“Exploring the Manuscript Page: Scripts and Decoration around the World”—VFL Exhibition

Exploring the Manuscript Page: Scripts and Decoration around the World
An exhibition in the Vatican Film Library in Pius XII Memorial Library
13 February – 30 June 2017

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 manuscripts, “Exploring the Manuscript Page.”

Figure 1, Special Collections, VFL MS 043, from a book of prayers. In Syriac, written in a script called Nestorian.

This exhibit provides a survey of different handwritings and decoration styles in manuscripts from all over the world, dating from the thirteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Numerous writing systems were used for communication in the medieval period, each generally related to one or more spoken language. Early in the West the Roman alphabet was mainly used for texts in Latin, and later for literature produced in the vernacular languages of each country. In the East there was not the advantage of a universal language such as Latin for the West, but rather multiple vernacular languages or dialects from region to region, and often in the same country. Many of them developed specific writing systems, while other languages remained strictly oral. In Case 1 we learn the technical names of many Western and Eastern scripts.

Figure 2, Special Collections, VFL MS 003, a book of hours, written in textualis rotunda.

On display in Case 2 are decorative features devised in European, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries to articulate handwritten manuscripts—that is, to provide a visual guide for the reader to navigate the text. Colored ink and painted letters of graded sizes identified major and minor text divisions and distinguished individual sentences, at a time when there was little if any punctuation. Ornamental touches could also enrich the reading experience. Vertical borders, wide or narrow, incorporating vegetal elements and gold-leaf details could partially frame the text and add colorful, gleaming accents.

Figure 3, Special Collections VFL MS 004d verso, from a book of hours, written in a script called bastarda.

Sometimes large initials or stand-alone pictures would be historiated—by supplying an image that would illustrate the content of a passage or a chapter, such as this miniature representing the Betrayal of Christ, with Judas kissing Christ and Saint Peter cutting off a soldier’s ear with a sword.

In some cultures certain manuscripts have no figured decoration. As a highly regarded element in Islamic art, calligraphy itself becomes ornament in many Islamic manuscripts, particularly religious texts. In a Book of Litanies leaf, in Arabic, we find the text written in black ink within the small inner sections, while the headings at top, middle, and bottom stand out for their larger size and execution in gold and blue, with red and blue details.

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 30 June 2017 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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METAscripta: VFL Digital Humanities Project






METAscripta is a large-scale digital humanities project of the Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library (VFL) in the Department of Special Collections of Pius XII Memorial Library. The METAscripta team includes library faculty, staff, graduate fellows, and undergraduate student workers from the VFL and the Archives Digitization Center, with essential support from IT/Library Systems and the Center for Digital Humanities. The immediate goal of the project is to digitize 37,000 pre-modern manuscripts originally photographed at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV) in the 1950’s.

Since then the approximately 10,000 master negative rolls have been stored in a vault in the basement of Pius XII Library, while the working positive films have been available for study in the VFL. After two years of planning, testing, writing grant applications, purchasing equipment, and organizing the documentation, data processing, and workflow for the project, the first box of 18 rolls, comprising 78 manuscripts, was finally digitized right before semester break of December 2016. The team celebrated by gift-wrapping the first box of microfilms like a Christmas present.

The METAscripta project will ultimately produce a crowd-sourcing website where registered users will be able to add metadata to the records for BAV manuscripts, many of which are unstudied and lack basic catalog descriptions, even in the catalogs of the Vatican Library. More than just a digitization effort, the METAscripta project applies innovative cataloging methods to improve access to Vatican manuscripts, including indexing by language, century, and country of origin. This discovery metadata will allow users to search for manuscripts as historical artifacts without the traditional library access points of author/title, which for many of these ancient manuscripts remain unidentified. Then controlled vocabulary crowd-sourcing will further enable scholars to add to this information by contributing metadata about manuscripts in their area of expertise. The website will allow users to see all data input for any given record and decide for themselves which data is most accurate.

With enthusiastic support from the Vatican Library, METAscripta will help provide new opportunities for scholarship about pre-modern manuscripts and create a sustainable resource for interactive scholarship. We are very grateful to all members of the Pius XII faculty and staff who have helped us develop this project and hope that in a few years we will have an exciting digital humanities product for international use.

