Depictions of Hell


This outline drawing of hell-mouth filled with heads illustrates Psalm 5.7. It is taken from "Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile," vol. viii, "The Paris Psalter."According to an article published in the Weekly World News, the temperature of hell is precisely 285 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures soar, it is good to be reminded that there are hotter places than Columbia, Missouri. Many whose works are represented in our collections have depicted hell to provide an avenue for encouraging better behavior, or, more recently, for providing entertainment. Perusing their works also provides an avenue for indulging schadenfreude. This week we bring together works from our collection of diverse periods and genres that share a fascination with hell.

Dives and Lazarus0001lgThe parable of Dives and Lazarus will be well known to many. To summarize, in life, the rich man (Dives) ignores the plight of Lazarus, a leprous beggar outside his gates. After death, however, the circumstances  of the two men are reversed:

110001sm“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame."

Larazus, though willing, is not permitted, and the rich man is left to suffer his torments without relief.

The image above on the right comes from a copiously illustrated late nineteenth-century Bible from our Rare Books Collection. The image above left is of a miniature illustrating Luke 19-31. It comes from Das goldene evangelienbuch Heinrichs III, a facsimile of the Golden Gospels of Henry III. This facsimile was made in Germany in the 1933. Henry III (1017-1056) was a scion of the Ottonian dynasty, and, like his predecessors, was known for commissioning books with sumptuous decoration. In the detail below, you can see the fate of the rich man’s soul as it is pulled from his body (far left), carried  to Hades by a devil (middle), and as it stands and utters its request to Lazarus in the company of other tortured souls and of Satan.


Title page from "Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades,"Our collection houses a number of sermons that were designed to remind their hearers of the end that had been prepared for them. In the early third century Saint Hippolytus (170-235 CE) in which he described Hades thus:

"In this region there is a certain place set apart, as a lake of unquenchable fire. Whereinto we suppose no one hath hitherto been cast; but it is prepared for a day afore determined by God: in which one righteous sentence shall deservedly be passed upon all men."

On the left is the title page of the 1737 edition of the sermon edited by William Whitson. Whitson followed tradition in attributing this work to first-century Jewish historian Jospehus, though scholars now attribute it to St. Hippolytus.

Title page from "Tormenting Tophet, or, a Terrible Description of Hell, Able to Break the Hardest Heart, and Caus it Quake and Tremble"Woodcut from Bernardo Stagnino's edition illustrating the ninth circle of hellHenry Greenwood preached a sermon on the grounds of St. Paul's cathedral on June 14, 1614. The sermon was titled Tormenting Tophet, or, a Terrible Description of Hell, Able to Breake the Hardest Heart, and Cause it Quake and Tremble and published in 1628. Greenwood uses the sermon to think through the nature of hell. In particular, he relentlessly questions the nature of hell-fire, whether it is allegorical or substantial (substantial, he avers); if substantial, then of what material (of a special sort that does not require wood); and whether this material is corporal or spiritual. “What is most probable,” he concludes, is “ that it is, and shall be, a corporal fire, with an extraordinary afflicting power given unto it, tormenting both soul and body….[T]his fire shall outwardly burn thy flesh, and a worm shall inwardly gnaw your conscience.”

map0001lgThe topography of hell will be familiar to readers of Dante’s Inferno. The engraving on the left comes from a three-volume Italian edition illustrated by Luigi Portirelli and published in 1804. Also among the many editions we have of this work is an early sixteenth-century edition that contains woodcuts by several artists. On each page, the copious commentary of Christoforo Landino overwhelms Dante's text. The image on the right contains text and commentary for the end of Canto XXXIII and the beginning of Canto XXXIV. "Look straight ahead and see if you can make him out," begins Hollander's translation of this last canto of Dante's journey.

Last but not least, our extensive Comics Collection weighs in on the nature of hell. Gary Panter’s  Jimbo’s Inferno, published in 2006, superimposes the landscape of the Inferno onto a contemporary shopping mall. The result is, according to the subtitle, “A Ridiculous Mis-recounting of Dante Alighieri’s Immortal Inferno in which Jimbo, Led by Valise, in Pursuit of the Soulpinx, enters Focky Bocky, Vast Gloomrock Mallscape."

Title0001lg copy17lgIf Jimbo's Inferno brings hell up to date with some of the more banal features of contemporary American culture, Lucifer (for mature audiences only), reinvents hell as a steamy piano bar in Los Angeles. Lucifer was created by Mike Carey, Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly and published in 2001.








