home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Now online: tutorials on finding materials in Special Collections

Now online: tutorials on finding materials in Special Collections

Materials in Special Collections and University Archives are catalogued, arranged, and stored in different ways. Some are discoverable through the library catalog, while others can be located through inventories or finding aids. Learn more about how to find materials in Special Collections and Archives through our tutorials:

Using the library catalog

Using finding aids

We’re always happy to make tutorials on specific topics as well. Let us know how we can help!

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Cycle of Success, Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives A Resource for the Study of Early Printed Plays in Spain: Comedias Sueltas USA

A Resource for the Study of Early Printed Plays in Spain: Comedias Sueltas USA

by Diana Vasquez

Comedias Sueltas USA is a website dedicated to the study of Spanish plays, primarily by means of its comprehensive database which maintains and compiles records of comedias sueltas printed before 1834 and are currently held in the collections of academic and research libraries across the United States. Referred to as chapbooks in English, sueltas emerged from printing centers of Spain mainly in the 18th century, and they continued to be produced well into the 19th century. Key characteristics of comedias sueltas include quarto format printed in double column. These singly printed three-act plays were often 32 to 64 pages in length resulting in 4 to 8 gatherings that were later stab- stitched. Many have a printed number on the upper portion of the first page by which printers kept track of the inventory. A primary place for decoration was the area around the title and the author’s name. One finds arrangements of metal ornaments such as fleurons, stars, ivy leaves, and manicules, or elaborate woodcut tailpieces at the very end. Booksellers also took advantage of pages following the end of the play to advertise other titles they had for sale. Early examples of sueltas often lacked imprints and can be dated only through typographical analysis, however, over time dates appeared gradually in the colophons of sueltas.

The first page of Las Bizarrias de Belisa by Lope de Vega Carpio.
The first page of Las Bizarrias de Belisa by Lope de Vega Carpio.

These ephemeral works have managed to survive in significant numbers, as printers and publishers maintained these titles in print for the theater-going public. The theater-going public also enjoyed amateur performances and often purchased multiple copies of sueltas for reading at home. From the colophons we see that printers operated in all the major cities in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Salamanca), as well as in some of the smaller cities, and sold some of their sueltas through booksellers all over Spain. It was an active and thriving business.

Director Szilvia Szmuk-Tanenbaum and the team at Comedias Sueltas USA hope that the Database and some of the other features of the website will serve as a valuable resource for students and scholars exploring different aspects of the Spanish theater, book history and the printing culture of the hand-press period in Spain. This comprehensive census includes records and images. As an ongoing process we will continue to enhance records with new data as it emerges. Our objective is to bring awareness and accessibility to these collections, enabling scholars to analyze trends, document change, and provide context allowing for a deeper understanding of the time periods in which they were created. To this end, in addition to accurate bibliographic records, we are including copy specific images of the first and last pages of each play from its holding institution for exact identification.

Other resources available on the website include:

  • An extensive Bibliography that consists of publications supporting the study of sueltas in connection with specific items or collections, comprehensive bibliographic resources covering literature that integrates material on comedias sueltas, and references to printers or booksellers of suelta editions, as well as broader insights into printing history that illuminate the practices applicable to suelta
  • A Glossary of terms, a recent addition still a work in progress, compiles a list of terms that scholars are likely to encounter in our bibliographic records, essays, or general literature about comedias sueltas. Additionally, the diagram of the anatomy of a comedia suelta serves for easy identification of parts and their proper name.
  • The Websites of Interest section assembles a list of various platforms, mostly from Spain, useful for researchers engaged in the study of Spanish history, theater, or literature.

Comedias sueltas USA has identified just over 100 academic and independent research libraries in the United States that have holdings of comedias sueltas. The size of these collections varies, with approximately one-third of the libraries holding only a few titles, several more holding 11-975 titles, and about 8 collections hold more than 1000 titles. For instance, the University of North Carolina boasts a collection of over 2200 titles and similarly, the Hispanic Society Library and Museum in New York possesses nearly an equivalent number.

At the time of this writing, the team at Comedias Sueltas USA has uploaded 69 collections of sueltas into its database and many more are getting ready to be uploaded. We very much appreciate Kelli Hansen’s assistance by providing images of the first and last pages of each item in the Ellis library Spanish play collection. We feel that having the 62 titles, some of which we haven’t seen before, really adds to the completion of the census.

A cover of one of the factitious volumes in Ellis Library's collections.
A cover of one of the factitious volumes in Ellis Library’s collections.

The sueltas in the Ellis library database offer good examples for teaching the history of printing ephemera. These are generally single plays, but we also find them bound as factitious volumes. The term factitious volume is used to describe some randomly bound volume (usually of 12 plays) selected by a collector, bookseller, or librarian. These bound volumes were thought to be easier to handle than the ephemeral pamphlets. The Moreto plays Confusión de un jardín and San Franco de Sena, with no imprint dates, seem to be the earliest in the collection. The most recent suelta in the collection, Sancho Ortiz de las Roelas by Cándido María Trigueros was printed in 1814. A selection of Trigueros’ works are 18th-century adaptations of plays originally written by Lope de Vega. Curiously, nearly half of the Ellis collection is authored by Lope de Vega, a prominent Spanish playwright and poet of the Golden Age. By closely examining this collection students can observe first-hand the printing styles across the 17th -19th century.

