home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Qo Libro e dela Sig[no]ra Laudomia Ricasoli Ridolfi.

Qo Libro e dela Sig[no]ra Laudomia Ricasoli Ridolfi.

One of the books in our collection, Prediche di Frate Hieronymo da Ferrara, 1496, (Predictions of Brother Jerome of Ferrara, known as Girolamo Savonarola), has an interesting provenance.

It was acquired in the late 1980s from H.P. Kraus, a renowned antiquarian bookseller in New York, who in turn got it from the library of Franz Joseph II of Liechtenstein (1906-1989), a fearless prince, who dared to resist the brutal pressure by the Soviets to release half a thousand Russian soldiers seeking political asylum at the end of the WWII, when the British readily gave in to similar demands by Stalin’s henchmen.

exlibris Prince L

However, at the beginning of the 17th century the Predictions belonged to a rich Florentine by the name of Laudomine (Laudomia) Ricasoli Ridolfi. We have autograph owner’s note: Qo Libro e dela Sig[no]ra Laudomia Ricasoli Ridolfi.

Signora Laudomine was the widow of Cosimo Ridolfi, who belonged to the upper crust of the Florentine aristocracy. Refusing to hold any public position, he preferred the life of a “rustic magus”, as he styled himself in the letter to Don Giovanni Medici. *

A closely knit group of people captivated by astrology, alchemy, and all kinds of arcane knowledge congregated around Don Giovanni, an illegitimate son of the Grand Duke of Florence Cosimo I. Don Giovanni, legitimized at the age of seven, bestowed with money and his own palace in Florence, was an accomplished military and civil engineer and among other pursuits cultivated the passion for rare books, especially the ones on the Florentine Inquisiton’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum (a list of prohibited books).

His librarian Benedetto Blanis, who supplied the new books and meticulously catalogued his patron's library, was also a book dealer who ran his own shop in the Florentine Ghetto where rare manuscripts on the occult subjects were copied. Arrested by the Inquisiton twice, he spent two weeks in prison the first time, and several years the second.

From April 1619 to April 1620 Blanis was looking to acquire the library of Laudamine Ricasoli Ridolfi after the death of her husband. She detested her husband’s occult friends and as well as his books, but was not eager to give or sell them to Blanis either. Soon he learned that he had a rival — the General Inquisitor of Florence, Fr. Orazio Morandi, who shared his interest in thing arcane.

We do not know whom of the two– the inquisitor or the Jewish librarian, the good Segnora chose, perhaps, neither, because Katalog der Inkunabeln der Fürstlich Liechtenstein, where our copy is listed under the # 212, is silent on the matter. But then many of our books — just as most rarities — are shrouded in mystery.

open book

* Edward Goldberg, Jews and Magic in Medici Florence : the Secret World of Benedetto Blanis, U of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2011, p. 172.

All interesting information concerning the lives of Benedetto Blanis and Laudamina Ricasoli Ricardi was taken from the book cited above.

The Menaion for the month of June

Last week we published a mysterious inscription from this manuscript on Tumblr.  In response to requests for more information, we're also sharing these excerpts from a recently prepared book history.

Written in the Raifa Monastery, near Kazan’ (Russia) in October 1624 (1623?) by the Elder Barsonophius.


Manuscript on paper 15.3 x 20.7 cm, 4to in 8s, 228 leaves; all quires intact.

Written in Church Slavonic in a single hand on a medium weight paper. Original ms. side notes, contemporary ms. record of date, scribe name and place. Light water stains, occasional spots of wax, a few edges a little frayed, tiny ink holes in two leaves, small worm trail at gutter in lower blank margins of one gathering. A very good clean copy with its original wide margins.

Bound in high quality Russian morocco over thick wooden boards. Metal bosses and centerpieces lost, remains of original brass clasps.


The Menaion (from Greek, μην, “month”, Church Slavonic minea) is the name of several liturgical books in the Orthodox (Greek, Russian, Romanian, Georgian, Serbian, etc.) Church.

