home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Cycle of Success: Noah Heringman and the National Endowment for the Humanities Scholarly Editions and Translations Grants

Cycle of Success: Noah Heringman and the National Endowment for the Humanities Scholarly Editions and Translations Grants

Dr. Noah Heringman, the Catherine Paine Middlebush Professor of English at MU, specializes in the relationship between literature and the history of ideas in the late 18th and 19th centuries. He and his editorial team were recently awarded a three-year National Endowment for the Humanities Scholarly Editions and Translations grant to complete their digital edition of Vestusta Monumenta. Vetusta Monumenta was the first of four major publication series launched by the Society of Antiquaries of London in the eighteenth century. Seven volumes were published between 1718 and 1906.

An engraving from”Vetusta Monumenta” of King Richard II in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. (Courtesy of University of Missouri-scalar.usc.edu/works/vm/plate-iv-westminster-portrait-of-richard-ii-nh?)

“Kelli Hansen of Special Collections help[ed] us a great deal during the early stages of the process. She gave Amy Jones, [our first research assistant], access to the division’s Indus 9000 book scanner and taught her how to use the software needed for processing the images. After Amy graduated in 2013, two more key players came on board the project: Felicity Dykas, who is now the head of Digital Services in Ellis, and Kristen Schuster, a PhD student in the iSchool (SISLT), who became Amy’s replacement. Felicity and her team took over the scanning project and scanned the remaining five volumes of Vetusta Monumenta at a uniformly high standard of excellence and added them to the University of Missouri Digital Library using the library’s Islandora content management system. In these early years, we got excellent support from other librarians, including Mike Holland (head of the division), Anne Barker, Ann Riley, Ala Barabtarlo, and others.”

The NEH grant is part of a category of funding that supports the “preparation of editions and translations of texts that are valuable to the humanities but are inaccessible or available only in inadequate editions.” This prestigious grant will allow Dr. Heringman, and his co-project director, Dr. Crystal B. Lake of Wright State University, to publish the remaining 144 plates in volumes 1-3, will full commentary by Fall 2020.

An engraving from “Vetusta Monumenta” of a baptismal font in St. James’s Church, Piccadilly (Courtesy of University of Missouri-scalar.usc.edu/works/vm/plate-iii-marble-baptismal-font-1?)

Vetusta Monumenta provides an intimate record of the kinds of objects collectively judged to be important by a large body of scholars and amateurs over generations. In some cases, these prints are the sole record of those artifacts and monuments, so digital preservation of these prints is vital. A previous digital version exists, but is not open access and does not provide high quality images. Dr. Heringman and his team have made this present edition accessible to all, while also providing scholarly commentary and search tools in order to browse through images.

“With substantial collaboration from the Society of Antiquaries, the Association for Networking Visual Culture at USC, and a growing team of scholarly collaborators, we had published twenty-six plates with commentary, a general introduction, and extensive editorial apparatus by mid-2017, and were able to secure a three-year, 286-thousand dollar Scholarly Editions Grant from the NEH to complete the project.” The project may be viewed at vetustamonumenta.org

Cycle of Success is the idea that libraries, faculty, and students are linked; for one to truly succeed, we must all succeed. The path to success is formed by the connections between University of Missouri Libraries and faculty members, between faculty members and students, and between students and the libraries that serve them. More than just success, this is also a connection of mutual respect, support, and commitment to forward-thinking research.

If you would like to submit your own success story about how the libraries have helped your research and/or work, please use the Cycle of Success form.


Teaching Spotlight: David Crespy

For the next installment of our Teaching Spotlight feature, we're intervewing Dr. David Crespy. Dr. Crespy is a professor of playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature here at MU. He and his students visit Special Collections for his course, Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach to Drama.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your interests.

