In October 2017, six medieval manuscripts were donated to the University of Notre Dame from the private collection of James E. and Elizabeth J. Ferrell. The manuscripts have been accessioned into their own fond: “Ferrell Manuscripts.” Through Mr. and Mrs. Ferrell’s generosity, the breadth of the University’s collection of medieval and renaissance manuscripts has been augmented significantly.
The collection’s best examples of Northern High and Late Medieval illumination now come from the Ferrell fond: a fully historiated, complete Parisian Bible from the Vie de St. Denis Atelier (Ferrell MS 1), a masterfully painted Book of hours in Grisailles from the “Betremieu Group” (Ferrell MS 2), and a miniature of the Trinity (Ferrell MS 3) from the “Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian”—the collection’s sole example of trompe l’oeil borders, which were perfected in Dutch manuscript painting.
Likewise, the gift also constitutes the collection’s most illustrative examples of Late Medieval Italian illumination: a cutting of John the Baptist painted by “The Second Master of the Antiphonary M of San Giorgio Maggiore” (Ferrell MS 4), and a leaf from an Office Book illuminated by the Franciscan friar, Fra Antonio da Monza (Ferrell MS 6). In addition to these examples of Italian painting, a tarot card depicting the biscione (serpent) of the Visconti-Sforza family of Milan (Ferrell MS 5) provides a rare example of Trionfi cards popular among the Italian elite.
The Ferrell Collection is on exhibit for the Fall Semester 2021 in Rare Books and Special Collections and is also available digitally.
Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:
Thursday, October 7 at 4:30pm | Dante in America, Session V: “Dante, Jazz, and American Modernism” by Joseph Rosenberg (University of Notre Dame), and “‘Was Then Your Image Like the Image I See Now?’ Dante’s Face in America” by Kathleen Verduin (Hope College).
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was a complex and divisive conflict that defines Spanish identity to this day. This recent acquisition, a cash book and diary (dietario) kept by a wealthy woman living on Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands, highlights daily life in 1936, during the first year of the war.
The largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca was a locus of nationalist sentiment from early on. Republican forces waged a hard fought battle to win the island back, between July and September of 1936, but were ultimately defeated by the nationalists’ superior air power. On September 4, the island was definitely taken and, over the course of the war, Mallorca served as an important air and naval base for Franco’s fascist forces.
From January to June, before the war touched Mallorca in any major way, this cash book’s owner, a resident of the city of Manacor, recorded mundane details of daily household life. These included expenses – money spent on food, amounts paid to household servants for cleaning, and pious donations to parish churches, religious orders, and the local hospital. She also recorded income, primarily from a rental house located at the port of Palma, and provided occasional recipes, written in a mix of Catalan and Spanish.
This page, from January 31, includes a recipe for coques, a traditional sweet or savory pastry common in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, and adjacent regions.
By July, however, observations related to the war begin to appear in the diary and these become its main content through the end of the Battle of Mallorca, on September 4. As early as July 20, an entry reports fighting between republican and nationalist contingents, in the streets of the city of Palma de Mallorca. “This afternoon at the town hall there was fighting between the town guards and the fascists and national police. The national police gave up, seeing that they didn’t have the numbers and not one shot was fired, thanks be to God.”
On August 16, when Republican forces, supported by destroyers and coast guard ships, disembarked at Palma de Mallorca, the cash book states, “this morning at 5 am, an alarm was rung, and the communists entered the port to take possession of everything and the troops came from Palma and the fascists and the rest of our countrymen, with rifles, and they [all] went to defend us…” There were “miles of reds,” and many victims, according to the entry.
Subsequent entries describe the altercations, bombings, gunfire, and the deaths that occurred, primarily in the port city of Palma de Mallorca, before the island was definitively taken by the nationalists on September 4, 1936.
In addition to war-related details, the writer lists magazine subscriptions, organization memberships, and birth and death dates for her family members in the rear of the book.
This cash book and diary complements other materials related to the Spanish Civil War in our rare collections and offers an intriguing research opportunity for a budding student of history!
The recent acquisition of a late Byzantine Greek manuscript fragment gives us an excellent opportunity to highlight the relationship between Rare Books and Special Collections and the library’s Analog Preservation Department.