The Christian calendar comprises two series of offices. There are movable feasts, falling on the days of the ecclesiastical year dependent on Easter (which is determined by the Jewish, i.e. Lunar calendar); and immovable, set to certain days of the month by the solar calendar, such as the feasts of our Lord: His Nativity (Christmas) Transfiguration, Theophany (Epiphany); of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints. The offices for these "fixed" feasts are contained in the menaia (pl. for menaion). In the Roman breviary it corresponds to the Proprium Sanctorum.

A menaion, one for every month, contains the offices for immovable feasts, according to the liturgical calendar of the Orthodox Church.


The Menaia are used by clergy for daily services. This particular menaion is of specific interest because it antedates the extensive reform by Nikon (1605-1681), the seventh Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, c.1654, revising all service books according to the Greek liturgical tradition, a fateful event that led to a deep schism in the Russian Church.

After this reform many of the pre-existing copies were discarded or burned as redundant.

All Russian service books antedating 1624, whether printed or written, are extremely rare and valuable.


The text has, sometimes substantial and important, variant readings from the standard Menaion for June. Grammatical mistakes signify that the Menaion was read aloud to the scribe rather than copied from another manuscript.


 The ms. contains 29 gatherings, 228 leaves. All gatherings contain 4 bifolia (8 leaves), except the first and last quire, which have 7 and 5 leaves respectively; apparently, first blank leaf of the first quire is used as paste-down, and two blank leaves at the end – one is cut out, the other is used as paste-down.

All quires are numbered in Church Slavonic numbers, apparently by the scribe.

Leaf numbering made in a different ink, by a different (19th cent.?) hand in Arabic numerals at the top right corner.


The text is written in elegant Cyrillic polu-ustav (semi-uncial, a minuscule) script, in a single hand, with characteristic overwriting, ligatures and abbreviations that are common in Cyrillic as well as Latin manuscripts, motivated mainly by two reasons : to distinguish sacred names and matters from ordinary ones, and to save space. Stresses are absent which is unusual for Slavonic service manuscripts. Small dots over the text suggest that it was chanted.


At the foot of the first ten leaves contemporary manuscript record of date, origin and scribe.


The inscription could be translated as: In the year 7132 of our Lord, in the month of October in 22nd day [has finished writing] this book Menaion [for the] month of June, for the Glory of the most pure Theotokos (Mother of God), in the Raifa monastery, in this same monastery tonsure monk Elder Barsonophius.

This inscription clearly indicates not only the name and position of the scribe – Elder Barsonophius, but gives us the place –Raifa monastery, and the date – 1624 (1623?).

The Raifa monastery (about 450 miles East from Moscow) dedicated to the Mother of God was established in 1613 by hieromonk Philaret. This secluded, beautiful place on the lake Sumka was surrounded by deep woods populated by wild animals.



At the very end of the manuscript, at the bottom of the last page, there is a mysterious inscription in Cyrillic characters:


The language is not Slavonic, and resists deciphering.

We assumed a possibility that our Fr. Barsonophius could have been a local man of Tatar or Cheremiss origin, and asked native speakers of those languages to look at the inscription. Alas, they failed to recognize anything familiar.

Any service book in the seventeenth century was regarded as a venerable, even sacred thing, thus the smallest mistake or a slip of the pen was considered a sin. It was customary for a scribe to finish a manuscript with a humble request to readers to correct mistakes if found. However it is only a conjecture. So far a language of this final inscription has remained an enigma for these researchers, who would be grateful for any clue.

The Battle of Waterloo

You, whose greatcoats were lithely streaming,
Reminiscent of broad sails,
Whose voice and spurs were gaily ringing
Like silver bells,

Whose eyes, like diamonds, were leaving
On hearts their delightful trace,–
The charming fops of vanished being
In time and space.
(Marina Tsvetaeva, To the Generals of 1812)

“The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.”

Two hundred years ago two very ambitious generals met in the battlefield.

