Happy Geek Pride Day!

Did you know today is International Geek Pride Day?  Here in Special Collections, we’re celebrating with a selection from the Comic Art Collection.  This collection contains over 3,500 catalogued comic book titles and hundreds of pieces of original art from cartoonists like Mort Walker, Frank Stack, and John Tinney McCutcheon, ranging in date from the 1850s to the present.

The Comic Art Collection unites fun and fandom with serious scholarship.  It has been used by faculty and students for everything from freshman composition assignments to studies of the history of popular culture.  In 2008, scholars, comic enthusiasts, artists, and students of all interests demonstrated the collection's broad appeal by convening at Ellis Library to celebrate 75 years of the comic strip Alley Oop.  Special Collections holds the papers of the comic strip's creator, V.T. Hamlin.

{click any image to start slide show}

Cover from the original Star Wars comic, 1977Cover from Captain America, 1968Cover from a 1987 Batman comicCover from a 1988 Action Comics with SupermanIllustration from a Buck Rogers comic, 1940sCover from Red Ryder Comics, 1942Illustration from Dick Tracy, 1943Cover from Flash Gordon, 1950Cover from a comic book edition of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan,  1960Cover from an Alley Oop comic book, 1955Illustration from a comic version of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, 2001Cover for Fray by Joss Whedon, 2003








The Comic Art Collection is open to the public in the Special Collections Reading Room. All patrons – geeks and non-geeks alike – are welcome to make use of these materials.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department's digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Presses and Preachers, or, What an Incunable Can Tell Us about Technology and Faith

Presses and Preachers, or, What an Incunable Can Tell Us about Technology and Faith

The Special Collections and Rare Book department recently acquired four incunables,[1] and we’ll be featuring them individually on the blog.  This post highlights Sermones de adventu by Roberto Caracciolo (Venice, 1474), a book interesting for what it can tell us about religion and technology.

Renaissance Preachers

Author's nameThe author of this book, Fra Roberto Caracciolo de Lecce, was one of the most successful preachers of the fifteenth century, hailed as a “second St. Paul” for his oratorical talents.

As a preacher, Caracciolo’s crowd-pleasing specialties were melodrama and spectacle; he even boasted that he could reduce any audience to tears.  His career started early.  By 1450, when he was only in his mid-twenties, he was well-known enough to be chosen by Pope Nicholas V to deliver the official canonization eulogies for Bernardino of Siena.  Later in his career, when asked to preach a crusade sermon against the Ottoman Turks, he did so in full knight’s armor, complete with a sword.  It’s no wonder that large, enthusiastic crowds flocked to hear him wherever he went.

Eager to capitalize on the popularity of Caracciolo and his colleagues, printers issued voMarginalialumes of their sermons in Latin and vernacular Italian.  Caracciolo alone had at least eight different editions of his sermons printed throughout Italy from the 1470s until his death in 1495.  By the time the sixteenth century drew to a close, over one hundred editions of his works had been printed throughout Europe.

This volume contains Caracciolo’s sermons on Advent, St. Joseph, the Beatitudes, divine charity, and the immortal soul, as well as a sermon by the canon lawyer Dominicus Bollanus on the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary.  It preserves the words Caracciolo’s audiences heard and read so that we can access them today.  Thanks to this copy’s scattered marginal notes in sixteenth-century handwriting, we can even know how they responded.

The Fifteenth-Century Tech Boom

Title pageAs Caracciolo’s career as a preacher reached its height, Italy stood on the brink of a technological revolution.  Gutenberg had developed movable type in Mainz around 1455, but it took about a decade for the technology to reach Italy.  Venice had to wait even longer – until 1469.  That’s the year that Johannes of Speyer emigrated from Mainz, got a five-year monopoly from the Doge, and set up shop as the city’s first printer.