The fragment is a single sheet of parchment, approximately ten inches tall by sixteen inches wide, folded down the center to create a bifolium. It is written on both sides in iron gall ink with red pigment initials. This piece is believed to be from the 13th-14th century and is yet to be identified fully. Initial studies indicate it contains sermon extracts, but the exact genre of the manuscript is unknown; all texts are unidentified currently. It will primarily be used in the teaching of graduate level Greek Paleography.
The fragment came to the library in a delicate state. It has not lived an ideal life over the centuries, and as such, it was important to have the preservation department evaluate its condition before it was allowed to be handled in classes and by researchers. One of the main issues was that some of the text was obscured due to creases resulting from moisture damage. Moisture damage is problematic when dealing with parchment, because it is not reversable and any moisture introduced during treatment has the potential of furthering the degradation.
Microscopic examination of the parchment confirmed that it has water damage and that the degradation and darkening were at least partially due to mold damage. There was no evidence of active mold. Magnification also revealed that the surface layer of parchment on the flesh side of the parchment was lifting and flaking off in the areas with the most degraded areas.
Together with RBSC, the following treatment goals were decided:
1. Flatten the parchment to reveal the obscured text where possible. 2. Remove staining to improve text legibility as needed, and where possible. 3. Mend tears and areas of loss to stabilize the fragment. 4. Provide housing for handling and storage support.
Each treatment was done selectively, so that the parchment was as undisturbed as possible and other treatment goals could be accomplished. This approach is best for the longevity of the parchment and also leaves the possibility of a theoretical codicological reconstruction to determine the original construction of the codex to which this fragment once belonged.
Four zones were identified as needing “flattening” (more like gentle stretching) to gain access to the obscured text. Humidification, though not ideal, was deemed the only option. A system was devised which allowed each zone to be humidified in isolation. I settled on a Gortex pack sandwich method, which introduced the moisture evenly from both sides of the parchment. This way the parchment became workable more quickly than if moisture were only being introduced from one side and needed to permeate all the way through. Each area was humidified until it was pliable, but never felt wet. The parchment was gently stretched once it was workable and held in its new position as it dried. The stretching worked better in some areas than others, but all of the text is now partially visible making the text more visible.
The darkest areas of parchment with text were surface cleaned with a 50/50 solution of ethanol and deionized water. A damp cotton swab was rolled over the lines of text, lifting up the surface dirt as it went. The ethanol in the mix helped the water evaporate more quickly so it would soak into the damaged parchment.
A patch of parchment roughly the size of a quarter was lifting and about to pop off the document. This was consolidated using a 3% gelatin mousse, which is comprised of cold gelatin strained through a very fine sieve until it is light and frothy. Gelatin mousse is much easier to control than liquid gelatin since it stays in place after brushing, and because as a drier adhesive it does not permeate the substraight as much as other adhesives.
The tear repairs and bridge mends were done using pre-coated tissue made with wheat starch paste that was reactivated using the same gelatin mousse. The repairs were done on both sides of the parchment so a thin translucent paper could be used but the repairs would still be strong.
UV photography was the last step before making permanent housing for the fragment. Iron gall ink appears darker in UV light than it does in visible light, so the Greek text will be easier to read in UV photographs than in normal light photos or in person. These photographs will aid users working with the fragment.
The final challenge before returning the fragment was housing. Developing a housing system was the most important aspect of this treatment so the fragment can safely maintain its active life. After experimenting with several models, a double-sided window mount was designed, which I adapted from the British Library’s housing for burnt fragments from the collection of Sir Robert Cotton. The parchment is contained within a packet of polyethylene strips and various weights of polyester sheeting. The strips on one side instead of two solid sheets allow for plenty of airflow so there is no danger of creating microclimates. This also helps minimize polyester’s tendency toward static electricity build-up. The fragment was then secured between two window mattes made of corrugated board.
All of the treatment goals were reached using a “less is more” approach, and sturdy housing was constructed. The fragment is back in the library ready for active use.
We recently acquired a manuscript German Catholic prayer book, made in Pennsylvania in 1799. Following is a short description of what we know about this particular manuscript book, and a comparison with a printed German Catholic prayer book that was published in Baltimore around the same time (1795).