Catherine the Great

150 years ago today, on July 9, 1762, Catherine the Great began her thirty-four year reign over Russia.  Following the assassination of her husband, Peter III, Catherine assumed the throne and presided over what became known as both the Golden Age of the Russian Empire and the age of the Russian Enlightenment.

Catherine was born in Stettin, Prussia (now Poland) on May 2, 1729.  Her name at birth was Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg.  When she married Peter III, she converted to the Russian Orthodox faith and changed her name to Ekaterina, the Russian equivalent of Catherine.  She gave birth to four children and all were most likely illegitimate, although Peter III claimed the firstborn son, Paul, as his heir.  Most likely, Paul was actually the son of one of Catherine's lovers, Sergei Saltykov.  Catherine never remarried, but instead maintained a string of lovers up until her death at the age of sixty-seven.

image of Catherine's charter
Charter signed by Catherine the Great

Special Collections at Ellis Library possesses a charter signed by Catherine the Great's hand that promotes Aleksandr Mukhanov, a young Russian nobleman, from regimental baggage-train driver to Lieutenant-Captain (Secund-Rotmistr) in the Horse-Mounted Guards.  The charter was produced in 1790 and is extremely ornate.  If you would like to stop by and see the charter in person, we would be happy to bring it out for you during our normal operating hours.

London and the Olympics

2012 London Olympics LogoThe 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London begin later this month on July 27th. For nineteen days, athletes from 205 countries will compete in 300 events for gold, silver, and bronze medals. Over one billion people watch the Summer Olympics, when it is held every four years. This month, the colonnade of Ellis Library is showcasing both the history of the Olympic Games and this year’s host city, London. As you are walking through the library, why don’t you stop by one of the displays and learn about some of the most memorable moments in Olympics history, or the history and culture of the only city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times.

Agnieszka Matkowska

PhotoSpecial Collections and Rare Books bids a fond farewell to Agnieszka Matkowska. Matkowska has been in residence during the past academic year to consult the Lord collection. The late Albert Bates Lord (1912-1991) was a professor of Slavic and comparative literature at Harvard University best known for his contribution to the understanding of the world’s oral traditions, especially those of the former Yugoslavia. His family donated his library to Mizzou in the Spring of 2011. It comprises a collection of almost 2000 books, articles, and even artifacts, many of which are in the closed stacks of Special Collections and Rare Books.  The A.B. Lord  Fellowship in Oral Tradition  makes these volumes available to international scholars by allowing them to remain in residence at Mizzou for a semester or longer. Matkowska,  PhD candidate from Poznan, Poland, was the award’s first recipient.

[Click on any of the images to enlarge.]

Among Buryat Performerslg


Buryat performer at the annual "Yerd Games" festivalMatkowska studies the oral legends of the Buryat people, a group of 450,000 individuals spread across Siberia, Mongolia, and Inner Mongolia. The Buryat people have a rich heritage of oral tradition, though the current generation of performers might be the last. According to Matkowska,   “When in 2011 I was doing my fieldwork in the Irkutsk Oblast’, a region bordering Lake Baikal, it was sometimes hard, so I became doubtful few times. In those moments Galina Vitalievna Afanasyeva-Medvedeva, a befriended professor and an expert in the field of Baikal folklore always raised my spirits emphasizing that what I do is of extreme importance as the folklore of that area is in decline and these processes are irreparable.”

Shaman Rock, in Lake Baikal, is considered sacred by the Buryat people.Matkowska, is writing a dissertation that investigates the factors contributing to variation that occurs across multiple tellings of Buryat oral legends. Before coming to Columbia, Missouri, she undertook fieldwork in southern Siberia along the shores of Lake Baikal. While there she recorded performances and interviewed performers. She was even invited to observe a shamanistic ceremony, a privilege seldom granted to an outsider.  While in residence at University of Missouri, Matkowska has taken advantage of the many comparative and theoretical studies in the Lord collection, gaining insight into the different methodological approaches she could take: “There are many ways to bite the cake,” she says “I just have to figure out which way will make it taste the best.” Matkowska will defend her dissertation in February at Adam Mickiewicz University.

Shamanistic ceremony, Tulunzha near Ulan-Ude, November 2009


Skin white as snow, hair black as ebony

The evil queen, disguised as an old woman, offers Snow white an apple in Walter Crane's illustration from Household stories from the collection of the brothers Grimm (New York, 1896).Snow White's been busy lately. This year alone she’s starring in two movies while also appearing in a television series.