Unfortunately for the Speyers, Johannes died around eighteen months later, invalidating the monopoly.  His brother Vindelinus attempted to carry on the business, but Johannes’ death touched off an equivalent of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.   Within three years, there were at least a dozen printing shops in Venice, all producing the same Greek and Roman texts – over 80 different editions of them by the end of 1472.  By 1473, the book market was so glutted with classics that the bottom dropped out.

This was merely the first in a series of market collapses, but most of Venice’s new high-tech start-ups went out of business as a result.  The Speyer press survived – barely.  Vindelinus sold a large stake in the company to two new investors: Johannes de Colonia (also called Johannes of Köln or Cologne), and Johannes MaColonia and Manthen's colophonnthen de Gerresheim.   Colonia and Manthen became the senior partners in the business; Vindelinus’ name disappeared from the company until 1476.

Colonia and Manthen were prolific printers, producing 86 editions from 1474 to 1480.  They gave up on the Greek and Roman classics after 1475 and shifted their focus to the more profitable market in law, theology, and philosophy.   This book is an example of the output from their reinvented company, produced during their first year of business.

Although the Speyer brothers are sometimes credited as the originators of Roman type, this book was printed using their space-saving but Backwards Nelegant Gothic.  Like many other early printed books, the printers left space for initials and ornament to be added by hand.  In this copy, several of the initial Ns are written backwards, for what reason we do not know.

There’s much more this book could tell us; a book is never just a book when it’s in Special Collections.  As its own history shows, this particular book has been an active participant in a tradition of study that has continued for hundreds of years.

Want to Read More?

The following resources are available at MU Libraries.


BindingAguzzi-Barbagli, Danilo.  “Roberto Caracciolo of Lecce,c. 1425-6 May 1495.” In Contemporaries of Erasmus: a biographical register of the Renaissance and Reformation. Ed. Peter G. Bietenholz, Thomas B. Deutscher, associate editor. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, c1985.

Gerulaitis, Leonardas Vytautas.  Printing and Publishing in Fifteenth-Century Venice.  Chicago: American Library Association, 1976.

Telle, Emile V.  “En marge de l’éloquence sacreé aux XVe-XVIe siècles: Erasme et Fra Roberto Caracciolo.”  Bibliothèque d’humanisme et Renaissance.  Travaux et Documents 43 (1981): 449-470.

[1] The word incunabulum (plural incunabula, or incunable(s), if you prefer English) means in the cradle in Latin.  It is generally applied to printed books produced prior to 1501, in the earliest years of printing.



Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department's digital presences. Contact Kelli

New Digital Exhibit

Controlling Heredity: The American Eugenics Crusade, 1870-1940 has recently been mounted as a permanent exhibit on the website of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.  This virtual exhibit explores the intersections between ethics and the pseudo-science of eugenics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was originally mounted as part of Ethics and the Brain, the seventh annual symposium sponsored by the Life Sciences and Society Program at the University of Missouri in March 2011.


Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department's digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books April Fools! The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus.

April Fools! The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus.

This April Fool’s Day we thought we’d share several editions of Moriae Encomium by Desiderius Erasmus, which, in addition to being a definitive resource on fools and foolishness, has a great Latin pun for a title.

Holbein frontispieceFrontispiece portrait of Erasmus, engraving after Hans Holbein (London, 1709).

Erasmus, More, and Holbein portrait frontispieceFrontispiece and engraved title page featuring Erasmus, More, Holbein, and Folly as a goddess (Leiden, 1715).

Holbein illustrationsThe folly of scholarship, engravings after Hans Holbein (Paris, 1715).

Eisen frontispieceFrontispiece illustration of Folly as a goddess, illustration after Charles Eisen (Paris, 1757).

Eisen illustrationThe folly of drunkenness, engraving after Charles Eisen (Paris, 1757).

Chodowiecki illustrationsVarious types of folly, engravings after Daniel Chodowiecki (Berlin, 1781).

Ward illustrationThe folly of pedagogues, mezzotint by Lynd Ward (New York, 1953).