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An Artist’s Catalog: Collier’s Human Passions Delineated

The engraved title page of Collier’s Human Passions Delineated.

Human Passions Delineated in Above 120 Figures, published by John Heywood of Manchester in 1773, is a collection of caricatures and poems by “Tom Bobbin” – the pseudonym of Lancashire author and caricaturist John Collier. Peopled with grotesque characters “Design’d in the Hogarthian Style,” Collier’s prints include a self-portrait of “Bobbin,” 38 small (18.5 x 11 cm) caricatures positioned two to a page, and six full-page caricatures paired with satirical verse. Explanations of the smaller engravings are appended on the final five leaves.

In this attack on the fashions of the well-to-do, Collier depicts a wealthy man trying on a ludicrously pointed wig while a flattering wig maker presumably tells him how well it suits him. Collier ends his later explanation of the image with the hope that such fashions will be short-lived, remembered only by those “Who liv’d in George the Third’s mad fluctuating reign.”

Throughout the volume, Collier unreservedly pokes fun at the failings and foibles of men and women at all levels of society. Among his leering subjects are vomiting drunkards, doctors delighting in the painful extraction of teeth, and wealthy aristocrats flaunting laughably overdrawn fashions (such as towering wigs that do nothing to distract from their pronounced, hairy facial moles). The tone of the images ranges from lightly mocking (as in an illustration of an old woman using her cane as a lever to break up her granddaughter’s would-be tryst) to bitingly satirical. Some of Collier’s harshest critiques are reserved for hypocritical clergymen, and he dedicates a full-page caricature and an entire leaf of text to attacking pluralists (priests who took livings in multiple parishes, then notoriously underpaid the curates hired to preach in their place). He clearly also has a bone to pick with the printers who pirated “Bobbin’s” first and most successful work, A View of the Lancashire Dialect (1746). In a memorable caricature/verse pairing titled “Fratres in Malo,” Collier attacks the offenders by name and fantasizes about a future in which they must labor as “Chaise Horses sweating in bad roads / Whipp’d hard by Authors, and prick’d on by Goads.”

A broadside skewering pirating printers who have reduced “Bobbin” to poverty. (In reality, Collier’s money troubles had just as much to do with a habit of eating and drinking his income.)

Interestingly, Human Passions Delineated was printed to be a kind of catalog of the author’s artistic wares. While Collier held traditional jobs throughout his life (he was school-master in his hometown and, briefly, clerk of a woolen textile manufactory), he became increasingly focused on expanding his side-trade as a sign-painter and caricaturist. The publication of this “Book of Heads,” which readers could purchase as a bound volume or by the leaf, was a clever bit of self-promotion, and served to advertise Collier’s talents to publicans and other potential clients throughout the north of England.

A portrait of “Tim Bobbin” (really John Collier).

If Collier’s somewhat crass style is not to your taste, Human Passions Delineated still has much to offer. His illustrations are infused with references to contemporary politics, social stratification, and church politics, as well as with subtle plugs for the author’s other works, which appear as books drawn into the images. As a side effect of the subjects’ wandering hands and immoral behaviors, we are given insight into the workings of eighteenth-century clothing, from how men’s wigs were affixed to how corsets were laced and petticoats were designed to allow access to pockets worn beneath.  Material culture (such as the gentleman’s standard equipage of long, thin-stemmed pipes, snuff boxes, quills, and ceramic drinking vessels) is depicted in fine detail. The layers of meaning and historical evidence packed into this deceptively slim volume are rife for explication, and I encourage you to visit Rare Books yourself to peel them away – or just to get a good chuckle.

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Benjamin Franklin’s “The Morals of Chess”

The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence or the want of it. (The Gentleman’s Magazine, July 1787, p. 590)

So begins Benjamin Franklin’s “The Morals of Chess,” a short essay in which the author argues that chess is not only a game, but a lesson in character.

Franklin at the chessboard (losing to Lady Howe) in an 1867 painting by Edward Harrison May.

