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.

home Cycle of Success, Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Consolatory epistle of Warm, Cool, & Lukewarm & together a lie: An Analysis by Mary Parker

Consolatory epistle of Warm, Cool, & Lukewarm & together a lie: An Analysis by Mary Parker

Mary Parker, a student in Dr. Rabia Gregory's History of Christianity class, is sharing her paper on an incunable from Special Collections. We're using her words and images with permission. – KH

Girolamo Savonarola, author of this epistola, was born to a well off family from Padua with his grandfather being a physician and professor at a medical college. Girolamo planned to study medicine as his grandfather had after getting his bachelor’s degree, but instead dropped out to join a Dominican monastery in Bologna without informing his family of his decision until he was already gone (Kirsch 2015).

From early in his life Girolamo felt strongly about the “depravity” of the era that he was living in. After years of study in the monastery and in Ferrara, he was sent to Florence to preach. His career took off after he became prior at the monastery of San Marco. While there, he preached strongly against paganism and the immoral life of many Florentines, as well as against the Medici’s, current rulers of Florence (Amelung 2015).

When Lorenzo de ’Medici died, Savonarola developed into a political as well as a religious leader and began thinking of setting up a theocracy of sorts. His sermons were often very biting and intense as he preached against the immoral life of members of the Roman Curia, against Pope Alexander VI, and against the evils of princes and courtiers. The Medici family was driven out of power due to the people’s hatred of the family’s tyranny and immoral lives. The French king ended up coming to Florence and setting up a theocratic democracy with Christ being the King of Florence and a council that represented all citizens. Girolamo was not directly involved with the government but his sermons and teachings held large influence in the city. Eventually, a sort of moral police force was set up that spied on and denounced people who did not follow the moral guidelines put forth by Girolamo (Kirsch 2015).

His daring and passionate sermons eventually lead to a conflict with Pope Alexander VI. In 1495, the pope commanded Girolamo to go to Rome and defend himself against all of the accusations held against him. He declined saying that his health prevented him and that the journey would be too dangerous. Shortly after, the Pope declared that Girolamo was no longer allowed to preach and that he also could no longer be the prior of the San Marco monastery. Girolamo attempted to justify his actions; and when it came to his preaching, he said he always submitted himself to the Church. A new papal Brief was written that maintained his ban on preaching but judged easily his actions (Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2015).

Girolamo disobediently still preached in Florence with sermons that were strongly against the so called crimes of Rome. All this lead to a possible schism in the Church; therefore, the Pope needed to step in and do something. Girolamo was eventually excommunicated in 1497, but this did not stop Girolamo from celebrating Mass on Christmas Day, distributing Holy Communion, and then subsequently preaching in the cathedral. While all this was occurring, opponents to Girolamo were becoming more powerful and after an attempt at an ordeal by fire; the general people began to turn against Girolamo. The San Marco monastery was attached and he was taken prisoner and eventually condemned to death "on account of the enormous crimes of which they had been convicted". He was then hanged and after his body was burnt at the stake (Kirsch 2015).

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Epistola consolatoria de Caldi, Freddi, & Tiepidi & una frottola insieme is thought to have been published in 1496 by Lorenzo Morgiani and Johann Petri, which means that Girolamo most likely preached this sermon after the second papal Brief commanded him to no longer preach. The epistola is largely speaking about being a lukewarm Christian or even falling prey to Satan’s deceit as can be seen in the later part of my attempt at a translation of the first page of the epistola.

The prophets of Jerusalem went forth: Hyere. xxiii. I Pensado, in happy mood, turn to judge you and see what creatures you are, and the misnomers of this problem should be finally resolved. That what each man deserves to be attributed to him, he will surely now know. To see whether to his benefit he will be shown as great by the creator, the power of the infinite glory of Heaven eternal and its benefits; but being such brutish animals man lives in denial and his mortal needs cause him to undergo more uncomfortable dangers and miseries than other animals undergo. Whereupon complaining Pliny said, sometimes double barked trees have to protect themselves from the heat and the cold found in nature. But man does not have this protection and from birth is naked, wailing and crying in such an excellent fashion. Neither does man have any thoughts from birth. But the nanny stays close like a magnet and protects the child above all else and sympathizes with the baby, protects them from many deadly things, guides them to discover their fate, and tries to get them to avoid fighting and conflicts. Fighting leads to such brutality. But no man should arise into a place of so many evils. However, that Lucifer being deprived of the Glory immortal designs for all humans to live mediocrely and hence end up in deadly misery for a thousand years: after ones first actions it is easier to warn them of the decline that leads to the eternal and deep abyss. Wherefore, be sober and watchful in prayer: surround yourselves with the few nurturing less our adversary Satan as lion come bellowing and devour you. And some said the apostle: Do you know the height of Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (Savonarola 1496).