This beautiful manuscript’s opening page describes its contents:
…sich befinden in Andachtübung Gott deß Morgens, und Abends, bey den Heiligen Meß, Beicht und Kommunion Gebettern zu sprechen. Wie auch unterschiedliche Getbetter zu Christo, und Maria, auf die fürnehmsten FestTage deß Jahrs. Und auch Gebetter zu dem Heiligen Gottes zu finden sein. Zu grössern Ehr und Seelen Trost. Geschrieben worden von dem Simon Kary im Jahr 1799.
..they are [for] devotional practice to pray to God in the morning and in the evening, at the Holy Mass, confession and communion prayers. As well as different prayers for Christ and Mary on the most noble feast days of the year. And prayers to the Holy of God can also be found. To greater honor and consolation to souls. Written by Simon Kary in 1799
Simon Kary wrote his prayer book in the style that was current in the “Pennsylvania Dutch” region, a typical German-American fraktur style, including beautiful floral decorations and lettering. The 136-page manuscript even has its original block-printed paper wrappers, which shows that people took some care of it for over 220 years. The small book certainly had use, as smudges, dirt, oil, and handwritten additions attest. Perhaps most poignant is the inscription from a 19th c. owner opposite the manuscript title page, which reads in translation: “Forget not your father and your mother, for they have died. My most honored father died on 17th March in the year of the Lord 784. My beloved mother died on 6th December in the year of the Lord 801. The 14th November in the year of the Lord 803. M.S. in the sign of the fish.”
Who owned this unique prayer book? First, Simon Kary in 1799; then “M.S.,” who added the note about parents inside the front wrapper by 1803; later there is an early-19th-century ownership signature of “Anna Holzinger” on the title-page, and a pencil signature of “Theresa” in the lower margin of the title page. It would be hard to tell the particular story of this manuscript prayer book with only these clues, but it is an exemplar of a tradition of writing.
Our bookseller notes that German-American Catholic fraktur prayer books are rare but not unknown; there is a nearly contemporary example in the renowned collection of fraktur at the Free Library of Philadelphia, which contains a “Himmlischer Palm Zweig Worinen die Auserlesene Morgen Abend Auch Beicht und Kommunion Wie auch zum H. Sakrament In Christo und seinen Leiden, wie auch zur der H. Mutter Gottes, 1787” (item no: frkm064000).
In 1799 the German population in the U.S. is estimated to have been between 85,000 and 100,000 individuals, the vast majority being Protestants of one stripe or another. German Catholics were a very small minority, and concentrated in Pennsylvania. A 1757 count of Catholics in Pennsylvania, both Irish and Germans, compiled from several sources, totalled only 1365 people. Pennsylvania German Catholics were served first by Jesuits sent from Maryland, where half the population was Catholic. German Jesuit missionaries established the mission of The Sacred Heart at Conewago (circa 1720) and Father Schneider’s mission church in Goshenhoppen (circa 1740). There was also a tradition of fraktur birth and baptismal certificates among Protestants and Catholics in this era. Nevertheless, the Kary prayer book now in the Hesburgh Library is exceptionally rare.
Our bookseller, Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company, stated that “There were no German-language Catholic prayer books published in the U.S. until the 19th century, so those wishing to have one before then had to have a bookstore import it or engender one in manuscript.”
However, we have a fine example of a German Catholic prayer book, printed in Baltimore in 1795 by Samuel Saur (1767-1820). Saur was a grandson of the Philadelphia (Germantown) printer Christopher Sauer (also Sower), famous for printing the whole bible in German in 1743. That 1743 bible was the translation of Martin Luther, and the Sauers were not Catholics. Printers such as the Irish immigrant Mathew Carey (arriving in Philadelphia in the 1780s) and later generations of Sauers, printed all manner of Catholic, Protestant, and secular materials, in a number of languages.
Samuel Sauer began his working life in Germantown, but eventually moved to Baltimore, where he advertised his unique-to-the-city skills of printing in English and German. One of his early Baltimore imprints was the Catholisches Gebät-Buch, published the year he set up shop in the city. Over the course of his 25 years in Baltimore, Saur printed a number of Catholic titles in German, as well as many Pietist works, almanacs, and newspapers. Certainly his location in Catholic Baltimore gave him the commissions for things Catholic, and the relative proximity of Baltimore to Pennsylvania gave him access to most of the German readers in the U.S.