Looking at these plays in chronological sequence, it is easy to observe change in typography and orthography. For example, the use of long s (a letter that looked almost like an f) transitions to a modern short s during this period. Other aspects of spelling become modernized as well. The use of a short s but with an early date in the colophon indicated a “concealed reprint” which was done to avoid paying the fee a printer should have paid for reprinting an earlier work.

Women played an important part in the world of 18th century Spanish printing. Seven of the 62 plays in the collection were produced by women printer/booksellers. Women often assumed the reins of their late husband’s or male relative’s business. As was the case with Viuda de Quiroga (Manuel de Losada Quiroga’s widow) and Antonia Gómez (José de Orga’s widow). In addition, there was Teresa de Guzmán who was a printer and bookseller in her own right in Madrid from 1733-1737.

It is important for Special Collections to bring the history of the book and older printing practices to the attention of its users. Plays that students now read in modern paperback edition or electronically did not appear that way to their first readers two or three centuries ago. It is important to have them touch the paper that was made one sheet at a time during this era of printing and even to feel the bite of the type as the raised letter was formed. Experiences such as these bring a deeper understanding to the evolution of printed materials. We hope that faculty, students, and researchers at the University of Missouri will see the value of their Spanish plays collection.

To access comedias sueltas or any other materials in Special Collections, schedule an appointment through the Special Collections website.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Resources and Services, Special Collections and Archives Twentieth-Century Political Pamphlet Collection now available online through JSTOR

Twentieth-Century Political Pamphlet Collection now available online through JSTOR

The Twentieth Century Political Pamphlet Collection in Special Collections is now available as an open-access digital collection in JSTOR. The collection consists of ephemeral political materials distributed by and for members of national organizations and political committees. The majority of the materials relate are concerned with civil rights, anti-war protest, feminism, and economic policy. The collection offers primary source material to researchers interested in the various social protest movements of the 1960s. Browse the Twentieth-Century Political Pamphlet Collection in JSTOR.

This collection was digitized as part of Reveal Digital’s Student Activism Collection. Overall, the Student Activism Collection will contain approximately 75,000 pages drawn from special collection libraries and archives around the country. The collection will capture the voices of students across the great range of protest, political actions, and equal-rights advocacy from the 20th and early 21st century United States. The primary sources intended for inclusion will be broad-based across time, geography, and political viewpoint — from the conservative to the anarchist. Explore the Student Activism Collection.


Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Special Collections and Archives The Classroom is Open!

The Classroom is Open!

After more than a year of online teaching, we are excited to welcome students and instructors back to in-person sessions in our classroom. A few reminders: 

  • Masks are required in the classroom for all participants. 
  • Thorough handwashing before class is required for all participants.
  • Hand sanitizer may not be used before or during class sessions. Handwashing after class is recommended.  
  • Use our online form to request a session.  

This fall, we are introducing a new online orientation module that students must complete before they visit. This module covers handling guidelines for materials in the classroom and will help students make the most of their time in Special Collections. If you’re teaching a class using Special Collections, please include this module in your syllabus or Canvas site, and require your students to complete it before your class session.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Events and Exhibits, Special Collections and Archives, Staff news New Fall Exhibit: Instagram Favorites

New Fall Exhibit: Instagram Favorites

Since 2016, Special Collections has used Instagram to share our collections with the world. To mark our fifth anniversary on the platform, and to welcome students and faculty back to campus, our fall exhibition celebrates two sets of favorite posts.

One of the exhibit cases highlights your favorites: the posts that were the most liked, commented, and interacted with over the past five years. As you will see, there are wonders to discover in Special Collections, from medieval manuscripts to nineteenth-century publisher’s bindings. These posts are just the beginning!

The other exhibit case highlights our favorites: posts chosen by Special Collections and Archives staff.  As these materials show, we envision a future in which Special Collections and Archives foster, reflect and inform an inclusive, diverse, and engaged community, locally and beyond.

This exhibition will be on view in the Ellis Library North Colonnade through fall 2021. For more, make an appointment to visit us in person, or follow us on Instagram.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Hours, Special Collections and Archives Special Collections Open by Appointment Only

Special Collections Open by Appointment Only

In August, the University Archives began the process of moving collections out of Lewis Hall and into Ellis Library. Later this semester, University Archives staff will join Special Collections on the fourth floor and share reading room and office spaces in Ellis Library. Because we are working out the timeline for these moves, the reading room will be open by appointment only until further notice. Microfilm readers in room 404 remain available on an appointment-only basis as well. Schedule research appointments through our website. 

