of a book without sparing much thought for its material value, and odds are, you aren’t pulling quotes for your Shakespeare final from a 1623 First Folio kicking around your dorm room, but rather from a modern Oxbridge critical edition of the Bard’s works.

This is an artifact, created in 1728, that I can hold (carefully) in my bare hand! (Gold-tooled spine of British Curiosities)

This is an artifact, created in 1728, that I can hold (carefully) in my bare hand! (Gold-tooled spine of British Curiosities)

The downfall of exploring history solely through uncontextualized ideas is an incomplete understanding of the past. Physical objects can give us some of the best insights into the daily lives of the people who made and used them, and, in a history museum, you can see how inhabitants dressed, worked, ate, interacted, and spent their leisure time. How much closer can you get to a fashionable young English lady at the turn of the nineteenth century than her neoclassical white muslin gown, yellowed with age and faint sweat stains? (Sorry, Nana, ladies don’t just “glow.”) Yet most of us – unless we (a.) go to school to become museum conservators, (b.) inherit illustrious European estates, or (c.) are Lara Croft – do not have the opportunity to touch centuries-old artifacts that our predecessors once wore, held, used, and considered unremarkably commonplace.

Blind-tooled front cover of British Curiosities

Blind-tooled front cover of British Curiosities

Perhaps you’ve deduced where I’m going with this, but here it is nevertheless: the single most amazing thing about rare books and manuscripts is that they house texts and are also artifacts. And – wait for it – YOU CAN TOUCH THEM. An eighteenth-century book not only holds a text that speaks volumes (often three, if we’re talking early novels) about the author’s worldview and the culture that produced it, but also of book production at the time of its publication. Even more invigorating is the fact that someone owned this book, and that perhaps many someones flipped through the same pages you hold in your hand. You can find traces of these people – of a book’s provenance – in bookplates, ownership stamps, inscriptions, marginal notes, and sometimes random scribblings. This is what I mean by time-walking, for I never feel closer to people of the past (whoever and whenever they were) than when I’m holding the same book that they held when it was new. This feeling reminds me of a line from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, when the boys’ teacher Hector describes the profound connection you have with an author who has written something you’d always thought “particular to you.” Then, suddenly, “here it is,” he says. “Set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours” (Bennett 56). I’ve hardly worked in SLU’s rare book room for a month, but already I’ve had the pleasure of clasping many such hands reaching down from the shelves.

Extraordinarily descriptive title page of British Curiosities

One book that I’ve become particularly attached to is this 1728 edition of British Curiosities in Art and Nature. A travel guide to eighteenth-century England’s counties, complete with post-chaise timetables and calendars listing the dates of annual fairs and events (whoever said we need the internet to plan a trip?), the volume has been caringly bound in calf-skin with blind tooling on the covers and a gold-tooled spine. The title page alone could occupy me all day, with the endless title that helpfully excuses the reader from perusing the whole text (was SparkNotes inspired by pre-industrial subtitles?), the conspicuously absent author, and the clear visual direction to the publisher’s house “under Serle’s Gate” in London. Yet it is the pastedowns and endpapers – spaces left intentionally blank by the publisher – that enchant me. It is on the front pastedown that Charlotte Jenner supplants the anonymous author to take possession of what she has emphatically retitled “Charlotte Jenner her book.” Though the endpapers are rife with hands – at least two others, Thomas Good and John Webb, have signed their names here – Charlotte’s is the name that reaches out to me. Perhaps it has something to do with how she practiced her numbers only up to six, or with the line of j’s she scrawled across the page, trying to get the form of this most crucial letter in her name just right. Perhaps her hand, material and metaphorical, reaches out to me because I remember practicing my own letters in just such a way, laboring over the capital letters that made my name decisive. I can see a young Charlotte Jenner curled over the book, writing slowly and with great concentration, before taking a break to read of the wonders beyond her own small corner of England.

Times and distances of travel by post stage, for your (eighteenth-century) convenience

Distances of travel by post stage, for your (eighteenth-century) travel convenience

In reality, I have no idea who Charlotte Jenner was. Was she a child learning to write? A young woman proud to own her first book? An older woman practicing her letters? I don’t know where she lived, or even when within the wide window of time after 1728. She wrote nothing profound in British Curiosities – only her name and some numbers. Yet her disregard for this book as an artifact, using a now safeguarded object as her writing tablet, is a reminder that this book was once new. It was to Jenner as your textbooks are to you: a source of information, of text to be interacted with, underlined and doodled beside: both a text to be learned from and an everyday object to be marked proudly as one’s own, but no more to be idolized than a toothbrush. And thus, we come full-circle.

Who was Charlotte Jenner? I don’t know, but she held out her hand, and I took it. So now I ask you: who will you meet in your rare book room?