Franklin opens by outlining four valuable traits that chess-playing teaches alongside strategic skill: foresight, circumspection, caution, and perseverance. By learning the rules of chess, he argues, a player learns how to better evaluate possible outcomes of any situation, to make decisions carefully and rationally, and to maintain hope of success despite setbacks.

SLU’s copy of Benjamin Franklin’s “The Morals of Chess” consists of two yellowed pages of a periodical bound in brown buckram. (Spec Coll Rare Bks AP 3 .G3 v.57 pt.2 1787)

Franklin then makes it his business to promote this “beneficial amusement” by proposing rules of behavior that will make any match agreeable, increasing the odds that both participants will want to play again. His guidelines range from agreeing upon the rules of play and sticking to them equitably (no free passes for either party!) to winning with grace. (For Franklin, graceful victory entails not only abstaining from gloating, but encouraging your opponent and easing their embarrassment by praising what they did well.) Much of the essay outlines unacceptably rude behaviors, as in a section about patience that advises players not to “express uneasiness” during an opponent’s turn by “looking at your watch,” “taking up a book to read,” or “tapping with your … fingers on the table” (591). This list of faux pas was, perhaps, meant as much to remind the author of proper decorum as it was to guide others, for according to Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont (Parisian ally to the cause for American independence and Franklin’s friend), Franklin was a notorious finger-tapper despite his lofty philosophy.

The title page to the November 1787 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine, the first European periodical to reprint Franklin’s essay on chess.

Whether or not “The Morals of Chess” succeeded in mending the manners of Franklin’s eighteenth-century chess-playing cohorts, it was certainly well received. The article is thought to have been written sometime before 1779 and printed on Franklin’s own press in Passy (though no copies of a Passy edition survive), but it wasn’t published until 1786, when it appeared in the Philadelphia-based Columbian Magazine. By the end of the eighteenth century, it had been translated, reprinted, and distributed in numerous other publications in the U.S. and Europe. SLU’s copy of “The Morals of Chess,” published in the July 1787 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine, represents the essay’s formal European debut.

Chess was a running theme in The Gentleman’s Magazine, a London monthly that, from 1731 until 1922, set out to gather news stories, information, and literature of interest to the learned public. The editors presented chess as a respectable, erudite pastime, publishing stories about the history of the game, reviews of chess-focused books, and recaps of prominent games.

“The Morals of Chess” appeared during a particularly exciting time for chess, when speculation about “the Turk,” an automaton chess player, was at its height. The Turk, which toured Europe in the 1780s, defeating numerous high-profile opponents (including, in 1783, Benjamin Franklin himself), first popped up in The Gentleman’s Magazine in a November 1784 review of Philip Thicknesse’s The Speaking Figure and the Automaton Chess Player, Exposed and Detected. The anonymous reviewer summarized Thicknesse’s theory of how another prominent automaton of the time was actually human-operated, but completely dismissed Thicknesse’s explanation of the Turk, writing only that “we … do not acquiesce in his explanation, and therefore we shall say no more of it” (The Gentleman’s Magazine, Nov. 1784, p. 848). While the Turk was, indeed, a hoax, operated by a series of skilled human chess players, its workings wouldn’t be revealed until the nineteenth century, and when “The Morals of Chess” was published, it was still widely believed to be genuine.

A copper engraving of the Turk, from Karl Gottlieb von Windisch, Briefe über den Schachspieler des Hrn. von Kempelen, nebst drei Kupferstichen die diese berühmte Maschine vorstellen (1783).

The publication of Franklin’s essay at the height of the Turk’s fame may be purely coincidental, but it seems significant that, in the face of this artificially intelligent chess master, Franklin calls attention to the distinctly human – and humanizing – worth of chess. To win the game, all that is needed is the pure logic of which a machine is capable. Yet, Franklin argues, strategy in chess should – as in life – be tempered with moral judgment, and the consequences of our actions should be weighed wearing human faces. While a general leading troops to war must consider the lives of his men (surely a poignant comparison for new Americans fresh from their war for independence), the chess player must consider the feelings of his opponent and the relationships that might be gained or lost as a result of his comportment. Even in losing, Franklin argues, there is a certain victory, for you may win “what is better”: your opponent’s “esteem,… respect, and… affection” (591).