I am a professor with a focus on playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature in the MU Department of Theatre, where I have served as the Artistic Director of the Missouri Playwrights Workshop and as founder and co-director of the MU Writing for Performance Program for the last 18 years. My major scholarly interest has been in the work of American playwright, Edward Albee, and most recently, in the work of Lanford Wilson, who was his protégé in dramatic writing. Wilson was a Missouri native, and was a prolific dramatist on and off Broadway in New York, some of his most famous plays include Burn ThisBook of Days, Fifth of JulyThe Hot’l Baltimore, and many, many other plays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Talley’s Folly, and was the major dramatic voice of his generation of American playwrights who came into the scene in the 1960s as part of what has become known as Off-off Broadway, which I wrote extensively about in my book, Off-Off Broadway Explosion, which documented the work of Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard, John Guare, Maria Irene Fornes, and many others. Lanford was a co-founder of Circle Repertory Theatre in New York City, which was at the heart of off-Broadway theatre in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and produced countless well-known playwrights including Paula Vogel, Jon Robin Baitz, Michael Cristofer, Charles Evered, Jules Feiffer, A.R. Gurney, William M. Hoffman, Albert Innaurato, Corinne Jacker, Arthur Kopit, Jim Leonard, Jr., Lucas, David Mamet, William Mastrosimone, Marsha Norman, Robert Patrick, Joe Pintauro, William Missouri Downs, Murray Schisgal, Sam Shepard, Milan Stitt, and Tennessee Williams. Lanford was at the heart of it as its resident playwright, and I brought Lanford here in 2006. 


In Spring of 2012 the University of Missouri in Columbia, where I teach playwriting, was informed that Lanford Wilson had donated all his papers, 52 linear feet—47 boxes of manuscripts, photographs, letters, poetry, fiction, theatre artifacts—The Lanford Wilson Collection—to the Special Collections and Rare Books department of our beautiful Ellis Library on Lowry Mall on the MU Campus. It is an historic bequest, and one that will permit MU faculty, students, and scholars from around the world to explore the work of Missouri’s own Pulitzer prize-winning playwright in extraordinary detail. Lanford had visited Mizzou at my request back in October of 2006, and we had a delightful visit with him – he had managed to fit in the visit between his teaching work at the University of Houston and his busy writing life in Sag Harbor. I directed a concert reading of Lanford’s play The Mound Builders with his assistance and guidance in our Rhynsburger Theatre, and later he and I had a wonderful onstage discussion about his life and work. It was an amazing experience—Lanford deeply connected with our Mizzou theatre students.  

It is hoped that in the Fall of 2017, the University of Missouri Press will publish Lanford Wilson: Early Stories, Sketches, and Poetry, which I have co-edited with Jonathan Thirkield. The volume will have a foreword by Marshall W. Mason, who was Lanford’s long-time director, and who just won the 2016 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as a tribute by Edward Albee.  All the material in the book will come from MU Libraries’ own Lanford Wilson Collection, and I am so proud that the University of Missouri libraries has made that all possible.  It is because of the incredible efforts of our archivists, Mike Holland and Anselm Huelsbergen, who took this rather massive collection, and organized it into a useful archival resource, that I was able to even find this material and bring it to light for scholars, theatre artists, and readers to explore.

How did you use Special Collections in your teaching?

During the summer of 2013, I did research in the new Lanford Wilson collection for the production of Wilson’s play Fifth of July for a production of the play I directed in Fall 2013 in the Rhynsburger Theatre, and while I was doing that research, I discovered that Wilson had left an extraordinary number of different versions of each of his plays.  It was a fascinating experience to explore how Wilson, who was a meticulous writer and dramatic craftsman, would change entire sections of his play – reworking plot, character, and dialogue. Each of his plays started off with handwritten notebooks where you can see the characters starting to take shape, and then you can see Wilson wrestling with each moment from iteration to iteration of the scripts until he was satisfied. The plays keep changing from production to production—from off-Broadway at Circle Rep to Broadway, and after later productions in the Regional theatre. It is really an amazing writer’s process, and there is so much there that a student of playwriting or dramatic literature can learn from Lanford’s explorations in his beautifully crafted plays. I decided that I wanted my students to experience Wilson’s work first hand, and was inspired to design a course that I called Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach To Drama.

In the Fall of 2015, I approached Kelli Hansen about developing this archival research course, using the Lanford Wilson collection as resource to teach students how to use manuscripts, photographs, programs, correspondence, theatrical posters, and other archival materials to discover how a playwright wrote, developed, and had his plays produced. Kelli used the first hours of the course to teach the students how archives are archived, how to work with archival materials, how to actually make sense of a writer’s cursive hand (particularly in correspondence), in other words, the nuts and bolts of archival research. We would spend the first hour or more of each class in the collection working with these actual materials—some of which had never been seen except by Lanford Wilson and our University archivists!  The second hour of the course, we read and discussed Wilson’s plays; exploring each play’s production history and interpretations and scholarship about the scripts.  