From this translation, it appears that Girolamo is fighting against the Catholic Church becoming corrupted by those who have no zeal for Christianity. He is angry not only with the church but also with members of the public who were perhaps not protecting themselves against the worldliness of the time. He was strongly concerned with God’s judgement on the city of Florence for its wickedness and was passionate about the Church regenerating to Holier form (Passaro 2006). He was also extremely zealous regarding the salvation of lost souls and was obviously willing to risk his life for this task. From this sermon, he also felt that Christians and non-Christians alike needed to watch and prepare for Satan’s temptations lest they be taken and destroy for falling prey to them (Kirsch 2015).

clark2clark3The Epistola Consolatoria De Caldi Freddi & Tiepi is bound in brown leather decorated with gold leaf of which Dr. Barabtarlo spoke about during her lectures. The inside cover has a red flowered, stamp design that is simple and beautiful. The book was used often as seen by the external binding being rather beat up on the edges and the internal markings from users’ fingers. One of the original pages is torn out and has been replaced by a printed copy of the original page. There are no comments from anyone besides librarians. There are a total of twelve printed pages with seven of those being Girolamo’s sermon and the other four being a frottola, Italian secular song popular in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

There were only approximately fifteen printers in Florence during the decade of 1490 with only four of these printing prolifically (University of Minnesota n.d.). The epistola by Girolamo was printed by one of these, namely the firm of Lorenzo di Morgiani and Giovanni di Piero di Maganza (Johannes Petri of Mentz). In 1495, Morgiani and Petri were working for Pacini, who commissioned what is said to be the greatest Florentine illustrated book of the century (Hoyt 1939). The epistola referenced here was not of this luxurious quality however. It is more likely that it was used to spread Girolamo’s preaching to the middle class citizens of Florence.

At the start of Girolamo’s career he was full of zealous desire for the renewal of religious life in Italy. His strong preaching and teachings led him to offend many powerful people including the pope. He was an extremely notable religious leader during the pre-Reformations era, and this can be seen through his printed documents such as the one analyzed here.  

Bibliography

Amelung, Dr. Peter. 2015. BRILL. November 2. http://www.brill.com/girolamo-savonarola-religious-and-political-reformer.

Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. . 2015. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. November 2. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Girolamo-Savonarola.

Hoyt, Anna C. 1939. "BULLETIN OF’ THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS ." VOLUME XXXVII , August : 62.

Kirsch, Johann Peter. 2015. Girolamo Savonarola. November 3. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13490a.htm.

Passaro, Anne Borelli and Maria Pastore. 2006. Selected Writings of Girolamo Savonarola. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Savonarola, Girolamo. 1496. Epistola consolatoria de caldi, freddi, & tiepidi & una frottola insieme. Florence: Lorenzo Morgiani and Johann Petri.

University of Minnesota. n.d. "Portfolio Artistic Monographs, Issue 12." 54-55. Seeley and Co., 1894.

 

home Cycle of Success, Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Student work on the Notarial Registry of Bernard de La Turade

Student work on the Notarial Registry of Bernard de La Turade

Will Black, a student in Dr. Rabia Gregory's History of Christianity class, chose to write this personal reflection on his work with the fourteenth-century notarial registry in Special Collections. We're sharing his thoughts and images with his permission. – KH

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On Thursday, October 29th, I walked into the Special Collections room in Ellis Library. I requested to see a notarial registry kept by Bernard de La Turade during the late fourteenth century. La Turade was a French notary, which meant he handled the wills, marriages contracts, sales, etc. for his town. It was a rather important position, considering it was the only form of recording that sort of information in the town during his day. People would come to La Turade for all different purposes, and it’s the surviving artifacts of common life that gives researchers a glimpse into the daily life of what France might have been like during the middle ages. It displayed prices of goods, legal documents, ages at which people were married, and all sorts of other little facts that expand upon the picture of daily life that ultimately end up completing the picture of history.