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Thanksgiving “Pie” from The Home Cook Book

Title page to The Home Cook Book (1878): because sometimes, you just need to revisit an old favorite.

Thanksgiving approaches, and my thoughts have turned to one of my favorite books in SLU’s collection: The Home Cookbook: Compiled from Recipes Contributed by Ladies of Toronto and Other Cities and Towns (1878). Last year, I surveyed the contents of this well-worn domestic manual, noting elements – a section on table etiquette, an interlude of short stories, a list of recommended kitchenware and appliances, and a section of home remedies – that set it apart from modern cookbooks. Setting The Home Cook Book in the broader context of women’s history, I considered how compilation cookbooks such as this gave average women the rare opportunity to record their own small piece of family history and to see their names in print.

The beginning of The Home Cook Book‘s chapter on pie begins with this rhyme from an “Old Song”: “Drink now the strong beer, / Cut the white loaf here, / The while the meat is ashredding / For the rare mince pie, / And the plums stand by / To fill the paste that’s a kneading” (206).

While I am still fascinated by The Home Cook Book as a source of historical evidence, I decided that this year, I would put the book to more practical use by bringing one of its recipes to life in a modern kitchen. Skipping past the pickled oysters and matrimony sauce (because some things are better laid to rest), I decided to focus on the chapter about pies. The Home Cook Book contains three recipes for pastry and 34 for pie. These range from enduring North American favorites (such as pumpkin and apple) to less familiar recipes like “Rice Pie” (a variation of custard pie filled with a rich rice pudding). “Lemon Pie” and “Mince Pie,” for which there are nine recipes apiece, appear to have been the overwhelming favorites. Some of these recipes wouldn’t necessarily appeal to modern taste buds (my mouth puckers at the thought of “Cranberry Tart,” and I’ll pass on the “two pounds of boiled tongue” (214) included in Mrs. Samuel Platt’s “Mince Pie”), but for the most part, they’re fairly recognizable – or, at the very least, decipherable – to twenty-first-century diners.

A representative opening from the pie section features six recipes for lemon pie, one for mince pie, and one for “mock mince pie” (traditional mince pie, minus the meat) (210-211).

Two recipes that stand out from the crowd are “Pie Plant Pie” and “Toronto Pie.” Since I had no idea what the end result of either of these recipes might be, I promptly decided that I would have to tackle one of the two.

Does pie grow on trees? Mrs. Carson’s recipe for “Pie Plant Pie” (209).

“Pie Plant Pie” was soon ruled out, for its greatest allure was its mysterious main ingredient, “one cup of stewed pie plant” (209). The recipe itself shed no light on the identity of this plant, but in consulting Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion to Food (2014), I soon found that “pie plant” is an American name for rhubarb (680). Not super exciting, and – more importantly – not in season. I moved on to my final mystery: “Toronto Pie.”

Mrs. D.’s mysterious “Toronto Pie” first makes an appearance on page 216.

My interpretation of “Toronto Pie.”

This pie recipe is somewhat puzzling, as it makes no mention of pastry, crust, or cases. The reader is simply given a list of ingredients, then instructed to “bake as for jelly cake in layers, and spread between the layers raspberry jam” (216). Bake like cake and spread jam between the layers? Is it just me, or does this sound distinctly less like pie than like Victoria Sponge? I brought the recipe home to find out. (Disclaimer: enamored as I am with the evidence of use in this compilation cookbook, I have no intention of adding to its charming array of spatters and stains. The book did not leave the library, and I worked entirely with photographically reproduced recipes.)

Proceeding as though this recipe were for cake, I mixed the ingredients (sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, and lemon zest) and poured the resulting batter in a greased, 8-inch round pan. In true nineteenth-century cookbook fashion, the recipe gives no temperature or bake time (and even if it did, I’m not sure how smoothly they would transfer over to a modern oven). As the resulting “pie” sounded so similar to a layered sponge, I borrowed the oven temperature (350°F) and bake time (25 minutes) from baking icon Mary Berry’s recipe for Victoria Sandwich. A toothpick test indicated that the cake was baked after 25 minutes, but (as it caved in slightly as it cooled and had a somewhat chewy texture) it probably could have used a few more minutes.

Spreading the bottom “crust” of my “pie” with jam.