Napoleon Bonaparte, former Emperor of the French, and Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, had a lot in common: both were forty-six years old, born only a few month apart; both had very little interest in education, but could make rapid and precise mental calculations; overconfident and dictatorial, both were unhappily married yet loved by many women. The difference between them was one — but a major one: Wellington was born noble, while Napoleon was not… That defined their characters: almost “supernaturally balanced” Wellington was not vain in any sense, treated everyone equally, with the same directness, from monarchs to soldiers; Napoleon admired pomp, power and attention; treated people as inferiors, including kings and princes. Wellington cared for his soldiers, never sacrificed his troops for a quick victory; Napoleon was his complete opposite, could not stand rivals and claimed all credits for victories for himself. He never learned from his failures, in which he usually blamed others.

The battle of Waterloo was one of the bloodiest at the time. More than fifty thousand men and countless horses were left dead on the field at the end of the day.

It seems that fate was not on Napoleon’s side this time. It had been raining the whole night before, and by the dawn the battlefield turned into a bog. Napoleon’s cannons got stuck in the heavy mud up to the axles; Wellington’s smaller troops were positioned uphill, so Napoleon’s cavalry could not effectively attack; while Wellington was athletic and exceptionally fit, Napoleon’s suffering from hemorrhoids that day was also seen by historians as the reason for his failure; both sides were exhausted in the five hours of fighting, when Blucher with his Prussian troops arrived and decided the outcome of the battle in favor of the Allies. This ended Napoleon’s military career and the war which was going on and off since 1805.

big-book2Here in Special Collections we have a very beautiful book, A Summary of the Life of Arthur Duke of Wellington: from His First Achievements to the Decisive Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815, by Robert Southey.

Known mostly as one of the finest poets of the so called “Lake School”, Robert Southey (1774-1843) was also known to his contemporaries as a biographer of John Wesley and Lord Nelson, and to the majority of us as the author of “The Three Bears”.

The book in our collection is bound in a crimson morocco leather with gold tooled borders. But the most delightful secret lurks in its fore-edge paining. Practically unnoticeable to the unsuspecting reader, it suddenly reveals a battlefield when edges are squeezed properly. You can then see charging soldiers, explosions… And if you look long enough you might even hear a distant rumble of cannons!



Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515

We do not know the exact place and time of Aldus’s birth. Most scholars agree that he was born around 1449 near Rome, and died on February 6, 1515, apparently after a long illness in Venice.

At about 1501 Aldus adopted his famous printer’s device of dolphin and anchor. According to the popular legend, Cardinal Pietro Bembo gave Aldus a denarius of Vespasian, on the reverse of which was the image of a dolphin entwined with the anchor.

Aldus’s motto σπεῦδε βραδέως (make haste slowly), or festina lente in Latin, is attributed to Augustus by Suetonius.

“The Prince of Humanists”, Erasmus, made a cheeky compliment to the “Prince of Printers” in his Adages: “Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both.” The more delicate Bembo thought that the image was to symbolize Aldus’s aim to “produce much by slow action”.

It would became the most famous printer’s device of Aldus’s time, pirated by the contemporary publishers and just crooked printers, coveted by book collectors of all times.  Demand for Aldine texts was high. Aldus once remarked that the pace of work in his shop was such that "with both hands occupied and surrounded by pressmen who are clamorous for work, there is scarcely even time to blow my nose."

Between 1494 and 1515 he produced some 134 editions: 68 in Latin, 58 in Greek, and 8 in Italian. A typical edition ran to 1000 to 2000 copies.

Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515 will be on exhibit in the Ellis Library Colonnade through February 2015.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Blessed are the Merciful…, or Missouri to the Rescue

Blessed are the Merciful…, or Missouri to the Rescue

Only a few days separate us from Christmas, and at this time we especially remember people in need, and perhaps try to do something to help them. I wanted to recall a story of great generosity and humanity.

Russia, a major exporter of grain in the 19th century, in 1891-92 suffered one of the most disastrous famines in its history. It was a combination of inclement weather and severe drought that struck the Russian South. People starved, many died.

It was estimated that about 35 million people were affected. The exact death toll is not known, but Richard Robbins, an American historian, put it at about 300,000.

