- African American
- American literature
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- artists books
- book arts
- book collecting
- Book collections
- Brad Pitt
- children's literature
- Civil War
- Edith Wharton
- Eric Gill
- Ernest Hemingway
- Film and media studies
- George V. Higgins
- James Ellroy
- Jean Kennerley
- John Burroughs
- Maurice Speiser
- Medieval manuscripts
- Mitchell Kennerley
- Natural history
- Robert Blair
- Robert Burns
- Sinclair Lewis
- T. S. Eliot
- Thomas Cooper Society
- Undergraduate research
- William Blake
- Women authors
This is a guest post by Maggie Johnson,
a student in “Reading the Medieval Book”
On 14-15 November undergraduates in Dr. Scott Gwara’s course “Reading the Medieval Book” encountered more than forty medieval manuscripts at UNC’s Wilson Library and Ackland Art Museum, and at the Rubenstein Library on the Duke campus. Freshman Maggie Johnson wrote the following synopsis of the excursion.
Our class trip to UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University gave fascinating insight into the types of medieval manuscripts. Although the collection here at USC is informative, seeing unique books both sacred and secular introduced a new dimension to medieval literature.
UNC Chapel Hill has manuscripts in two locations: the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library and the Ackland Art Museum. The librarians of the Wilson Library were welcoming and are very much interested in the preservation of their collection, which includes a truly minuscule Middle English bible—perhaps three inches wide and four inches tall at the very most.
Also notable in the Wilson Library collection is a tome of monastic vows, beginning in the Middle Ages and spanning hundreds of years up to and beyond the Revolutionary War.
More focused on artwork than books themselves, the Ackland Art Museum has a collection of illuminations taken from various sources.
Although there were several beautifully painted manuscripts, the most elaborate and interesting was a leaf taken from a gradual (a large medieval book of music for the Mass). The music itself would be beautiful to translate and perform, but the illuminations along the borders are far more attention-grabbing. They show three scenes from the Adoration of the Magi: two of travel and one of the Adoration itself. The border contains intricate featherwork in yellow and blue, with small creatures hidden amongst the swirls.
Also in the Ackland Museum are two leaves from different manuscripts depicting David in Penance, a popular illumination from the “Seven Penitential Psalms” section of medieval books of hours.
Although the pieces from Chapel Hill were themselves beautiful, a more varied collection waited in Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The library itself is closed for renovations, but the collection was still available for viewing. Among the most notable of the manuscripts at Duke were an incomplete leaf from an Atlantic Bible (the largest type of Bible produced) and a seventeenth-century notebook containing information both mathematical and astronomical.
The notebook was perhaps the most interesting piece from the weekend, since it was a secular work as opposed to the sacred texts on display. It was a deeply personal book: whoever penned it may well have been a university student; he was clearly interested in the three theories of the solar system’s layout as well as different forms of geometry. It may have also been one of the more informative books available to the class, as it gave a new look into the secular side of medieval scholasticism.
Art in the Library:
Original Artwork in the Collections of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
A special collections library is primarily a repository for printed and manuscript
materials. But collections (and collectors) grow and develop in diverse and occasionally
fascinating ways. As a result, items in our library’s collections include a wide array of
physical objects – or realia, as curators call them – along with a surprising amount of
original artwork. Together with significant collections of art prints and medals, theIrvin
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections also houses numerous paintings,
drawings, art photography, and sculpture.
Much of the artwork on display in this exhibition came to the library through the
collectors and collections of authors who we aim to acquire comprehensively, such as
John Milton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Other pieces were acquired
individually, either to supplement a collection or area of interest, or have come to us
as often unexpectedly generous gifts, such as the Koblenzer portraits of John and Sara
Milton and the O’Bryan Churchill landscape.
The main goal of this exhibition is to showcase the many works of original art in
our collections that are not frequently seen by the casual visitor. Indeed, an exhibition
with this focus has never before been mounted in the libraries. Because of the diversity
of subject matter, as you move through the gallery you may find some interesting
juxtapositions of materials spanning several centuries. We hope it will both surprise and
delight. It might be best to think of this exhibition as a “cabinet of artistic curiosities.” But
just as a rare printed book can be thought of as an object of material culture, something
created out of a very specific combination of historical, economic, and aesthetic forces,
so too can we consider these artworks as contributing to the larger literary and historical
archive that is our collection. The original artwork in this library will never rival that
found in McKissick Museum (nor should it), but it serves instead to add depth and
context to the rare and unique materials available here for study and research in the Irvin
So in this exhibition, you will find: watercolors by an English Poet Laureate; nineteenth-century book illustrations; doodles by famous authors; an early seventeenth-century
English portrait with an interesting provenance; and a landscape by Winston Churchill,
among many other surprises.