For preservation and space purposes, many nineteenth-century materials and comics from Special Collections are now stored at the University of Missouri Libraries Depository (UMLD). These materials are among the most fragile in the collections, and the UMLD offers a consistent, stable low temperature and humidity that will preserve these materials much more effectively than we can in Ellis Library. To request these materials, simply make a research appointment! Please allow at least two business days for these materials to be made ready for research use. 

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Special Collections and Archives Student-Curated Digital Exhibit on Travel Posters Now Online

Student-Curated Digital Exhibit on Travel Posters Now Online

Three library interns from the English department — Bethany Bade, Katy Bond, and Allie Overschmidt — have collaborated on an exhibit featuring some of our travel posters. You might not expect post-war Europe to have been a travel destination, but tourism was still a major force. Our interns’ exhibit, “Commercial Art” focuses on the role played by artists, slogans, descriptions, and styles of illustration, including typography, in creating national images and identities. It includes posters from across Europe, from Spain up to Norway.

Our interns have done great work over this past semester, researching the background of the posters and describing their importance. Whether you are interested in design or history, art or politics, this is an exhibit you will want to check out!

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Special Collections and Archives New Digital Resource: Guide to the Fragmenta Manuscripta Collection

New Digital Resource: Guide to the Fragmenta Manuscripta Collection

The Fragmenta Manuscripta Collection is a collection of manuscript fragments, most of them from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries but with materials extending as far back as the eighth century and as recently as the seventeenth century. The collection’s finding aid has been updated and expanded by Dr. Brittany Rancour, who has provided in-depth descriptions of the different genres represented within the collection as well as short biographies of identified authors. The finding aid is also an exhibit with digitized versions of the manuscripts.

The updated site can serve as an introduction to medieval European manuscripts, as a reference aid for researchers working with the collection, and as a teaching tool for faculty interested in locating examples of specific genres and practices within the collection. We hope that it will prove useful during this time of social distancing and perhaps as an inspiration for people to make an appointment to see the originals here in Special Collections.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Special Collections and Archives New Digital Exhibits in Special Collections

New Digital Exhibits in Special Collections

Special Collections’ newest digital exhibit is Leaders and Heroes, curated by John Henry Adams and Courtney Gillie. The exhibit celebrates the accomplishments of historically excluded people, highlighting materials within Special Collections that were written by female, Black, Native American, and LGBTQ+ authors. The exhibit covers a range of topics from literature to social science, from social activism to polar exploration. The oldest piece in the collection is Henry Box Brown’s autobiography from the early 19th century; the most recent is a comic collection by Alison Bechdel from the late 20th century.

In addition to the exhibits, Special Collections has also recreated two in-person exhibits in digital form. One of them was In-Flew-Enza: Spanish Flu in Columbia, curated by Amanda Sprochi in 2016. The exhibit provides a broad overview of the 1918 influenza pandemic as well as a closer look at its impact on Columbia and the University of Missouri. The second is Children’s Literature of the Harlem Renaissance by African American Women, curated by Adetokunbo Awosanmi in 2019. The exhibit showcases twenty-one books published during or shortly after the Harlem Renaissance. Through their art and text, the books challenged stereotypes associated with African Americans.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.

home Special Collections and Archives, Staff news Congratulations to John Henry Adams

Congratulations to John Henry Adams

Special Collections librarian John Henry Adams was awarded the William Reese Company Scholarship to attend California Rare Book School through Zoom in August. He shared his thoughts with us on his experience in the course.

What is your background in instruction?

JHA: I’m a new Special Collections librarian and most of my background in teaching comes from my time in English departments: I taught writing and literature for eight and a half years before I switched careers.  While there is some overlap between English classes and special collections instruction, there are of course some major differences, the biggest being that as a Special Collections librarian, I’m usually not designing a full course but instead doing one specific session.

What course did you take, and what did you learn from it?

JHA: I took the seminar on Better Teaching with Rare Materials.  We talked about doing more engaging, active-learning course sessions and we also talked a lot about how to do effective remote class sessions using special collections materials.  We’re not going to be able to do in-person Special Collections sessions this fall, so that is going to be very useful.

I also got a much better understanding of learning objectives for individual class sessions, which will let me more carefully tailor my instruction to a course’s overall needs.  Special Collections sessions can easily degenerate into being a cool field trip for the class to go see some neat things and learn some interesting information, but ideally we always want those sessions to build on a course’s overall objective without the instructor to have to do some heavy lifting the next session.

What might you do differently in the classroom as a result of this training?

JHA: I think I will be more transparent at the start of sessions as to how materials came to us in Special Collections, especially in sessions that take a more generalist approach.  Special Collections are made up of lots of smaller collections, usually purchased from or donated by collectors, and that typically means limitations in terms of what is in the collection.  Putting that information on the table at the start is important because it clarifies why the collection is what it is and why some things might not be in it.

The course also strengthened my general desire to focus on active learning and to keep as far away from a show-and-tell format as possible.  Special Collections is already doing that, but it’s important to keep pushing that aspect and to give students a chance to experience the materials more fully.

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is head of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.