When the resulting “pie” (read: cake) cooled, I sliced it in half to make two layers. Then, I whipped up a batch of raspberry jam using an Epicurious recipe as a guide, but reducing the sugar. Finally, I spread the jam on the bottom layer and replaced the “pie’s” lid.

The verdict? “Toronto Pie” is a very sweet, somewhat uninspiring cake, but it’s certainly the most memorable “pie” I’ve ever eaten.

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“The Language Of Clothing In The Middle Ages”—Lecture and Gallery Talk

“The Language Of Clothing In The Middle Ages”
Friday, 18 November 2016, 3:00 P.M.
Pius XII Memorial Library, 2nd Floor Gallery

lengle-lecture-1The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library—part of Special Collections in the Saint Louis University Libraries—announces a public lecture by Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library, to be held Friday, 18 November 2016, at 3:00 p.m. in Pius XII Memorial Library, 2nd floor gallery.

The lecture serves as a formal introduction and gallery talk to her recently installed exhibition in this space, “(Re)presenting the Medieval Body: The Role of Clothing and Textiles,” which opened on 12 October 2016 and runs through December 31.

The title of the lecture, “The Language of Clothing in the Middle Ages,” more specifically addresses the subject matter of the exhibition, referencing the many ways in which types of clothing and fabrics visually and materially define a person’s social class, economic status, and personal identity. Throughout the history of civilization the human body has been utilized to express concepts and beliefs and to illustrate current society’s rules, customs, and rituals. This takes place not only through gesture and posture (body language), but additionally through what individuals choose or are required to put on their bodies (for modesty, protection, or social identification).

lengle-lecture-2The lecture will explore the development of this societal expression in both the secular and ecclesiastical spheres, demonstrating how ideology, authority, power, and prestige have been constructed and proclaimed throughout the history of dress. Along the way traditions were established, particularly in professions, that dictated the use of specific garments for certain occasions—and which in fact persist up to the present day.

The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception. For further information, contact the Vatican Film Library at 314-977-3090, vfl@slu.edu.

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Egges or Eyren?: The “boundless chase”

Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1755, was a landmark work in the development of English. (SLU’s copy, shown here, is the third edition, published in 1765. Book shown: Spec Coll Rare Bks PE 1620 .J6 1765 fol. v. 1)

The fractured state of fifteenth-century English is colorfully expressed by printer William Caxton in the preface to his 1490 translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. To illustrate the effects of the “dyuersite [&] chauge of langage” in his time, Caxton recounts a confused communication between a southern woman and a northern merchant:

“In my dayes happened that certayn marchau[n]tes were in a ship in tamyse [the Thames] for to haue sayled ouer the see into zelande [in Holland]/ and for lacke of wynde thei taryed atte forlond [in Kent]. and wente to lande for to refreshe them[.] And one of theym named sheffelde a mercer cam in to an hows [house] and axed [asked] for mete [food], and specyally he axyed after eggys[.] And the good wyf answerde, that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchau[n]t was angry, for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde haue hadde egges/ and she understode hym not/ And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde haue eyren/ then the good wyf sayd that she understood hym wel/ Loo what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges or eyren, certainly it is harde to playse euery man, by cause of dyuersite [&] chau[n]ge of langage.”

The “egg dilemma,” penned and printed by William Caxton in Eneydos (1490). Image from page 110 of Lotte Hellinga’s William Caxton and Early Printing (Spec Coll Archives/ Rare Bks Ref. Z 151.2 H45 2010).

Caxton’s oft-referenced “egges” versus “eyren” anecdote may be humorous, but at its heart is a real quandary: how was Caxton to make foreign-language (and Old or Middle English) works accessible to the masses by translating them into modern English when there was more than one “English” from which to choose?

Complaints of the mutual incomprehensibility of neighboring English dialects predate Caxton, but the problems posed by a lack of language standardization were magnified in his time by the printing press. Texts were churned out at a previously unimaginable rate, and, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as books became more affordable, the literate population grew, publishers’ markets expanded, and national sentiment increased, more and more books were published not in Latin, but in European vernaculars. In England, where the native tongue had both Germanic and Norse roots that appeared in varying degrees in regional dialects (e.g., the Old English “eyren” and Old Norse “egges”), this meant that authors and printers of texts in the vernacular had to decide which dialect to use in order the reach the widest audience. Many (Caxton included) published in the East Midlands dialect spoken in the greater London area, and, as the word forms of this dialect were preserved in print, it increasingly became the English standard.