The Simon Kary German prayer book of 1799 likely represents the middle to end of the era of the self-made manuscript for Catholic devotional purposes, while the Catholisches Gebät-Buch of Samuel Saur shows the arc of the German language printers accommodating the differing religious affiliations of the German immigrants, in order to make a living. There remain many questions to ask about the particular prayers contained in these two works, and questions about their Catholic readers.
Thanks to the Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts proprietors for sharing their research with us.
James Monroe Meek wrote to his wife, Elizabeth, that the presidential inauguration was a “terrible jam”. In his letter of March 4th, 1869, he describes the pageantry of the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant as President of the United States, and of Schuyler Colfax as Vice President.
… I saw the great peageant of the inauguration today and it was worth the trip. There was in the Senate all the celebrities of the Nation. President Grant, Vice President Colfax, the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Chase and associate Justices, and Senators, the diplomatic core, with their court dresses. You would have been more pleased with the dresses of the Diplomatic members than any thing else. They looked rather fine among our plain dressed people. The gold lace and Stars of honor, plumes epauletts and Stripes dimonds and almost every ornament made quite an imposing and elegant appearance. There was ease grace and brilliancy about it.
Today’s reader is reminded that there was no sound system for President Grant’s inauguration. Meek tells his wife about the great crowd assembled to hear Grant’s inaugural address. “Not more than twenty persons heard it. He read it as he had it written. It is very good but quite short.”
Meek, however, goes on to tell his wife that he was “so near jammed to death to day at the inauguration that I am tired of Jams” and does not plan to attend the Ball despite having been invited by one Colonel Temple. “Never, never was such a jam as there was today at the Capital during the inauguration.”
Sure enough, his letter of the following day confirms that he kept his resolve not to attend the ball.
I did not go to the Inauguration Ball. I found it was a humbug, and worse than a humbug. One was in danger of being Suffocated. Several women were carried out fainting from Suffocation. Col Temple and daughter went and the Col told me the only way he could get out was by declaring that his daughter was fainting and by that Means he succeded in getting out. Indeed I expect his daughter was very near fainting.
One gentleman told me he had given ten dollars to get in and five to get out. The men lost hats and over coats the ladies bonnetts, furs shalls and came away without them. The men tying their handkerchiefs around their heads, and the women doing the best they could. The night was very cold. It is said the managers of the Ball made about… twenty thousand dollars. I saw no one that went but what was mad and felt they were swindled.
The letters are part of the extensive Civil War Collection held by Notre Dame’s Rare Books & Special Collections. James Monroe Meek (b. 1821) had served in the Tennessee State Legislature before and during the Civil War, and was captured and jailed several times by Confederate supporters during the conflict on account of his staunch Union support.
Ireland’s Great Famine began in 1845 when the potato crop, the main food of much of the population, was destroyed by a potato blight. This blight recurred in the following years, leading to the deaths of over a million people. With the emigration of up to another million people, Ireland lost almost a quarter of its population.
Among the vast range of books and other materials our library has to help us study the Famine, there are a couple of rare or unique items. Such items give insight into various aspects of people and communities. One such item is the notebook shown here, the accounts of a soup kitchen, one of the many set up to give relief during the Famine.
This is the daybook, or notebook, listing all the receipts and expenditures for Drumbo Soup Kitchen from December 1846 to March 1848, accompanied by a sheet of tickets for Drumbo Soup Kitchen (MSE/IR 0100). Of the various places of that name, this is most likely Drumbo, County Down. This has not yet been verified. It was acquired by the Library in 2012.
The expenditure gives us an idea of the ingredients. In January 1st, 1846, purchases included cayenne pepper, black pepper, split peas, whole peas, barley, beef, cow’s head and carrots.
The 32-page notebook includes the names and amounts of cash subscriptions, and the notebook bears the treasurer’s name — “Dr. James Orr, Treasurer to the Drumbo Soup Kitchen.”
Along with the notebook is a sheet of printed tickets with the following text: “Drumbo: Soup Kitchen: One Ration. Paid, One Penny.”