The government, and especially the royal family, did everything to alleviate the disaster; the Emperor himself gave half of his income, around five million rubles, to relief funds; he also appointed the heir to the throne, Grand Duke Nicolas, the future Emperor Nicolas II, as chairman of one of the major relief committees; many wealthy people generously donated money and personally participated in the relief efforts. Anton Chekhov, the famous writer who was a physician by training, went with other doctors to the regions stricken by cholera and typhus to treat the sick and needy; Leo Tolstoy collected and distributed relief donations and organized food stations for peasants.

Leo Tolstoy and the relief committeeLeo Tolstoy (center) and the relief committee

The United States responded swiftly and generously. Millers of Minneapolis organized a gift of flour; Nebraskans contributed one-and-a-half million pounds of corn meal; besides, Americans collected through charities about a million dollars in addition to several shipments of humanitarian aid. First to the Russian shores (the Baltic port of Libava, now in Latvia) came the steamer Missouri with the cargo of grain. Two more U.S. ships followed later.

The future Emperor Nicolas II said:” We are all deeply touched by the fact that America sent us ships full of foodstuff.” A special resolution prepared by the distinguished representatives of the Russian public stated: “The United States show us the most moving example of brotherly feelings by sending bread to the Russian people at the time of such privation and need.”

One of the most famous marine artists, Ivan Aivazovsky, depicted the arrival of the Missouri to the Russian shores.

Ivan Aivazovsky. Arrival of the ship Missouri with grain to Russia


And here is a depiction of the joyful reception of the American help in the Russian village by the same artist.

Aivazovsky, American help arrived


Autograph of Alexander Blok


Sometime ago, while preparing books for visitors, I opened the first issue of the magazine Love for Three Oranges, January 1914, and was surprised to see Alexander Blok’s autograph on the title page. The slim, almost homemade, magazine was published by Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874 – 2 February 1940), a brilliant and provocative Russian theatre director, under the nom de guerre Doctor Dapertutto, and the playful, theatrical, and sometimes clownesque nature of the magazine didn’t immediately associate in my mind with the tragic figure of Blok.


Autograph 4

One of the most famous Russian poets, Blok (1880-1921) was born in St. Petersburg to a refined, cultivated family of Russian gentry. The son, grandson and a son-in-law of the university professors, he was, by the definition of another poet, “the pampered child of a good home, who had been caressed by “tender women”, who, however, saw himself as an “orphaned outcast, and began to write most of his poems in the name of the man who was desperate, unsheltered, and buffeted by the wind” *
Poet of doom and gloom, he enjoyed the unsurpassed admiration of his contemporaries, and perhaps of one or two generations thereafter.
It is impossible to convey the bewitching music of his poetry in translation, but I’d like to give this small example:
A night, a street, a lamp, a drugstore
A meaningless and dismal lightBlok, student
A quarter century outpours –
It’s all the same. No chance to flight.

You’d die and rise anew, begotten.
All would repeat as ever might:
The street, the icy rippled water,
The store, the lamp, the lonely night.

Or another version of the same:
Some night and street, some chemist's lantern
Is bringing senseless weary light.
Well, nothing changes, that's one pattern,
Live extra twenty-five and find.

You die to start a life all over,
All things repeat as did before.
That night, cold waters at quay border,
That light, that street, that chemist's store. (October 10th, 1912) 