As you can see from this sampling of SLU’s early English imprints, London was England’s major printing hub. It is unsurprising, then, that many early English printers chose to print in the dialect of the capital region.

This “standard” of language was loose, for even within a given dialect, spelling was phonetic and notoriously mercurial. (Recall, for example, how a certain playwright might choose to go by “Shakesper” or “Shake-speare” as the mood struck him.) It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that the standardization of word forms, meaning, grammar, and usage were fully worked out and put into print.

Enter: one of SLU Rare Books’ English language stars, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language of 1755.

Samuel Johnson’s dictionary is an English-language giant in more ways than one. SLU’s copy of the 1765 third edition, an imposing two-volume folio set, makes the 500+ page work that sits atop it look like a mere novella. (Books shown: Spec Coll Rare Bks PE 1620 .J6 1765 fol. v. 1-2 and 1765.2 Ward)

Johnson’s was not the first English dictionary (English scholars had been compiling “hard word” dictionaries listing long words, technical terms, and/or slang as early as 1604), but it was the most comprehensive general dictionary at the time. This is a fact that Johnson is keen to point out in his introduction, where he emphasizes the arduousness of lexicography in a language suffering from a “deficiency of dictionaries” (6). His words were not harvested from preexisting lists, but had to be “sought by fortuitous and unguided excursions into books, and gleaned … in the boundless chase of a living speech” (6) — a beautiful image of lexical scholarship.

Johnson’s work is all the more impressive for its many examples of usage, mined from publications; his prefatory essay on the history of English, which traces the language’s evolution from Old English, through its Middle and Early Modern forms, and finally to Modern (eighteenth-century) English; his essay on English grammar, which laid the groundwork for grammarians such as William Ward; and the astounding speed with which the work was produced. While a comparable work in French had taken 55 years and 40 scholars to produce, Johnson was able to complete the first edition of his dictionary in only eight years and with the help of six contributors. The dictionary is overwhelmingly the work of a single man, and has been both celebrated and criticized for its evident infusion of Johnson’s personality (and biases) in the centuries since its publication.

Johnson converses with readers in his work’s prefatory material, but this isn’t the only place where his voice can be detected. Johnson’s personality, tastes, and biases (such as this rather rude observation about the Scots in his definition of “oats”) make their way into the definitions themselves.

While some of Johnson’s definitions fall short of the standard of objectivity that modern lexicographers strive for, and though some words that he painstakingly collected have since shifted in meaning or fallen out of use altogether, what I find most remarkable about his dictionary is how overwhelmingly familiar it seems to the modern reader. In organization and intent, in its colloquial style and the clarity of its definitions, and in its commitment to describing the movements of a living language rather than prescribing rules to corral it, A Dictionary of the English Language is everything that we expect a dictionary to be, for modern dictionaries have followed in its wake. Though English continues to evolve (in June 2016, over 1,000 words were formally welcomed into our lexicon by the Oxford English Dictionary), it’s worth remembering that our ability to communicate effectively across dialects was exponentially improved by standards set by eighteenth-century lexicographers and the reference tools that they created. So here’s to Johnson’s “boundless chase” — and, perhaps more importantly, to the sweet simplicity of “egg.”


Further reading:

For a general overview of the evolution of the English language from Anglo-Saxon Britain to today, see the British Library’s “English Timeline”: http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/evolvingenglish/accessvers/index.html

For a look at the evolution of the English dictionary into the collection of general words, definitions, and etymologies that we’re familiar with today, see “The first dictionaries of English” by John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary: http://public.oed.com/aspects-of-english/english-in-time/the-first-dictionaries-of-english/

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“(Re)presenting the Medieval Body: The Role of Clothing and Textiles”—VFL Exhibition & Lecture

(Re)presenting the Medieval Body: The Role of Clothing and Textiles
An Exhibition in Pius XII Memorial Library
12 October 2016 – 2016 December 31

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 manuscripts, “(Re)presenting the Medieval Body: The Role of Clothing and Textiles.”