This leaf comes from an enormous Bible (447 x 278 mm) produced as a four-volume set in England ca. 1350. A narrower localization to the region of East Anglia is possible. Decoration and chiefly the illuminated miniatures forge a connection to the ‘Bohun group’ of manuscripts, which includes Psalters, Books of Hours, and other books owned by the Bohun family. The Bohuns were the earls of Hereford and their estates in East Anglia were tied to the royal court, so much that their final heiress, Mary, was the wife of Henry IV and mother of Henry V. This particular Bible in its entirety was perhaps commissioned by Edward III’s eldest son, the so-called ‘Black Prince’ (1330-1376).
The earliest provenance of the Bible is to the West in Cheshire, perhaps the Carmelite house in Chester. This Carmelite connection is reinforced by a historiated initial in the Bible which depicts a Carmelite friar. Likewise, the Carmelite house in Chester was endowed by none other than the Black Prince himself in 1353-1358. The manuscript circulated amongst a number of seventeenth century owners as a large number of leaves was already missing by 1678. Beginning in 1927, biblioclasty prevailed over the manuscript’s centuries of resilience. The Bohuns’ Bible was dismembered on Bond Street, London at the hands of Myers & Company and leaves were sold individually.
The story of this illustrious manuscript is the result of Christopher de Hamel’s research. He alone deduced the Bible’s provenance and identified hundreds of extant leaves scattered throughout the world from Chicago to Tokyo to New Zealand.
Christopher de Hamel, ‘The Bohun Bible Leaves,’ Script & Print 32:1 (2008): 49-63.
In honor of Juneteenth (the June 19th celebration of freedom from slavery) and Black Lives Matter (BLM), RBSC highlights several collections about African American life in the United States over the last century. We also reflect on how social and cultural changes—some of them the result of protest movements like BLM—have reformed and are reforming collecting and practices in special collections libraries and archives.
One important collection is the National Ideal Benefit Society records, an African American cooperative and fraternal organization that spanned more than 50 years during the early to mid-twentieth century. Another is a late 1920s ledger book for the Birmingham Black Barons, an elite Negro League professional baseball team, that recorded the team’s financial transactions with players. The collections provide sources about the economic and working lives of African Americans and the unequal labor and social contexts of twentieth-century America.
The National Ideal Benefit Society was an African American insurance cooperative whose benefits supported people through illness, offered cultural events, and provided death benefits for survivors to assist with burial costs. The society was established in 1912 in Richmond, Virginia, by Alexander Watson Holmes (1861-1935). The collection holds correspondence from policy holders, official society publications and records, and letters to Holmes from individuals and institutions.
The Birmingham, Alabama, Black Barons were a professional baseball team during the sport’s long period of segregation. The ledger book records the club’s financial transactions with players over five seasons (1926-1930). The accounts include credits (monthly salaries) and debits (cash advances, equipment charges, fines, extra meals, taxi fare, phone calls, and so on). Satchel Paige was one of many notable players on the team.
These collections underscore the shift in collecting that has occurred over the last 40 years in special collections libraries.
Special collections such as ours, and archives also, collect unique and rare manuscripts and books to preserve our society’s cultural record. Until the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States that cultural record largely consisted of the records of elite, white men, mostly from the Northeast with ancestors who came from the British Isles. A number of changes in American society led to a major shift away from this cultural identity in archives and special collections libraries.
Social reform movements that culminated in the 1960s and 1970s—for the rights and full participation of African Americans, women, Native Americans, Latinx, LGBTQ, and others in American life—fueled demands for archival collections that more accurately reflected and included the diversity of American society.
At the same time the rise of social history demanded new sources. Focused on writing the history of ordinary people and changes that came from the many rather than the few (history from the bottom up), social historians relied on documents of everyday life as well as social movements—letters, diaries, ledger books, and scrapbooks of the non-famous, as well as ephemeral printed materials like posters, broadsides, menus, annual reports, and programs.
More recently, archivists and special collections librarians have, as a profession, begun seriously to grapple with questions of power in archives: who is represented and who is left out in our collections? Are collecting decisions made independently, or under institutional or donor guidelines? How are people of color and non-elites and their accomplishments described in catalogs and finding aids? Is the archive open to community members, or are there professional or membership requirements to use the collections? Do staff working in the archive represent the diversity of the collections and their users? As we honor Juneteenth and confront Black Lives Matter’s challenge to truly achieve the promises of American freedom and democracy, these questions become even more sharply relevant.