Several of the students in the course then presented their research on Lanford Wilson’s plays at the Undergraduate Research Forum last Spring, and I was especially delighted to discover that one of them, Leslie Howard, who was presented on Lanford Wilson’s play The Sand Castle, was selected as the winner of MU Libraries Undergraduate Research Paper Contest.  The course was one of the most successful that I have taught at MU, and what made it special was the experience of working in Ellis Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books.  The hands-on experience of working with actual archival materials was amazing, and to have a theatre collection at the University of Missouri like the Lanford Wilson Collection is just a miracle.  Most theatre students would have to travel to New York City to access such an extensive archival resource, and here it is, right at Mizzou!  I look forward to teaching Digging Lanford Wilson again in the Fall of 2017, when we will hopefully have Lanford’s collection of short stories and poetry published, and simultaneously, I’ll be directing one of his plays in our Rhynsburger Theatre.


What advice would you give faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

If a faculty member hasn’t worked with special collections, they should get started now – especially if your own research takes you there. And if they haven’t used special collections, it’s time! I was thrilled with resources that Kelli Hansen made available to me, including a wonderful website https://libraryguides.missouri.edu/lanfordwilson, that allowed my students to learn about archival research the Special Collections, discover the resources of the Lanford Wilson Collection, and how to work with finding aids and primary sources. My feeling is that students are becoming less and less likely to walk in the doors of the library, beyond using it as a study hall. Working with Special Collections gives students a better understanding of how important our libraries are, as well as the thrill of scholarly research—working with archival resources and doing original research that may change how we understand our world. Working with manuscripts, photos, correspondence, theatrical programs, and having an opportunity to physically touch materials that were part of New York’s Broadway theatre was a life-changing experience for my students. Give your students that transformative understanding of scholarship by teaching a course in Special Collections!

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books All About Alecia McLean, Special Collections social media intern

All About Alecia McLean, Special Collections social media intern

Hello, everyone!

My name is Alecia McLean and I am the newest social media intern for the Special Collections portion of Ellis Library. I am a senior english and anthropology major here at MU. Here's a little bit more about me:

1.) I am an avid reader. I've been enthralled with literature since I was a little girl, so much so that I chose to study it at university. I have an expansive reading list that I am trying to amble my way through. I'm currently reading Far From the Madding Crowd which is a novel by 19th century British novelist Thomas Hardy. My favorite genre is fiction and my favorite book is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. 

2.) I love writing! My ultimate dream is to one day become a successful novelist. I used to write short stories in my childhood and I still write a few today. In eighth grade, I did a project on J.K Rowling because she was and continues to be one of my biggest inspirations.

3.) I aspire to see the world. The premature anthropologist in me is desperate to explore Earth's every corner. I am originally from Kingston, Jamaica, and having relocated to the United States as a child I got exposure to two cultures. My love of world cultures grew from that initial exposure and had just become bigger and bigger as a grew older! Some of my most desired places to visit are Italy, Greece, Thailand and Ireland. 

4.) Music, music, music. I love listening to music. It's my main inspiration when I write and for life in general. My favorite genre is alternative but I will give anything a try. Top 5 bands are The Black Keys, alt-J, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons and Coldplay. Honorable mentions: The Killers, Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers and The War on Drugs. 

The featured imagine is "selfie" I took in the car before going to a Mumford and Sons concert. 

P.S. I really look forward to my semester interning under the wonderful staff of Special Collections!

Staff Spotlight: Timothy Perry

Welcome to Staff Spotlight, a new series that features the people of Special Collections and the work we do behind the scenes.  In today's installment, we're talking to Tim Perry, the newest member of our professional staff. 

Describe a typical day working in Special Collections & Rare Books at Ellis Library.

There’s always something new going on in Special Collections, which is one of the best parts of the job. But some of my regular tasks involve the following:

  • Answering reference questions about our collections. Most days I spend a couple of hours on the reference desk to help patrons who come in to use our collections. And I also answer a lot of reference questions by email. Since I only started at Mizzou in November 2015, this has been a great way to get to know our collection and to find out about all the different ways people are using them.
  • Teaching classes based on our collections. A lot of classes come to visit Special Collections and so I spend quite a bit of my time figuring out what it would be best to show them – we have great collections, so it’s not always easy to choose! – and then running the actual class visits. It’s another great way to get to grips with the diversity of our collections: just this term we are hosting classes on everything from Greek oratory to pirates and from plague and contagion to the Brontë sisters.
  • Meeting with colleagues. This ranges from meetings to discuss the everyday running of the department to meetings about major upcoming events. At the moment, for example, we are putting together an exhibition to accompany a major conference on climate change.

What do you enjoy most about working in special collections?