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) isn’t the figure one would suppose to be an authority on foolishness.  Ordained as a priest and consecrated as a monk, Erasmus spent his life as a classical scholar, humanist, and theologian.  Although he is best known for theological work, he was also a prolific and engaging author whose works ranged from popular handbooks on children’s table manners to bitter mockeries of Church and state officials.

The Praise of…  More?

Around 1498, Erasmus moved to England, where he met Sir Thomas More, the author of Utopia.  The two men worked together on a translation of the works of Lucian and became close friends. Erasmus moved to Italy to pursue a doctorate in divinity in 1500, but he and More continued to write to each other regularly.

In 1509, Erasmus returned to England and wrote Moriae Encomium during his journey, dedicating it to More.  The title of the work makes an affectionate joke of More’s last name – Moriae Encomium can be translated as either The Praise of Folly or The Praise of More.  Erasmus continued the wordplay throughout the text, parodying the elaborate literary style both he and More would have encountered in their classical studies.

Erasmus considered Moriae Encomium a minor work and was surprised and dismayed at its popularity upon its first publication in 1511.  The work went through multiple editions and translations in his lifetime, and it touched off an entirely new literary genre – the spoof encomium, which became popular among learned Elizabethans.

Picturing Folly

Moriae Encomium also gave rise to an artistic tradition.  The artist Hans Holbein, a mutual friend of Erasmus and More, decorated Erasmus’ own copy of the book with marginal drawings.  Holbein’s humorous doodles were adapted as engravings in a later edition, and they were copied for the next two hundred years.  They have served as an inspiration – or a point of departure – for the generations of artists who have illustrated this text.

The Division of Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books has editions of Moriae Encomium ranging from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, and many are illustrated.  In addition to Holbein, illustrators include Charles Eisen, Daniel Chodowiecki, and Lynd Ward.  The images above are just a sampling from our collection.  Enjoy!


  1. L’Eloge de la Folie composé en forme de declamation… , illustrated with engravings after the designs of Hans Holbein (Leiden, P. vander Aa, 1715).  RARE PA8514 .F8 1715
  2. L’Eloge de la Folie, illustrated by Charles Eisen (Paris, n.p., 1757).  RARE PA8514 .F8 1757
  3. Moriae Encomium: or, A Panegyrick Upon Folly, illustrated with engravings after the designs of Hans Holbein (London, Printed, and sold by J. Woodward, in Threadneedle street, 1709).  RARE PA8514.E5 1709
  4. L’Eloge de la Folie, illustrated by Charles Eisen (Paris, n.p., 1757).  RARE PA8514 .F8 1757
  5. Moriae Encomium: or, The Praise of Folly, illustrated by Lynd Ward (New York: Limited Editions Club, 1943).  RARE PA8514 .E5 1943
  6. L’Eloge de la Folie composé en forme de declamation… , illustrated with engravings after the designs of Hans Holbein (Leiden, P. vander Aa, 1715).  RARE PA8514 .F8 1715
  7. Das Lob der Narrheit aus dem Lateinischen, illustrated by Daniel Chodowiecki (Berlin: G.J. Decker, 1781).  RARE PA8514 .G3 1781

Tennessee Williams’ first two plays

Before Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Glass Menagerie, there were Beauty is the Word and Hot Milk at Three in the Morning.  And before he went by Tennessee, playwright Thomas Lanier Williams was an MU student.  This weekend kicks off campus-wide celebrations of Williams’ 100th birthday, and to join in the festivities, we’re featuring two manuscripts of his earliest plays.

Beauty is the Word
Tennessee Williams' stage diagram for Beauty is the Word


Beauty is the Word was Williams’ very first play.  It was submitted for the MU Dramatic Arts Club’s Dramatic Prize Plays contest in 1930.  The play was produced on stage as part of the competition, but it appears not to have won an award in the contest.  Over the course of one act, two young and worldly aesthetes visit their austere and forbidding missionary relatives somewhere in the South Pacific.  When the natives revolt and threaten to burn down the mission, the young couple saves the day by appealing to the natives with dance and music rather than fear of damnation.