Upon first glance, the registry was unimpressive. It was roughly the size of my hand, slightly bigger. I’d estimate it was eight inches high, five inches across, and an inch and half thick. There were two volumes, the first of which had been aggressively chewed through by mice on the top left hand corner. Both books were a dark tan color, with the color and texture of the book resembling that of a pig ear treat one might give to their dog. According to Dr. Barabtarlo's lecture, the cover was likely animal skin for its protection and durability. Scrawled on the cover of Vol. 1 “1393”, the date of publishing by La Turade. According to a booklet on various binding methods put together by the special collections department at Yale University, the notary had a binding that was considered Gothic. The Gothic method closely resembles modern books of the day, with loose-leaf paper bound to a cover made of thicker parchment or skin. This method of binding was popular from the early fourteenth century until the end of the seventeenth century.

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When I opened the first volume, it was in poor condition. Mice had eaten through the spine on the top left portion of the book, meaning the first 36 pages of the book had to be handled more delicately due to the lack of binding. There was plenty of water damage on the first pages of the book, but this faded about a third of a way through the notary. This book may have been face up in a damp or humid environment and years of water resting on its cover seeped through to the parchment. Before paper became easy to make, parchment was the choice for writing books. Parchment is made out of sheep’s skin and was chosen because it was super durable. During Medieval times, there was no way to have climate controlled rooms and traveling was harsh, so books were required to stand the test of the elements. On blank spaces between entries, one can see the watermarks from the making of the paper. This particular parchment maker had his frame set up so that lines supporting the paper were about two centimeters apart from each other.

By looking at the pages, it’s easy to tell that this book was used quite a bit. The fact that there are two volumes is telling in the fact that there were quite a bit of entries. The pages in both books were well smudged on the margins, resulting from the flipping of pages back and forth to find certain entries. There were also several pieces of scrap paper that had been added to pages via glue or other sticky substances. There were also many, many comments in the margins, entries crossed out, and various other edits to previous entries. This means that this book was used quite a bit over an extended period of time. Another indication that this book had extensive use comes from the fact that the ink recipe changes multiple times in the book. During my time examining the book, I asked Dr. Barabtarlo about the ink changes, and she said the ink recipe the author used a recipes alternating between being heavy in rust or lampblack.

More important than the book itself is the author and his uses for the book. Clearly, as a notary, Bernard de La Turade’s job was to simply be a record keeper. The local lord or other authority in the area likely employed him in the castle or other official building. According to the National Notary Association, notaries in the middle ages/medieval times could have had a role in the clergy. This would make sense considering a notary had to be of high moral character, but there’s no way to know if La Turade was a member or not. This becomes even more confusing as La Turade lived during the period when the clergy started to separate themselves and the role as notaries. Prior to his lifetime, notaries were exclusively clergymen, and after his lifetime it had become a secular business. La Turade was caught between these two eras. La Turade may or may not have been a clergyman, but we do know he was someone who was held in high moral regard. We can say though, that there’s a good chance La Turade got at least some part of his education from a person involved with the clergy in some way, considering they were the main teachers in the middle ages.

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From what we know about social structures in Medieval France, where La Turade is from, he likely lived somewhere in the middle of the social ladder. La Turade could read, write, and do simple arithmetic, so he was obviously an educated man. This would save him from having to do hard labor in fields for the entirety of his life. La Turade also interacted with people in important positions, such as governors, lords, dukes, or even kings. His interactions with these people likely moved him up the ladder a couple of rungs. Even though La Turade did hold a position of importance within the town and he likely made a living better than other folk, he never would be confused with someone who would have been in the highest tax bracket. Books were still expensive during this time period, and were a labor to produce. Even though this book contained no writing or artistry when La Turade bought it, the parchment maker still had to skin a sheep, dry the skin, scrape it, and go through the whole tedious process of making usable parchment. The fact that La Turade was able to purchase this book says something about his wage, considering the price of books of the era.

The reality of this book is beautifully underwhelming. This was a simple notary written by a nondescript Frenchman in the late 1300’s. However, it gives insight into the daily life of the people of La Turade’s region. The documentation this book provides is the sole reason historians have jobs. The notarial registry also sheds light on the writing practices of the region and time period. Often these varied from place to place and era-to-era, and the book offers yet another link in the long chain of history. From a mice-bitten, water-damaged book, one infer as to how people of a completely era and culture survived.