One of the best things about the job is the variety, so it’s hard to pick just one thing. I love working with the books themselves, and also interacting with students, so I would have to say that leading class visits is one of my favorite parts of the job.

How did you discover your passion for working with special collections and rare books?

My background is in Classics so I have always been interested in the way in which the written word has been passed down in different forms over time – everything from papyrus scrolls and medieval manuscripts to printed books and digital texts. So when I went to graduate school for my professional library training I decided to take a couple of classes on rare books and I was immediately hooked!

What are the most interesting items that you have come across in Special Collections at Ellis Library?

We have wonderfully diverse collections: 4,000-year-old clay tablets from Mesopotamia, 21st-century artists’ books, and everything in between – so again, it’s hard to choose one thing. I have done some letterpress printing in the past, so that, combined with my interest in Classics, means that I particularly love our collection of early editions of ancient authors. They are all beautifully printed, and many of them are beautifully bound as well.

New request and registration system

If you've used many materials here in Special Collections, you're probably all too familiar with these little yellow slips of paper.  They're our call slips, and until recently, we required all readers to fill one out for each item being requested from the stacks.


This summer the MU Libraries transitioned over to a new computer system, and we took it as an opportunity to try a new way of requesting and paging materials.  Instead of filling out your name and contact information multiple times, you'll be asked to do it once per year, on our new Patron Registration Form (you can even print it out from our website, fill it out in advance and bring it with you to the reading room if you want to save time). On subsequent visits, simply check in at the desk.  We'll be able to complete the rest of your request electronically – no handwriting or carbon copies required!

Although we don't yet have the capability to take requests online, you can, as always, email us to place materials on hold.  We're hoping that this system will prove easier and more efficient for everyone involved. No more repetitive request writing for you, and no more wrangling thousands of paper slips for us.  Our call slip mascots, the Special Collections sheep, might have gotten a little excited when they heard about this.

The new registration system takes effect August 1.  Although we've spent weeks practicing and trying to anticipate bugs, we'll probably need your patience as we learn this new way of doing things.  Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts, concerns, or problems.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas in July…

… we present Jesus and the Twelve Apostles.

In this collection of the Gospels from 1591, the text is written in both Arabic and Latin.  It's inscribed "With compliments to my friend Dr. W. Burggraaf, Christmas 1931."


A beautiful example of works in translation, the book also contains 149 woodcut illustrations.  They were, however, printed from only 68 blocks, so the careful reader can discern some copycat pictures in different places.  Like the two below, both used to illustrate a version of the same story in Matthew and then in John.



Reusing woodblocks was a fairly common practice, particularly in bibles where multiple versions of similar events or themes are told by the various authors of the books of the Bible throughout.  We've come across several other books in our collection where the illustrations give us deja vu.

That's it for the 12 Days of Christmas in July series!  Have a merry holiday, and if you should feel like celebrating with us, stop by and see us next week – we'd be happy to show you any of the books featured here, along with any of the others in our collections!

Teacher Spotlight: Rabia Gregory

Dr. Rabia Gregory, an assistant professor in the Religious Studies department at the University of Missouri, is the focus of the first Teacher Spotlight of the new school year.  Her primary interest is in medieval women’s religious literature, and she can often be found teaching courses at Mizzou on Historical Christianity, and Women and Religions.  Dr. Gregory is a frequent visitor to Special Collections and has often brought her classes to learn about the primary sources we have here.  We were pleased to get a chance to talk to her at the beginning of the semester.

SC: How have you incorporated Special Collections into your teaching?

Gregory: I initially only took upper-level and graduate seminars to Special Collections and designed the visits to help students learn to work with sources in the original. Last spring I attempted to bring a large introductory lecture course to Special Collections.  I designed a new assignment asking the undergraduates to spend time with a manuscript or an early printed book and then write about it as if they were, themselves, professional historians.

SC: What sort of outcomes or effects on your students have you observed after visiting the Special Collections department?

Gregory: I noticed a variety of responses, particularly with the large lecture class. Some students were so excited that they snapped photos of manuscripts to share with old teachers or with family members. Others came back to visit with friends and classmates. And some were completely disinterested, trying to sneak out of the room even before class was over. Learning how books were made and used really changed the ways that my class responded to primary sources in translation. They less frequently asked "why" different sources offered competing versions of history or why miracles were recorded. Instead they were interested in why those versions of history had been considered important enough to put into something so expensive and time-consuming as a manuscript.