Mark Twain once qualified the statement “Clothes make the man” with a pithy observation: “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Although this statement might not be so true today, it was certainly valid in the Middle Ages, when clothing defined a person’s social class, economic status, and personal identity. “(Re)presenting the Medieval Body: The Role of Clothing and Textiles,” an upcoming exhibition (12 October 2016 – 31 December 2016), on the second floor of Pius Library, will investigate secular and ecclesiastical clothing as illustrated in works of art dating from Antiquity through the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The exhibit will cover this topic from various points of view, seeking to answer a number of questions, such as: What sorts of garments did church officials—mainly those of the Roman Catholic Church—wear for daily worship and ceremonial events; what are the individual items called; and why? How can you tell a pope from a bishop? What social, cultural, and gender-specific constraints did clothing distinguish—and impose—on their wearers? What fabrics and colors identified or differentiated the various levels of society? Where were the various types of cloth made; by whom; and when did the concept of “style” become meaningful? What inspired fashion, and what caused it to change?

The exhibition is divided into two main sections, comprising ecclesiastical and secular clothing. Dominating the clerical side will be a nearly life-sized replica of the thirteenth-century Ascoli-Piceno cope, donated by Pope Nicholas IV in 1288 to the cathedral of the city of Ascoli Piceno, in Italy. Below is an early twentieth-century watercolor of it, now located in New York City.

Watercolor of the Ascoli-Piceno Cope New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, acc. no. 06.1313

Watercolor of the Ascoli-Piceno Cope
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, acc. no. 06.1313

On the secular side, displays and manuscript facsimiles will present the clothing of royalty, the nobility, merchants, those in professional occupations, and finally laborers and peasants. Individual panels and exhibition cases will concentrate on categories of clothing: headgear, gowns, underwear, footwear; details of fabrics (linen, silk, brocade); as well as the types of decoration applied to them and an explanation of how they were executed. Free and open to all, the exhibition was conceived to interest and inform a wide range of visitors, including students, professors, textile historians and craftspeople, and the general public.

The exhibition is free and open to the public and will be on display through 31 December 2016 in the 2nd floor gallery of Pius XII Memorial Library. Curated by Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library, assisted by the meticulous and much-appreciated efforts of graduate students Ben Halliburton and Samantha Cloud from the History Department.  For further information, contact the Vatican Film Library at 314-977-3090, vfl@slu.edu.

In conjunction with the exhibition, there will also be a guest lecture delivered by Désirée Koslin, Ph.D., retired Assistant Professor in Fashion and Textiles Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY.

“At Face Value: Visual Representations of Fashion in the Middle Ages”
Tuesday, 25 October 2016, 3:30 p.m.
Pius XII Memorial Library, 2nd floor gallery

koslin-picDésirée Koslin has taught courses on the history of western textiles, dress and textiles in world cultures, and fabric structure and analysis. She has published and lectured extensively on fashion, textiles, and the representation of clothing in the middle ages. She is also a textile expert and artist, and has exhibited her fiber art in various galleries over the years.

The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception. For further information, contact the Vatican Film Library at 314-977-3090, vfl@slu.edu.

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New Issue of Manuscripta — Vol. 60, Issue 1 (2016)

The Vatican Film Library announces the latest issue of its biannual journal on medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies, Manuscripta: A Journal for Manuscript Research. In publication since 1957, the journal features articles, notes, and reviews and welcomes submissions on medieval and Renaissance manuscript production, distribution, reception, and transmission — encompassing paleography, codicology, illumination, book production, library history, reading and literacy, textual editing and transmission, manuscript catalogues, and other subjects.