– Will Black

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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

Teaching Spotlight: Ruth Knezevich

knezevichOur popular teaching spotlight series returns this semester with a fresh look at innovative teaching in Special Collections.  This month's featured educator is Ruth Knezevich, an instructor in the English department at Mizzou.

SC: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a doctoral candidate and graduate instructor in the English department. My research focuses largely on in late 18th– and early 19th-century British literature with interests in ballad collections, Scottish Romanticism, and the emergence of “folk” literatures. My dissertation in-progress is on footnotes within ethnographic poetry and novels of this timeframe. When I’m not reading, writing, or teaching, I enjoy spending time outdoors and traveling, especially in and around my native northern Minnesota.

At MU, I’ve taught a handful of literature-based courses, including English 1000H (Honors Exposition), English 1210 (Introduction to British Literature), English 2100 (Writing About Literature), English 2159 (Introduction to World Literature), and English 3200 (Survey of British Literature, Beginnings through 1784).

In each of these courses – in addition to teaching critical thinking and reading skills – I like to show students that there are more ways to read a book than breaking down the words on the page, and that there is more to literature than just reading a book and looking at the arrangement of words on a page – each book holds a story of the world around it and the readers who have picked it up, read it, and written in it.

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

Each semester, I ensure that I bring my classes to visit Special Collections and spend time learning about various aspects of printing history, reading a book as more than just literature, and letting students get their hands on the materials. And frankly, Rare Books and Special Collections adds variety to times in the semester where we’re all feeling a little bogged down and need a new and exciting way to approach the text.

One semester, I brought my students in Survey of British Literature to Special Collections as a way to break up the monotony of our class discussion on Renaissance poetry. Alla and Kelli brought out a variety of publications and objects featuring the same poems and authors we were reading in class; students were encouraged to dive into reading the primary materials in their original context, outside of the anthology we were using in class. Suddenly, Ben Jonson and Amelia Lanyer came to life for students as they struggled through the centuries-old typography.

I have also asked my honors composition students to actively read selected from Special Collections as objects, carefully analyzing and writing about their thoughts and findings. Students were asked to choose one of the manuscripts or objects that were displayed during our class’s visit to Rare Books and Special Collections, and to spend time with it again outside of class, asking questions of the object, analyzing it, and drawing inferences from their observations of details they might otherwise overlook and then inferring how the book would have been used and who might have used it.

SC: What materials or collections did your students work with?

The various classes I have brought to Special Collections have worked with a wide array of materials and collections, including 19th-century travel writing, publications of Renaissance-era poetry, 18th-century editions of Homer, different antique versions of the Bible, and 16th-century documents addressing the politics of magic and religion.

SC: What outcomes resulted from your class visits?  What were the effects on your students?

In addition to submitting some rich essays from the students detailing their findings from their assignments based on Special Collections, students consistently walk away from their visit in awe, inspired to discover what else is held in Special Collections.

One specific moment that will remain with me is when tears began welling up in one student’s eyes as she held an 800-year-old book. “I’m a part of this book’s history now,” she whispered to a classmate standing next to her. Another student, a college senior, said that the days spent in Rare Books and Special Collections were the highlights of her time in college, and that it was a shame that she was just learning about one of MU’s most exciting resources right as she was about to graduate.

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

When I set aside a day for my class in Special Collections, I often don’t yet know exactly what I want my students to explore. The librarians have consistently helped me figure out the aims and goals of the day’s visit, suggested specific materials, provided samples for follow-up assignments, and offered to lead lectures for the class on topics related to the course.

For instance, I recently taught a unit on Christopher Marlowe’s play, Doctor Faustus, and I had asked the librarians to pull some resources that could be relevant and helpful in exploring the politics of magic and religion expressed in the play. Little did I know that Alla is actually an expert in Renaissance magic! My students were able to get so much more out of the library session than they ever imagined, and more than I could ever offer.

So, the biggest piece of advice that I would give to colleagues interested in using Special Collections in their courses is to use it! The staff in Special Collections is immensely helpful in putting together a productive and exciting day with demonstrations of the materials and offering suggestions for follow-up assignments.