SC: What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

Gregory: Plan ahead, make sure that the visit has a clear pedagogic purpose for your class and that the students have a way of finding meaning from the objects they will (most likely) not be able to read. Do talk with the Special Collections staff and get their input on the assignments, a semester in advance if you can! And make sure that you explain clearly to your students and teaching assistants the purpose of the assignment.

Descartes…L’Homme the Journey to Print

René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French thinker of the empiricist thinker. Descartes was born in la Haye, in Touraine. He was the son of a provincial governor, Joachim Descartes, and his wife Jeanne Brochard.  After a short career of practicing law he went to fight under Maurice of Nassau, in the rebellion against the Spanish. In 1619, he had a series of visions that compelled him to devote his life to science. Shortly thereafter, he moved to the protestant Dutch republic where his teachings and experiments would be more accepted. While there he corresponded and tutored a number of pupils that followed and studied his Cartesian teachings and his traité des passions, the study of emotions.


L'Homme cover with acid specklingThe copy in the collection is bound in calf skin, a common binding of the 17th and 18th centuries. The speckling technique used on it was created by sprinkling acid over the leather and then wiping it clean after a period of time. This technique has created problems in some specimens in today’s world as the acid continues to erode the boards. The printer of this text, Jacques Le Gras, was the original publisher. Shortly afterward, the text was moved to a different printing house and released in a larger run from the printers Charles Angot and Théodore Girard.

The book itself is best described in the Heirs of Hippocrates (1974) text, “This first French edition is the original text as composed by Descartes and is edited by his good friend, Claude Clerselier (1614-1684). This edition also contains the first printing of his treatise ‘De la formation du foetus,’ completed just before his death. The fine woodcuts in this edition were partly based on Descartes’ drawings from the manuscript and partly prepared by the co-editors, Louis de la Forge (1632-1666?) and Gerard van Gutschoven (fl. 1660) … Descartes was prepared to publish this book in 1633 but decided to withhold it when he learned of Galileo’s condemnation by the Church. As a result, the first edition was not published until 1662 [in Latin], twelve years after Descartes’ death … It is sometimes called the first book on physiology, and that could be argued, but there is no doubt that the Cartesian philosophy exerted a tremendous effect on the evolution of medicine.”

Eye with muscle purportedly drawn by DescartesDescartes decision to withhold this text from the public may have spared him from the kind of persecution Galileo endured upon the publication of his Dialogs, 1632. However, Descartes did not escape allegations that his beliefs were atheistic and pelagianistic, which is the idea that people, can avoid sin without God’s grace. These accusations started in the 1640s when the rector at the university at Utrecht began making these charges. These denunciations regarding his atheistic thoughts become more heated as scholars from Leiden, a university town, became involved.  At one point in the summer of 1647, Descartes returned to France for the second time in that decade, where he contemplated staying to escape these charges. He did return to the Dutch republic, but by the end of the decade he had traveled to Stockholm to tutor Christina of Sweden. The arrangement for tutoring her was extremely strenuous, she required sessions before dawn in the brisk air of the Swedish winter. By February 1650, he had fallen ill and ultimately died from pneumonia.

Image from L'Homme drawn by an illustrator other than Descartes.The journey to publish L’homme was led by Claude Clerselier, a staunch Catholic, who came into the ownership of Descartes’ papers via his brother-in-law, the French ambassador to Sweden. Clerselier edited this text and considerable correspondence, which helped shape Descartes’ image in the following years. The quality of the 1664 French edition made Clerselier the understood guardian of Descartes’ body of manuscripts. The book itself is interesting because Descartes’ essay is the smallest portion of the over four hundred page text. The accompanying essays, forwards and remarks make up the majority of the pages. Clerselier’s remarks include, among other things, a reasoning of the illustrations included, of which many were provided by Florentius Shuyl and Clerselier himself. One image of particular interest was drawn by Descartes. Clerselier kept the original drawing, an eye held by muscle, to prove it was Descartes work. However, there is a notable difference in the artistic styles between the eye and some of the other pieces, particularly in their background detail.  The additional contributions to the text include Louis de La Forge’s remarks that expand on the Descartes text and attempt to clarify the conceptual leaps Descartes makes in L’Homme.

This exceptional text was purchased in the spring of 2010 by University of Missouri Ellis Library Special Collections and Rare Books, through a donation by Mr. Richard Toft.


Bibliographic Information:


A Paris: Chez Iacques Le Gras, au Palais, à l’entrée de la Gallerie des Prisonniers, MDCLXIV, [1664]

QP29 .D44 1664


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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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!