First published by Jacob and Wilhem Grimm as part of their Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder-und Hausmӓrchen), the brief story introduces all the familiar faces: Snow White, her evil stepmother, the huntsman, and the dwarves.  The elements and characters have been adapted in many ways over the years, from films and books to ballets and opera.  Many of the narratives stick close toSnow White- deputy mayor that original tale, while others take a bit of creative license.

In Special Collections we see Snow White in very recognizable tales.  A copy of Grimm’s Household Stories from 1896 and Grimm’s Fairy Tales from 1962 both contain the story as recorded by the Grimm brothers. The illustrations present a young girl with dark hair.

The comic series Fables catches up with Snow White in the present. The action takes place well after the adventures found in the Grimm's tale, with Snow White serving as deputy mayor for a community of relocated fairy tale characters.  She is joined by other familiar faces, including Cinderella and the wolf who appears in many tales.


Click on any of the images below to see a few illustrations from some of the many works featuring these characters in our collection. You'll find both the well known versions of their stories and some with creative twists.

Lucille Corcos, illustrator of Grimm's Fairy Tales (New York, 1962) captures the moment when the dwarves find Snow White in their house.

The Big Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hood from Arthur Rackham's illustration in Hansel and Grethel (London, 1920).

The wolf appears in the comic The Gingerbread Man, originally drawn in 1943 by Walt Kelley and republished in Little Lit (New York, 2000).

Now known as Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf is the sheriff in Bill Willingham's Fables (New York, 2002).

Snow White marries Bigby Wolf in Bill Willingham's Fables (New York, 2006).

Cinderella learns the batik method of dying fabric from her fairy godmother to make her own ballgown. Illustrator Jessie M. King had just learned the process herself, and wrote How Cinderella was able to go to the ball (London, 1924) to introduce others to “the wonderland of batik.”

Cinderella owns a show store but also works undercover as a spy in Bill Willingham's Fables (New York, 2002).

Earth Day, 1648

Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2012 marked the 42nd celebration of Earth Day.  The first celebration was a grass roots event focusing on education and legislative responses to pollution and ecological concerns.

titlepg_lgEarth Day gives us a chance to appreciate our planet.  In 2012, amazing photos are available from every corner of the globe (and beyond).  But what if you lived over 500 years ago?  The Americas were full of flora and fauna unknown to Western eyes.  Special Collections is home to many volumes that recorded these new discoveries.

Published in 1648, Historia naturalis Brasiliae records the botany and zoology of Brazil.  With sections on animals, plants, fish, insects, and tropical medicine, the book introduced a wealth of information about the natural world.

Willem Piso was sent by the West India Company as physician  to the governor of the Dutch colony in Brazil.  While there, he learned about herbal medicines used by the indigenous people. His knowledge of medicinal plants, local poisons and tropical illnesses is recorded in Historia naturalis Brasiliae.

In addition to Piso’s contributions, the Historia contains information gathered by Georg Markgraf on plants, fish, birds, animals, snakes, and insects.  Markgraf died before the book’s publication.  Johannes de Laet edited his notes and illustrations for final publication.

The Historia naturalis Brasiliae is full of illustrations, and many of these were the first representation of animals and plants from the new world seen in the Old World.  While some of the volumes were hand colored, Special Collections copy is not.

See the full text of a hand colored copy.  This volume is from the collection of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Click on an image below to see a gallery of selected pages from Historia naturalis Brasiliae.







Preservation Week April 22-28, 2012

Preservation Week Logo

Today begins Preservation Week in libraries across the country.  One of our primary jobs at the Special Collections Department is to identify materials that need certain preservation measures.  One of the most basic measures is producing phase boxes for books with aged bindings.  A simple phase box, which can take as little as five minutes to produce, can protect books from all sorts of harm including:

  • Wear and tear – Rather than grasping the book when pulling it off the shelf, the box is grasped.
  • Fire damage – Books have been saved because they were preserved in a phase box, plus the box saves the book from soot damage.
  • Humidity damage – Phase boxes insulate the book.
  • Water damage – In cases of flooding or the sprinkler system going off, books have a better chance of staying dry in phase boxes.
Damaged Books
Damaged Books

The first step in the process is to select books that are in the most need of phase boxes.  The spine of the book might be split or tearing off, or the book has become too brittle, or one of the covers might be completely torn off at the hinge (near the spine).

Once a book has been selected, accurate measurements of the length, width, and depth of the book must be taken.  We use the metric system in the Special Collections Department.