 

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42nd Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies, 16-17 October, 2015

Conf2015 Poster_1_smallThe Vatican Film Library, part of Special Collections in the University Libraries, will hold its 42nd Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies this coming 16-17 October 2015. This annual two-day conference features a wide array of topics in medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies, addressing subjects such as paleography, codicology, illumination, book production, texts and transmission, library history, and more. This year’s program includes sessions on Spanish manuscripts, new projects at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, the production of vernacular texts in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy, refurbished manuscripts in the Middle Ages, and digital humanities projects in the Vatican Film Library and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

The Lowrie J. Daly, SJ, Memorial Lecture on Manuscript Studies this year will be delivered by Stella Panayotova of the Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, on the topic “Manuscript Illumination: Art and Science” (Friday, 16 October 2015). The Lowrie Daly lecture series is co-sponsored with the Saint Louis University Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The guest lecture is free and open to the public and will be held at 4pm in the Anheuser-Busch Auditorium, John Cook Hall.

Regular sessions of the conference are open to the public through registration. Saint Louis University students, staff, and faculty are admitted free of charge, but are asked to register in advance. For further information, visit the conference webpage or contact the Vatican Film Library at 314-977-3090 or vfl@slu.edu.

Special Collections provides a laboratory for learning and research that enables students, faculty, and visiting scholars to engage directly with unique, rare, and original sources. Visit Special Collections online or follow department news and activities through its blog “Special Collections Currents” or follow us on Twitter.

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VFL Mellon Fellow’s Recent Publication

Professor Emil J. Polak, a 2009 Vatican Film Library Mellon Fellow and retired faculty member of the City University of New York, has completed the final volume of his Medieval and Renaissance Letter Treatises and Form Letters with the publication of vol. 3,  A Census of Manuscripts Found in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, and Italy (Leiden: Brill, 2015). Among other libraries, this volume lists two-hundred manuscripts in the collections of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. Begun in 1977, the whole work covers almost nine-hundred libraries and archives in thirty-six countries and provides a repertory of Latin manuscripts of the ars dictandi and ars epistolandi from the eleventh century to about 1700. Earlier volumes include (vol. 1) A Census of Manuscripts Found in Eastern Europe and the Former USSR (Leiden: Brill, 1993) and (vol. 2) A Census of Manuscripts Found in Part of Western Europe, Japan, and the United States of America (Leiden: Brill, 1994).

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“Forging the Moon; or, How to Spot a Fake Galileo” — Lecture by Nick Wilding

The Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections announces a guest lecture by Nick Wilding, PhD, Associate Professor of Early Modern History at Georgia State University.

Sidereus nuncius“Forging the Moon; or, How to Spot a Fake Galileo”
Wednesday, 1 April 2015, 4:00 p.m.
Pius XII Memorial Library, 2nd floor gallery

Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius, or “Starry Messenger,” is a landmark in the history of astronomy. Published in Venice in 1610, it is the first book to record astronomical observations made with the aid of a telescope. In it, Galileo described the cratered surface of the moon and postulated the presence of mountains in the lunar terrain; he reported the existence of a wealth of new stars; and he announced his discovery of the moons of Jupiter, which he named the “Medicean stars.” It is a very rare book, of which only about 150 copies are known to survive. In 2005 a hitherto unknown copy of the Sidereus nuncius came to light that purported to be a signed proof copy illustrated by Galileo himself.

Dr. Wilding will recount the fascinating story of how, beginning in 2011, he revealed this supposedly unique copy of Galileo’s work to be a forgery, one that has also been linked to the looting of the Girolamini Library in Naples. See Nicholas Schmidle, “A Very Rare Book: The Mystery Surrounding a Copy of Galileo’s Pivotal Treatise,” The New Yorker (December 16, 2013). His discovery has had repercussions not only for the history of science, but also for the authenticity of historical artifacts and the rare book trade. New forgeries of hand press era books are easier and cheaper to make than ever before and closer to perfect in their ability to deceive. How are they made, and how can we detect them? Focusing on the now-exposed fraudulent copy of Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius, this lecture will examine the tests these forgeries may pass and describe new ones that—at least until now—they have failed.

Nick Wilding is Associate Professor of Early Modern History at Georgia State University. He has published widely on the history of early modern science, and his first book, Galileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge, is now available from the University of Chicago Press. He has held fellowships at Stanford, Cambridge, the American Academy in Rome, the New York Academy of Medicine, and Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.

The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception. Call 314-977-3090 for more information.

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Exhibition Opening, Reception, and Curator’s Talk – “Keeping Time Through Prayer: Liturgy in the Middle Ages”

The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library – part of Special Collections in the Saint Louis University Libraries – announces the opening of the exhibition “Keeping Time Through Prayer: Liturgy in the Middle Ages.”