Hot Milk at Three in the Morning
Title page for Hot Milk at Three in the Morning, featuring the signature of Thomas Lanier Williams


Hot Milk at Three in the Morning was Williams’ sophomore submission to the Dramatic Prize Plays contest.  The play focuses on an argument between a young married couple who are trapped by poverty and illness.  It was staged in 1932, and like Beauty is the Word, it received an honorable mention.  Williams revised the play in 1940, titling it Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry.  It was included in a compilation of the best plays of 1940 and was the first of Williams’ plays to be published.

The manuscripts
The manuscripts were bound into volumes with other submissions for each year.


Both manuscripts are a part of the University of Missouri Collection, which features official publications along with the works of faculty, staff, and distinguished alumni.

home Events and Exhibits, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Stefani Engelstein’s Opening Lecture for “Controlling Heredity”

Stefani Engelstein’s Opening Lecture for “Controlling Heredity”

Stefani Engelstein, professor of  German at the University of Missouri, presented a lecture entitled “Visions of Transparency: The Human Body and Social Order,” on March 8 in the Ellis Library Colonnade.  Dr. Engelstein’s talk opened the exhibit Controlling Heredity: The American Eugenics Crusade 1870 – 1940, which is on display in the Colonnade until March 30.  The exhibit and lecture are part of the Life Sciences & Society Symposium series.  A video of the lecture in its entirety is available below.

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home Events and Exhibits, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books John Miles Foley’s Lord Library Donation Lecture

John Miles Foley’s Lord Library Donation Lecture

University of Missouri Professor John Miles Foley, director for The Center for Studies in Oral Tradition, presented a talk entitled, “Albert Lord and the Study of Oral Tradition,” on Thursday, February 10th, 2011. Below is a full length version of Professor Foley’s Lord Library Donation Lecture.

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Albert & Mary Lord Collection

Albert Bates Lord and Mary Louise Lord’s private libraries were donated by the generous Lord family to the University of Missouri Libraries in 2010. A University of Missouri Classics and English Professor, John Miles Foley and former student of Albert Lord, was able to secure the collection for the use in University Libraries. On Thursday February 10, 2011 there was a reception and talk by John Miles Foley about Lord and his library. In continued celebration of the Lord collection we thought we should share some images, with our blog readers.

Albert Lord documented oral tradition world-wide; he was specifically interested in oral performance and composition. Due to his B.A. in Classics from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature he was well suited for a career exploring oral tradition. He specialized in recording Serbian heroic poems, but also studied Homeric epics, Beowulf and Gilgamesh.  Lord accumulated a large and unique library while professor at Harvard College.  Additionally, he chaired and helped found the Department of Mythology and Folklore at Harvard from its inception through 1983, when he retired.

Mary Louise Lord, an academic herself, was a professor of Classics for many years at Connecticut College. She also contributed to her husband’s work through editing and helping him reflect on his work. Her part of the library represents her professional interests, contributing many classic works. Specifically of significance is part of Heinemann Publishing’s classic literature texts. They are pictured to the right and provide either Latin/English or Greek/English texts. She helped publish The Singer Resumes the Tale, one of Albert Lord’s books published posthumously.

One of the books is a signed copy of, Heinrich Schliemann’s, “Ithaka Der Peloponnes und Troja.” On the left is the title page with an inscription, which could be translated as:  “To the lover of the arts Mr. Erik Barren (or Henry Warren?) as a memorial. 1874. Schliemann.” Schliemann, an archeologist of the 19th century, is credited with the archeological dig that unearthed ancient Troy. He submitted this work, written in Greek, to the University of Rostock in hopes of attaining a doctoral degree. He was

granted a Ph.D. based on this work, in 1869. Albanian Shepard Costume Additional interesting items from the donation include an Albanian shepherd’s costume that is from the 20th century, two Sviralas, Croatian reed-type instruments, and Lord’s typewriter. This collection is currently being cataloged and processed. After, these important steps the items will be housed in MU Libraries. You can find a listing of all the books through the MERLIN catalog through:   Lord Collection University Of Missouri Columbia Libraries

A trip to Special Collections!