Personally, I have never fallen under the spell of Blok’s poetry, even in my youth, clearly preferring to him Gumilev and Khodasevich at the beginning, later Pasternak and Mandel’shtam. But I happen to know people who could cite Blok’s poems by heart for a long time nonstop. Cultivated and highly intelligent women and men, they regarded him with almost divine reverence and admiration, not quite comprehensible to me. Even Nabokov wrote that Blok was “by far the greatest poet of the first two decades of this (20th) century”**
The inscription on the title page says: “to much esteemed Alexander Alexandrovich Smirnov as a token of sincere devotion. A. Blok.”
The addressee of this autograph was three years Blok’s junior and his complete name-sake. At 31, Alexander Smirnov (1883-1962) was a well-known and well placed philologist, specialist in Celtic, French and Spanish literatures of the Renaissance, professor at St. Petersburg University, closely acquainted with, and well established in, the circles oAlexander Smirnov 2f the poets of the Russian Silver Age.
At times I think that one of the more interesting aspects of work in the Special Collections is that intoxicating thought of the many hands that had leafed through this or that old book and with whom you therefore are “in touch” throughout times and across continents. In this case, we happen to know the principal actors: Blok, Smirnov, and Meyerhold. In January 1914 they were all young, immensely gifted, looking forward to the future. The World War will begin only at the end of July***, then the atrocities of the revolution and the Bolshevik coup d’état would pounce upon them and everybody else in Russia, and their lives will be forever changed. Blok will stop writing and will drink himself to death soon thereafter; Meyerkhold will be arrested, brutally tortured by Stalin’s henchmen and finally executed in 1940; and only Smirnov will be living a long and seemingly uneventful life of a respected professor and scholar, loyal to the Soviet regime. But this small book, jolly and pert, is our window onto the world of a hundred years ago, where we can be very close to the trio of colorful characters, seemingly just one touch removed.

Multicover 2.docx

*Kornei Chukovsky, “Alexander Blok as man and poet”, Ardis, 1982
**Vladimir Nabokov, Eugene Onegin, III:525, 1951-55
*** World War I started on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections and Archives Teaching Spotlight : Johanna Kramer

Teaching Spotlight : Johanna Kramer

Energetic, youthful, admired by her students, Professor Johanna Kramer is our guest for the month of March.


Professor Kramer, please, tell us about yourself.

I am an assistant professor in the English Department. My area of specialization is Anglo-Saxon literature and culture. In my research I am most interested in Old English religious literature, especially homilies and saints’ lives, the transmission of patristic theology into vernacular poetry and prose, and popular religious texts and practices.

My first book, Between Earth and Heaven: Liminality and the Ascension of Christ in Anglo-Saxon Literature, a study of the ways in which the theology of the Ascension is taught and visualized in a wide range of Anglo-Saxon texts, will be published at the end of March by Manchester University Press.

At MU, I teach classes that concern the early Middle Ages, Anglo-Saxon England, and the history of English, for example, Women in the Early Middle Ages, World of the Vikings, Introduction to Old English, and History of the English Language as well as graduate seminars on various topics in Anglo-Saxon and other medieval literature.

How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching?

I take almost all of my undergraduate classes for visits to Special Collections. I take my students so that they can have at least minimal exposure to actual medieval materials. I want them to see what different types of medieval manuscripts look like (liturgical, biblical, philosophical, etc.), get a basic sense of manuscript production (both codicology and paleography), and recognize different writing surfaces (papyrus, parchment, even clay). Since I teach in an area—medieval literature—in which primary sources in their original form are not very accessible to students, showing them some of the wonderful materials we have at SC is a small way in which I can have students share the same space and even get in physical contact with manuscripts that were produced a thousand or more years ago. This way, students also become more alert to the fact that the original formats in which we find texts are radically different from the neatly edited and translated versions that students read in class. Aside from seeing what various medieval codices and scripts look like, students get the opportunity to see some of the beautiful illuminations and other depictions that accompany texts, be it a whimsical decoration of an initial, a miniature showing a biblical scene (like the Ascension at the opening of Acts), or a woodcut in an early printed book (like the cityscape of Nürnberg).

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

Students are typically blown away by what they see. The immediate encounter with medieval manuscripts really opens up their perspective of what “a book” is or looks like. Students tend to be especially intrigued by items that get them close to the human side of manuscript production. Thus, for example, many students love the notarial registry (La Turade), a well worn, leather-bound notebook with lots of professional notarial entries in varying scripts made at different times. Students may have a sense of elaborately decorated medieval manuscript, but the quotidian nature of an item like this registry is exciting on a different level and connects students on a more human level across a vast gap in time to the individuals who were originally writing these texts. Similarly, therefore, they love seeing marginal notes or little pointing hands drawn in the margins of manuscripts where medieval readers took note of remarkable passages (which makes students think twice about what they might write into the margins of their own books!). Another aspect that always impresses students is the sheer materiality of manuscripts. Seeing hair follicles and the remnants of veins in parchment, feeling parchment—both the silky, paper-thin kind and the thick, rough, and stiff kind—noting holes in the parchment, all of these aspects speak to the physical nature of the making of a book and the “live” origins of its component parts.

