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Monday Manuscript: Tiny stories in Charlotte Bronte’s own handwriting

Happy 198th birthday to Charlotte Brontë, and happy manuscript Monday! Here's one of the most famous items in the collections: a manuscript by Charlotte herself, written at age 17.  Believe it or not, if you're on a desktop computer, the scans below are probably displayed on your monitor at larger than actual size.  The original manuscript is only about 5 inches tall. Its eight leaves contain not just one, but two short stories – "The Secret" and "Lily Hart."  What's amazing to note is that Charlotte actually edited this manuscript. If you look really closely, you can see where she's crossed out some phrases and added others. 

Can you read it?  If not, never fear: this manuscript was published by William Holtz in 1979 in facsimile and transcription, for those of us whose eyesight isn't quite as keen as Charlotte's must have been.  This manuscript also has an amazing history; see a past Mizzou Wire article for more information, or find it in the MERLIN catalog.

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Posted in Rare Book Collection

What’s Blooming this Week: Lenten Rose

For this last week of Lent, our featured plant from the Mizzou Botanic Garden is helleborus orientalis, or Lenten Rose.  You'll find them blooming on the west side of Ellis Library.  The plants in the photo are just outside the entrace to Ellis Auditorium.

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Helleborus orientalis is native to Anatolia and was not introduced to European gardens until the mid-1800s.  It is grown primarily for its ornamental value. However, there are several other species in the hellebore family, and they were used medicinally in Europe for thousands of years.  In Medical Botany (London, 1790), William Woodville provides illustrations of two hellebores related to those growing on campus: Helleborus foetidus, or Bear's Foot, and Helleborus niger, or Christmas Rose.

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Woodville’s book is a work on plants, but he’s primarily interested in their medicinal uses.  Woodville writes that Helleborus niger was introduced in England in 1596, while Helleborus foetidus was “constantly used in medicine from the time of Hippocrates [and] was the only species of Hellebore known in the Materia Medica of our pharmacopoeias.”   He notes:

The smell of the recent plant is extremely fetid, and the taste is bitter, and remarkably acrid, insomuch, that when chewed, it excoriates the mouth and fauces; it commonly operates as a cathartic, sometimes as an emetic, and in large doses proves highly deleterious.  (54)

Of course, the Helleborus orientalis growing on our campus may have different properties than its cousins H. foetidus and H. niger.  It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: the information provided here is most certainly not meant to provide any form of medical advice!

Many thanks to David Massey, a research specialist at Landscape Services, and to Pete Millier, director of the Mizzou Botanic Garden, for lending their wisdom for this post.

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Posted in Rare Book Collection

Monday Manuscript: Notebooks from a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright

April 13 would have been playwright Lanford Wilson's 77th birthday, so we're celebrating him by featuring his work on this week's Manuscript Monday. Wilson passed away in 2011 and left his papers to the University of Missouri Libraries. The collection includes correspondence, working notebooks, drafts and proof copies, and well as work related to Wilson's personal interests, such as gardening and art collecting.

The manuscripts featured here relate to Wilson's plays A Sense of Place and Fifth of July, which was recently produced on campus by the MU Theatre Department. It's fascinating to watch Wilson at work through these pages, as he adds, edits and deletes the texts of his plays.  

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An unexpected bonus: we also found Wilson's recipe for tomato tart, which sounds delicious. Let us know if you try it! wilson2

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Posted in Special Collections
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