Marta Luigina Mangini, “Tabelliones scribunt de foris: Captions and their Functions in Italian Notarial Records of the Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries”

Anneliese Pollock Renck, “Reading Medieval Manuscripts Then, Now, and Somewhere in Between: Verbal and Visual Mise en Abyme in Huntington Library MS HM 60 and Bibliothèque nationale de France MS fr. 875

John B. Wickstrom, “Reassigning an Eleventh-Century Monastic Antiphoner: From Fossés to Glanfeuil (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 12584)”

Manuscript Notes:

— John T. Slotemaker, “Robert Holcot’s Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard: Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, MS A.XI.36″

Book Reviews:

— Blockmans, Wim, Till-Holger Borchert, Nele Gabriëls, Johan Oosterman, and Anne van Oosterwijk, eds. Staging the Court of Burgundy: Proceedings of the Conference “The Splendour of Burgundy” (Gregory T. Clark)

— Coleman, Joyce, Mark Cruse, and Kathryn A. Smith, eds. The Social Life of Illumination: Manuscripts, Images, and Communities in the Late Middle Ages (Sandra Hindman)

— Drossbach, Gisela. Die Collectio Cheltenhamensis: Eine englische Decretalensammlung; Analyse beruhend auf Vorarbeiten von Walther Holtzmann (†) (Atria A. Larson)

— Mittman, Asa Simon, and Susan M. Kim. Inconceivable Beasts: The Wonders of the East in the Beowulf Manuscript (Heather Pulliam)

— Whittington, Karl. Body‐Worlds: Opicinus de Canistris and the Medieval Cartographic Imagination (Danielle B. Joyner)


The journal accepts articles and notes on topics relating to medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies, including (but not limited to) paleography, codicology, illumination, library history, reading and literacy, and manuscript catalogues.

Contributions are evaluated by peer review. Material for consideration should be submitted in English, following the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., with footnotes, double-spaced, and in electronic form (Microsoft Word). Please include an abstract of no more than 150 words as well as ten keywords. Citations and footnotes should be robust and full manuscript shelfmarks are expected. Where appropriate, please include citations to pertinent critical editions.

“Manuscript Notes” are a means to share preliminary observations, conjectures, and conclusions. The maximum length of submissions for such notes is 1,200-1,500 words (including foot notes), with accommodation for up to two black-and-white illustrations.

Address submissions and books for review to Manuscripta, Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library, Pius XII Memorial Library, Saint Louis University, 3650 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108-3302 or to vfl@slu.edu.


Manuscripta (ISSN 0025-2603) is published twice yearly for the Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library. For print and online subscriptions, contact Brepols Publishers. The journal is available online through Brepols Periodica Online. Print back issues for 1957-98 are available from the Vatican Film Library at $10 per issue.

The journal also publishes Manuscripta Publications in Manuscript Research, a subsidiary monograph series of studies, essay collections, or catalogues pertaining to medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies. Contact Brepols Publishers for more information. The first volume in the series is A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library at Holkham Hall. Vol. 1, Manuscripts from Italy to 1500. Pt. 1, Shelfmarks 1–399, by Suzanne Reynolds.

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“In The Manuscript Margins”—VFL Exhibition Opening

In the Manuscript Margins: Notes and Decoration by Scribes, Illuminators, and Readers
An exhibition in Pius XII Memorial Library, Vatican Film Library
26 August 2016–2017 January 31

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 manuscripts, “In the Manuscript Margins.”

This exhibition takes a look at the manuscript margins and some of the marks—texts and images—that can be encountered there. The margins—defined as the blank space around or between text columns—are handy places to add accessory texts or decoration, as well as providing space for scribes and readers to make corrections or notes. The traditional format of the manuscript page, with its widest margins at the outer and lower sides, was certainly devised with this in mind.

The exhibition cases present two different aspects of marginal additions. Case 1 is devoted to marks and text  added by scribes and readers during the production or use of the manuscript. In a thirteenth-century English Bible (MS 56), for example, the margins bear corrections by the scribe, as well as notes made by a reader, proving that this Bible was studied closely.

MS 56 crop

Case 2 deals mainly with marginal decoration executed by illuminators, usually comprising painted or penwork borders alongside the text, which may be enriched with floral or zoomorphic motifs. A book of hours leaf (MS 35b verso) is decorated with a double vertical bar along the left side of the column, topped by a two-legged, winged dragon with a feathery hat.

MS 35b verso

Additionally, a legal document granting a piece of land to a monastery (MS 33) bears the armorial seal of the knight who donated the land.

MS 33 crop

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 January 2017 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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