Johanna Kramer and children, January 2014

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

There might be some hesitation to take a class to SC when an instructor does not expect the students to do a particular project or use specific holdings. In my view, there is always a benefit of taking students, whether a research project follows or not. Exposing students to resources that are unfamiliar to them is a valuable service we provide through our teaching. Equally, in my classroom instruction, I introduce students to select scholarship in my field, whether they end up incorporating it in a paper or not. Just knowing that this kind of scholarship exists and knowing that one could be interested in it and get excited about it is worthwhile demonstrating to our students. It’s part of our responsibility as teachers and scholars to model such interest and excitement for our students, and we can do that by showing them the widest possible range of resources, including the wonders of SC.


home Cycle of Success, Special Collections and Archives Teaching Spotlight: Rebecca Mouser

Teaching Spotlight: Rebecca Mouser

Dr. Rebecca Mouser, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English is our guest for the Teaching Spotlight this month.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?Rebecca


I am a postdoctoral fellow in the English department. My research focuses primarily on oral tradition in the Middle Ages; my recent dissertation explores oral tradition in the fourteenth-century alliterative romances such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Morte Arthure. Outside of my studies, I mostly spend my time with my two dogs, Isabelle (a Boxer) and Hermann (a German Shepherd).


While at MU, I have taught several literature courses, including English 1210 (Introduction to British Literature), English 2100 (Writing about Literature), English 3200 (British Literature: Beginnings to 1784), and English 4210 (Medieval Literature: The Age of Chaucer).

Chaucer's Boece, Fragmenta Manuscripta # 150,

In each of these courses, I stress the material culture of the various time periods as well as the historical and literary culture. We often discuss oral tradition and the development of literary texts. My hope is that students can see that the text goes beyond the page, and that the artifacts that survive can help us to interpret that larger text.


What materials or collections did your students work with?


My students usually view and work with a variety of manuscripts from the twelfth through fifteenth centuries. We discuss the development of various writing materials such as parchment as well as the various inks used. The manuscripts are both individual leaves of parchment and codices. I tend to bring my students to view the material culture of the Middle Ages (pre-16th century).


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


During my last visit to Special Collections, my students composed essays about the experience. Many of them stated that seeing the actual manuscripts helped them to conceptualize the Middle Ages as an actual place in time rather than an abstract idea of pastness. They really enjoyed learning about various ingredients used for ink as well. One student in particular chose a final writing project where she could work with digital manuscript images in her exploration of the idea of “fate” in Chaucer’s works. Overall, most of my students are excited about the experience and express the desire to return at some point on their own.


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


I think that the most important advice I would have is to take students to Special Collections, even if you are not yet sure of what you hope they will discover. The librarians are extremely helpful in setting up the session, providing ideas for what materials to view as well as brainstorming assignments. I always provide my syllabus before the session to help them to cater to my class. 

Kipling and his Collector

A few months ago we received a generous gift of 191 books, mainly first, sometimes first American, editions of Rudyard Kipling, works about him, and a few books with beautiful fore-edge paintings.

Helen Jenkins

Mrs. Helen Jenkins, the donor of the collection, has recently passed away, a few days shy of her 100th birthday. Born in Topeka, in 1913 in the family of the first licensed pharmacist in Kansas, Helen Katherine Gibler Montgomery Jenkins lived a long and a very happy life. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 1935 with a B.A. in journalism and became a professional reporter. With her husband being in the military, she had to move from place to place quite often. At forty-two, she took a job at a public library and having quickly discovered that she loved it much more than journalism, she enrolled in a master’s program in library science and received her librarian’s degree in 1961 from Rutgers University. She went on to become director of the New Jersey Fanwood Library, held offices in the New Jersey Library Association, and edited the monthly newsletter for the Association and the Library School’s alumni magazine. But her true passion was Kipling. This is how she discovered him.