After a group of twenty-eight books have been measured, we send those measurements to the Preservation Department at Ellis Library.  Librarians and student assistants then work together to produce the boxes, making sure to follow the old saying “measure twice and cut once”.  Once finished, the new boxes are sent back up to the Special Collections Department where we perform the final step of placing the rare books into their new enclosures.  The entire process for each batch of books takes about two to three weeks.

A row of Phase Boxes
A row of Phase Boxes

Confederate Currency

The Special Collections Department holds many treasures; most items are books and microforms. However, we do have some miscellanea specimens one would not expect to find in our collection. One such holding is our set of Confederate currency. These monetary notes of the Confederate States of America were given to the MU Libraries in 1912 by the U.S. Treasury department as a teaching tool. In all, there are 135 specimens.

Confederate currency was first issued at the beginning of the Civil War and used widely in the South as a legitimate means to purchase goods and services. Some currency was printed by the Confederate States of America as a whole, some by individual states, and some by private banks. The bills in our collection were all issued by the Confederate States of America. Due to various printers, confederate currency tended to vary from printing to printing and state to state. Bills issued by the C.S.A. were hand signed and individually numbered by the Treasurer and Register, however, the duty became taxing with the number of bills produced, so secretaries were hired to sign the bills in later printings. It was not uncommon for notes to be printed on a single side or cut unevenly. Ultimately, by the end of the war, Confederate currency was nearly worthless, in part due to forgery as well as the loss of confidence in the Confederacy.

The following image file numbers correspond to the reference book "Criswell's Currency Series Vol. 1", RARE-R HG526 .C7 1957

Criswell 402-7 large


Criswell 75 front large

Blog criswell back large 75Criswell-376-large





Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

So Handsome!Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on this date in 1812. Dickens, one of the most famous and most belovPickwick Papers, 1837ed of all English novelists, created some of the most powerful characters in fiction. He is known all over the world, and, unlike most great authors, he was rock-star famous in his own time. He moved around a lot as a child and was forced to quit school at twelve years old to work in a factory. Those early memories, however, would later inspire settings both fantastic and real; characters both legendary and sympathetic.

Friends and family described Dickens as full of energy, almost frenetic, and he was able to focus this power into an amazing literary output. He began writing journalism at age 15, and by 24 he had finished the Pickwick Papers and was famous on both sides of the Atlantic.

When Dickens began writing A Christmas Carol, perhaps his most well known work in the U.S. today, he was 31 and already the author ofDickens-919 Sketches by Boz, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, and American Notes.

Early in his career he adopted various pen names, the most popular of which, Boz became a nickname as well as a marketing tool. Boz knew how to play to the public and controlled not only his public appearances and persona, but also the illustrations that accompanied his work. From the beginning, Dickens worked very closely with illustrators and vetted every sketch before it went to press. In fact, more than one illustrator claimed later that they had been responsible for story elements, though the author denied this.


Dickens-1114The first of these pairings was with George Cruikshank, a popular cartoonist at the time. The author and illustrator became great friends, though their relationship soured due to many factors including Cruikshank’s growing obsession with the Temperance movement.


Dickens started working with Robert Seymour when publishers hired him to provide the words for a series of engravings featuring cockney sporting life. Dickens argued successfully that the words should take precedence over the art. Seymour mimicked Cruikshank’s style for the occasion but was of a depressive sensibility and often in conflict with Dickens over the artwork. He had a nervous breakdown in 1830, and committed suicide upon completion of the second installment.

Perhaps the most popular collaborator, HablotDickens-212 Knight Browne worked with Dickens for over 23 years. He adopted the nickname Phiz to complement Dickens’ Boz.

H. K. Browne“No other illustrator ever created the true Dickens characters with the precise and correct quantum of exaggeration.”

– G.K. Chesterton on H.K. Browne


Charles Dickens changed the face of literary history, revolutionized popular fiction and fame, and left behind immortal masterworks that still resonate with a world of readers.

Dickens-1111Celebrate his 200th birthday by dropping by Special Collections in Ellis Library to read the stories as Dickens so meticulously intended. We have many of his greatest works, some beautifully bound, dating from the beginning of the author’s literary career. Experience what created this pop sensation first-hand!


Dickens @ MU Special Collections!

home Resources and Services Newspaper Archive Summit white paper suggests next steps for stakeholders

Newspaper Archive Summit white paper suggests next steps for stakeholders

A mandate to preserve — a white paper (PDF) — was produced for the Newspaper Archive Summit Network by Victoria McCargar, veteran journalist, archivist and digital curation consultant.

Read more at the Reynolds Journalism Institute blog: Newspaper Archive Summit white paper suggests next steps for stakeholders