Students Reading

This past semester, Rare Books and Special Collections librarians and staff held over 20 instruction sessions with students from the University of Missouri and beyond. We’ve compiled a list of subjects that were covered by our materials last semester. We think you’ll see that Rare Books and Special Collections has something for all research interests!

  • Charles Schulz alternative literature
  • History of Book Cataloging
  • Women’s life in the Middle Ages
  • Men’s life in the Middle Ages
  • Slavery in the British West Indies
  • Greek Mythology
  • Shakespeare and Jews
  • Beetle Bailey Overview

Perhaps Rare Books and Special Collections could offer your Spring 2011 course a session! Send us an e-mail SpecialCollections(at)missouri.edu!

Catherine the Great’s Promotion Charter

I. The Charter

Preserved in the Rare Book Collections is a very curious document — a beautiful two-hundred-and twenty year-old charter endorsed by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great that promotes Aleksandr Mukhanov, a young Russian nobleman, from regimental baggage-train driver to Lieutenant-Captain (Secund-Rotmistr) in the Horse-Mounted Guards.

image of Catherine's charter

Provenance of this document is unknown.  On the verso there is an inscription: “При запечатанiи въ коллегiи иностранныхъ д ѣлъ но. 424” (When as applying a seal at the Office of Foreign Affairs. No.424

This unique document–likely acquired “somewhere in the 1920s” within a large and important collection of books and documents purchased for the University Library–is printed on parchment with a hand-painted border of cobalt-blue. There is a monogram of Catherine the Great at the center of the top border, surrounded by double-headed crowned birds, banners, fire arms and cold steel, armor, and bows and quivers.

view of a military camp and a vagon driven by horses

In each corner there is a helmet with a plume decorated with oriental ornaments and an allegorical figure of Minerva on the left hand side and one of Mars on the right. At the bottom of the border, in a medallion, one can see a military camp and transport with two pairs of horses, surrounded by banners, cannons, cartridge pouches and drums.

The text itself starts with a six-line ornamental initial. The document carries traces of the Russian Imperial wax seal.

Literal Translation of the Charter:

By the Grace of God, We, Catherine the Second, Empress and Autocratrix of All the Russians, &c, &c, &c.

Let it be known and recognized by all that as of the first day of the month of January, in the year of Our Lord one thousand-seven hundred-and-ninetieth, We have Most Graciously bestowed and conferred upon Aleksandr Mukhanov who had served Us as regiment baggage-train driver in the Horse-Mounted regiment of Our Guards, and in acknowledgement of the zeal and diligence with which he disposed of his duty in Our service, — the rank of Lieutenant-Captain in the self-same regiment; and whereas We bestow and confer this upon him, commanding all Our men to pay the said Mukhanov the honors and respect befitting the rank of Our Lieutenant-Captain in the Guards, are accordingly trustful that in this rank, most Graciously granted him by Us, he will deport himself in a manner that behooves a loyal Officer of the Guards. In testimony thereof We have signed this with Our own Hand and commanded that it be confirmed by Our State Seal.

Given in Saint Petersburg, in the year 1790, {on the 24th Day of December}

Signed    Catherine and Saltykov's signatures


On the lower line there is a signature, by a different hand: Lieutenant-Colonel {Saltykov} of the Guards Horse Mounted Regiment.

Almost everything in this document raises questions: Who was Mukhanov, and why was he so abruptly promoted from the lowest ranks to a position of high prestige? If the promotion was effective as of January 1st 1790, why was the order signed almost a year later, on Christmas Eve of 1790? What happened to Mukhanov later? How did the original document find its way to mid-Missouri? These are among the many baffling questions to which we may never have a definite answer, but a bit of detective work can cast some light upon the mysteries of the past.