My husband's great aunt was Flora V. Livingston. She was the librarian in charge of the rare book room at Harvard’s Widener Library for something like 35 years, from about 1910 to the 40s. Her specialty was Kipling and she spent years compiling a bibliography of his work. …To do this, Aunt Flora traveled to England and India and picked up many, many first editions. The best volumes went, of course, to Harvard; the second best she kept for herself. When she died in the late 1940s, she left her books to Paul and me. The boxes sat in our basement for several weeks and finally, one evening, after a cocktail or two, we decided to get down to opening the boxes. Anyway, after I did learn a little about what we had, I began to buy and to add to the really good stuff …”

Kipling Portrait youngRudyard Kipling took a firm hold on her imagination. In her lecture on Kipling she talks about him with a note of personal compassion, especially when she speaks of his lonely childhood:

Kipling’s grandparents, on both sides, were Methodist ministers. His mother, Alice, was one of the five clever and beautiful Macdonald sisters. Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, was an artist and a teacher, something of an eccentric. He met Alice Macdonald at a picnic. When, at the age of 28, he received a good appointment to head the School of Art in Bombay, he married Alice on March 18, 1865, and they moved to India. Rudyard, sentimentally named for the lake where his parents met, was born on December 30 of the same year.

This was Victorian England and Colonial India. Children of the upper classes were customarily turned over to servants. They saw their parents mainly when Daddy was dressed in his regimental finery and Mother was in an evening gown. Indian servants were trained to accede to any demand from their young charges, with the result, at least in the case of Ruddy (his in-family nickname) of a definitely spoiled child. It is reported that he was talkative and untidy, incessantly asking questions and expressing his opinions without hesitation.

Her next passage, about his early years, reminds one of some heart-wrenching pages from Dickens.

Kipling BoyWhen he was six years old, Ruddy’s parents packed him and his three-year-old sister, Beatrice, off to England to escape the cholera and the heat of India and to be educated. For reasons never known, the children were left to board in the house of a woman whose name the parents got from an ad in the newspaper, rather than with their English relatives. (Maybe they didn’t want difficult Ruddy.) The parents slipped away secretly – the children had not been warned that they were being left – and it was five years before they saw their parents again. Kipling was mistreated, unfairly punished, told he was bad – and for some minor prevarication, sent off to school for several days wearing on his back a sign that said “LIAR”.

“After five years in what he later referred to as the “House of Desolation”, Kipling was sent to an army cram school in Devon for the sons of not-so-well off officers. He was smallish, non-athletic, with dark beetling eyebrows. His thick pebble glasses kept him from any career in the army. But he was tough, funny and clever. He read voraciously and made his mark as school wit and versifier and star writer for the school paper. These school experiences are immortalized in Stalky & Company. Of the characters, “Beetle,” is the young Ruddy.

In 1882, not yet 17, Ruddy went back to India, to Lahore, to become 50% of the staff of the Civil & Military Stalky & Company Gazette, a frontier daily newspaper. He worked 10 to 15 hours a day under the heat and hellish conditions that he describes at the start of The Man Who Would Be King. He was plagued with sleeplessness all his life and to escape this, he wrote much of what would become his first book to be published for general readership, Departmental Ditties

Departmental ditties 2

Departmental Ditties was an immediate success and was reprinted several times. Mrs. Jenkins had copies of the first and six following editions, English and American. Kipling moved to Allahabad and became a full time reporter in a newspaper. Later he sold all his stories and poems to a company that sold them in cheap paperbacks at railway stations in India. Mrs. Jenkins proudly notes that she has all of them in her collection.

Kipling then returns to London. In less than two years he becomes a celebrity. It didn’t spare him from personal misfortunes, which eventually led him to something like a nervous breakdown. In 1890 Kipling quits London and goes on a sea voyage. He befriended young Americans, Wolcott Balestier and his sister Caroline, who in less than a year becomes his wife.

Kipling by Philip Burne Jones, 1899

Newlywed Kiplings settle in America, in Vermont where his wife’s parents lived. There he wrote the First and the Second of his Jungle Books.