Benjamin WinterCurated by Benjamin Winter, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Research Assistant in the Vatican Film Library and doctoral student in the Department of Theological Studies of Saint Louis University, this new exhibition introduces viewers to the practice of liturgy in the medieval period. It draws from as many regional, lingual, and theological contexts as possible. At this time in Western European history, the celebration of Mass was seen as an essential function of society. For more than a millennium the daily lives of religious, canonical, and lay people were ordered by liturgy’s sacred rhythm and ritual.

The medieval and Renaissance manuscripts on exhibit are drawn from the teaching collection of the Vatican Film Library. The exhibition includes liturgical calendars and manuscripts related to the cult of saints that show how liturgy dictated the rhythm of time and set the boundaries of humanity’s relationship to God. These aspects are evident in the universal celebration of events in the “Church Year,” and in the particular and highly varied practices of local communities with their unique feasts and cults.

Saint Louis University Libraries, Special Collections, MS 04 - Folio E, Verso

Saint Louis University Libraries, Special Collections, MS 04 – Folio E, Verso

Also on display are liturgical manuscripts that include performance instructions—examples of how worship practices were shaped by the abilities and resources of participants. The relationships between various types of mass books (such as antiphonals, breviaries, and graduals) are also explored, as a tribute to the complexity of the manuscript tradition within which these treasures of medieval life are preserved.

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 31 August 2015 in the Vatican Film Library of Pius XII Memorial Library (Room 105). A Curator’s Talk by Benjamin Winter will take place on Thursday, March 19, at 3:30 pm, to be followed by a reception. For further information, contact Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library, at 314-977-3084, lengles@slu.edu.

Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections — Rare Books and the Vatican Film Library — houses the rare book and medieval manuscript studies collections of the University Libraries and provides a laboratory for learning and research that enables students, faculty, and visiting scholars to engage directly with unique, rare, and original materials. Visit Special Collections in Pius XII Memorial Library or online or follow our blog.

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Curator’s Talk for “With Quill and Knife” — An Exhibition of Medieval Manuscripts for Study and Learning

A Curator’s Talk with Kyle Lincoln, Department of History, for the Exhibit

With Quill and Knife:
Manuscripts for Study and Learning

Vatican Film Library
Pius XII Memorial Library, Rm 105
19 November 2014, 3:30 p.m.  

Saint Louis University, Pius XII Memorial Library, Special Collections, MS 29, Francesco Petrarca, Canzionere and Trionfi

Curated by Kyle Lincoln, doctoral candidate in the Saint Louis University Department of History, this exhibition focuses on complex texts and illustrates the various methods used to impart difficult information. In the medieval world, the program of study for most students was strictly standardized. They undertook a seven-year-long course covering logic, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music; all to earn a simple bachelor’s degree. Beyond these studies, especially promising students could pursue law or theology, or, at certain schools, medicine or the sciences. The production of books was a major industry, and texts on advanced subjects were particularly prized by students and scholars.

The manuscripts and manuscript fragments on display cover a broad range of genres, including law, military science, poetry, and exegesis. Regardless of the subject matter, the manuscripts were produced for utility and functionality, and were explored by professional scholars and erudite amateurs alike.

The curator’s talk will be followed by a reception. The exhibition will be on display Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, through 31 Jan 2015 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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Exhibition Opening, Reception, and Gallery Talk — “Rex Christianissimus: Books, Art, and Architecture in the Time of Saint Louis”

The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library — part of Special Collections in the Saint Louis University Libraries — announces the opening of the exhibition Rex Christianissimus: Books, Art, and Architecture in the Time of Saint Louis, curated by Susan L’Engle, Ph.D. In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Louis, Missouri, this exhibition explores key elements that have made King Louis IX of France (1214–70) a memorable figure, one worthy of admiration and veneration even to his contemporaries and from 1297 as a saint. Focusing on the material culture of Louis’s unique historical context, displays will include manuscript facsimiles, replicas of reliquaries, and reproductions of manuscript illuminations. The three major themes of the exhibit explore the king’s virtues most admired by his contemporaries: his personal piety, his patronage of religious and cultural institutions, and his zeal for the grand enterprise of the crusades to the Holy Land.

The exhibition is free and open to the public and will be on display October 1-December 19 in the West Pine entrance lobby of Pius XII Memorial Library. An opening reception and gallery talk by Dr. Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library, will take place on Friday, October 10, at 3:00 p.m. Call 314-977-3090 for more information.

Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections — Rare Books and the Vatican Film Library — houses the rare book and medieval manuscript collections of the University Libraries and provides a laboratory for learning and research that enables students, faculty, and visiting scholars to engage directly with unique, rare, and original materials. Visit Special Collections in Pius XII Memorial Library or online or follow our blog.

 

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