II. Our hero – Mukhanov

Aleksandr Il’ich Mukhanov was born on January 8, 1766 into a noble family. He had six brothers and one sister. His father, Il’ia Mukhanov, was a Colonel in the Horse-Mounted Regiment, from which he retired in 1764, and he was personally known to the Empress. On the day of her ascension to the throne in a coup — July 28th 1762 — Il’ia Mukhanov was among the officers in her convoy on the way to St. Petersburg.

When the future Empress felt cold, Il’ia Mukhanov gave her his officer’s overcoat.  She always remembered this gesture with gratitude.

According to the memoirs of Aleksandr Mukhanov’s niece, five older brothers were educated at home, and the youngest one, Michael, at the Military School. All of them served at the same Life-Guards regiment. And as a contemporary anecdote has it, some pupils of the convent school for young noble ladies thought that all Life-Guards were named Mukhanov. Honesty, piety and brotherly love for each other and to the family, according to Mukhanov’s niece, were their most characteristic virtues.

Aleksandr Mukhanov joined the regiment in 1775, at the age of 9. It was customary in 18th century Russia to enlist a boy of noble birth in a regiment as a soldier, so that when he came of age he would be ready to receive his first officer’s commission and to begin his real service in a regiment as an officer.

If we look at the list of his promotions, we can see that he was first promoted in 1784, when he was 18 to a cornet.  He was promoted again in 1792 to a captain (rotmistr), and on November 15, 1796, only nine days after Catherine’s death, he became colonel and was decorated with the Order of St. Anne.

After Catherine’s son Paul ascended to the throne, Mukhanov’s career took a sharp upswing.  In March of 1798, two month after his first son Paul was born, Mukhanov retired from the Guards and was given a civil rank of State Councilor (slightly higher than colonel), became a Knight Commander of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and on September 5th, was appointed Vice Governor of the city of Novgorod. He was advanced to an Actual State Councilor (corresponds to a Major General) and then appointed Governor of Kazan, the capital of an important province, on April 4, 1799. After Emperor Paul’s assassination in 1801, Aleksandr Mukhanov was relieved of his governorship and brought before the Senate for trial on charges of cruelties committed while governor of Kazan. He was 35 years old then.

But it was not the end of his career. On May 6, 1805, he was sent to the south of Russia to be a civil governor of Poltava, and in the following year he became a civil governor of Riazan. Later he returned to St. Petersburg, and received a rank of Stalmeister at the Imperial Court (Master of the Horse), which, according to the Russian Table of Ranks, corresponded to the rank of Lieutenant General. He spent the last years of his life in Moscow, where he died, and was buried in the cemetery of Novodevichii Convent on 22, October 1815.

III. Christmas Gift

It can only be conjectured that at the end of 1789 Mukhanov was ready for the promotion to the rank of second-lieutenant, when something happened that impeded his rising through the ranks of the regiment.

V. Ericksen. Equestrian portrait of Catherine the Great, 1762.

These and other considerations lead to the supposition that the whole matter of the demotion and promotion of Aleksandr Mukhanov could be to a certain extent a domestic affair for Catherine, who could be moralistic but was more-or-less good-natured.

In case of Aleksandr Mukhanov it looks as if he was punished by a firm but benevolent, almost motherly hand, and when he showed (perhaps?) genuine regret, or maybe demonstrated extraordinary courage on the battlefield, he was generously rewarded: promoted not to the next higher rank, but over two ranks, and evidently receiving the yearly salary of a Lieutenant-Captain in back pay to boot!  Above all it was a nice Christmas gift.

Selected bibliography:

  • Iz zapisok M.S. Mukhanovoi. Russkii Arkhiv, 1878, kn. 1
  • Rodoslovnaia  Mukhanovykh, Russkii Arkhiv, 1878, kn.1
  • Zapiski N.A. Sablukova o vremenakh Imperatora Pavla, i konchine etogo gosudaria. 1911.