Helen Jenkins: “Kipling was not completely happy in the United States. He made tactless comments to the press and consequently, got a bad press. To complicate things, his brother-in-law, Beatty Balestier, got into a smoldering argument with him over the use of some land and in a fit of rage, threatened to kill Kipling. A foolish lawsuit against Beatty, which Kipling won, gave the American papers a field day. In 1896, disgusted with this, the Kiplings packed up and went back to England. They came back to the States three years later and Rudyard became seriously ill with pneumonia. He finally recovered, but during his illness, his daughter, Josephine, 7 years old, died of the same illness. Kipling lived for 37 more years, but he never set foot in the United States again.”

Already by his thirties quite famous and well-to-do, he received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907, thus becoming the first Englishman to get it. However, his life could not escape thorns and scorn. He lost his son in the first World War and could never quite recover from this tragedy. His relations with his wife deteriorated. Some well-known citations from his writings reflect his disenchantment: “The female of the species is more deadly than the male (The Female of the Species); “A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke” (The Betrothed); “Down to Gehenna or up to the throne, he travels the fastest who travels alone” (The Winners).

Kiplings in the car

Posterity has not been entirely kind to Carrie Kipling, who was described by some as self-pitying, bossy and possessive. One modern writer even called her “one of the most loathed women of her generation”; * but Henry James, who knew her personally, wrote about “passionate Carrie, remarkable in her force, acuteness, capacity and courage.” Their marriage lasted for more than forty years, she bore him his three much loved children; her practicality shielded him from the humdrum of daily life and allowed him to write. Most likely, without her there would have been no Kipling we know.

fore-edge 2

With time, his popularity began to fade, some shallow critics regarded him an “imperialist poet” and his perfectly pitched and splendidly carved rhymed poems were deemed old-fashioned and much too patriotic. Helen Jenkins, his passionate collector and a fellow journalist, writes in conclusion: “He died in London on January 18, 1936, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. He has been quoted as saying how fortunate he was that life had dealt him the cards it did – that all he had to do was play them as they lay – the two childhoods, East and West, that gave him two worlds; the journalism that taught him his trade and give him the whole dazzling tapestry of India to work on.”

Kipling autographs


This splendid gift of Mrs. Jenkins soon will be catalogued and added to the holdings of our Special Collections, thus making our Kipling collection second only to Harvard.

Special gratitude is extended to Mary Jordan, who sent us the picture of Helen Jenkins, her lecture about Kipling, and the obituary

*Adam Nicolson. The Hated Wife: Carrie Kipling, 1862-1939. ISBN 0571208355





home Cycle of Success, Special Collections and Archives Teacher spotlight: James Terry, Stephens College

Teacher spotlight: James Terry, Stephens College

Today our guest in Teacher Spotlight is Dr. James Terry, professor of Art History at Stephens College. Professor Terry regularly brings his Renaissance and Baroque class to Special Collections. We were delighted when he agreed to step into our Spotlight today. We’ve queried him about his teaching philosophy, inspirations, academic interests, and put to him our standard question about the way he incorporates Special Collections into his teaching. Here is his response:

James Terry. Art History class

I like to get my art history students out of the classroom as often as I can–whether that’s a visit to the MU Museum, the local mosque, the Christopher Wren church in Fulton, or an artist’s studio, art gallery or exhibition. A visit to Special Collections at Ellis Library is always a highlight for the students in my Renaissance and Baroque Art course at Stephens College.

Most of them have never handled a 500-year old book–or any fine, handmade, pre-industrial object. It puts them in touch with the material (quite literally). Of course, they are amazed by the engravings and woodcuts, and even the quality of the paper and bindings. I expect that many of them had never considered the possibility that a book can also be a work of art–but they certainly understood that by the end of our recent visit.

Students today spend so much time looking at digitized *pictures* of things, but they don’t have nearly enough experience interacting with real objects.

I would recommend that all college instructors–whether in the humanities, sciences, business or whatever–visit Special Collections at Ellis and find out what treasures the library holds that might relate to your field. Then find a way to get your students over for a visit.  All librarians in Special Collections are very generous and accommodating, and will work with you to set up an eye-opening experience for your students.