– Jeffrey Makala, Curator
This is a guest post from our colleague Professor Scott Gwara.
Undergraduates in Dr. Scott Gwara’s Honors College course Reading the Medieval Book exhibited proposed research projects at the Hollings Library Open House last Saturday.
For a project entitled “Medieval Identity Theft,” Carl Garris, Kirkland Gray, and Aaron Sanders have been examining an erased ownership inscription in USC’s Breslauer Bible. USC Libraries acquired this thirteenth-century manuscript in 2012. The students are collaborating with Dr. Gwara, Jeffrey Makala, Special Collections Librarian for Outreach and Instruction, and Dr. Alison Marsh, a faculty expert in USC’s History department. Preliminary efforts to read the Breslauer inscription have revealed the name of a donor “Brother Richard,” but the identity of Richard’s church and other places mentioned in the inscription remain a mystery.
The group theorizes, however, that a monastery once owned the Breslauer Bible. Books from monastic libraries are rare because the “dissolution” of the monasteries under King Henry VIII destroyed so many ancient manuscripts. For conclusive answers, Carl, Kirkland, and Aaron propose to use Stanford University’s synchrotron to produce an “iron map” of the ink residue left on the scraped parchment. The iron in medieval ink leaves traces readable by sensitive instruments. This same technology was used recently to decipher the Archimedes Palimpsest. Furthermore, by studying the letter-forms of medieval English handwriting and the Latin formulas commonly used for such inscriptions, the students will be equipped to interpret their “iron map.” Once the inscription is deciphered, work will be undertaken on Brother Richard’s historical context and the reason for his generous bequest.
Undergraduate Chemical Engineering major Adam Glenn is developing another scientific approach to medieval manuscripts in USC’s collection.
His project, called “The Color of Prayer,” seeks to determine the chemical components of blue pigments in manuscripts from France, Germany, and Italy. If funded, Adam’s research will be carried out in Dr. Steve Morgan’s lab. Morgan is an internationally recognized Analytical Chemist working on dyes and pigments. Adam will also work with Dr. Gwara and Mr. Makala. Two primary sources of blue pigments were available in the late fifteenth-century: azurite, a copper ore, and lapis lazuli, a rare mineral imported from Afghanistan. Using multiple forensic techniques, miniature paintings in three selected manuscripts will be analyzed.
Adam expects to determine whether paint recipes for the color blue were consistent in the same period across Europe, and, if not, what reasons may have motivated artists to use expensive or economical materials. His work is modeled on research recently undertaken at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.
Manuscripts analyzed in these two projects were acquired for USC through the generosity of the B. H. Breslauer Foundation, New York.
Our new exhibition, timed to coincide with the Battle’s 150th anniversary this summer, is titled “Gettysburg: History and Memory.” Here is the introductory text:
The Battle of Gettysburg resonates with us in ways that are somehow different
from our historical and emotional understanding of other aspects of the Civil
War. We remember Gettysburg differently from the other battles of the war. As
Americans, we have thought differently about it since the battle itself was fought.
Gettysburg was the largest engagement, not only of the Civil War, but ever seen
in the Western hemisphere. It was also, by far, the costliest battle of the war
with over 50,000 casualties. It is seen as a turning point – the “high tide” of the
Confederacy – when the remarkable successes of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia
at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in the previous year were finally stopped
and began to be reversed. Gettysburg was the only battle to occur on Northern
soil. Confederate troops marched into the North and took food and supplies from
Pennsylvanians. They also seized free blacks, who they sent South into slavery. The
Gettysburg battlefield was dedicated four months after the battle, and President
Lincoln’s eloquence at the dedication ceremony stands as a monument of oratory.
As we mark its 150th anniversary this year, this exhibition takes as its focus the
3 days of combat in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 1-3,
1863. It also explores the ways in which what happened there has been understood
and remembered, by its own participants and by subsequent generations. In these
cases, you will find military manuals, memoirs, maps, histories, newspapers, and
an extremely rare first edition of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We are grateful
to Henry Fulmer, Graham Duncan, and the South Caroliniana Library for their
assistance and loan of several letters and manuscripts which add a particularly rich,
personal dimension to the materials on display here, and to Greg Wilsbacher and the
Moving Image Research Collections for the footage on view in the gallery.
This exhibition has as its core an exhibition on the Battle of Gettysburg created
in 2000 by Patrick Scott for USC’s First-Year Reading Experience. The majority of
items on display come from two major collections given to the Irvin Department in
the late 20th century: a collection formed by Civil War historian Francis A. Lord,
who taught at USC for many years; and a military history collection formed by
Robert S. Chamberlain.
It will be open in the Irvin Department gallery through the end of July. Exhibit tours and some additional events are planned for June and July.
We are extremely proud to be the repository for the papers of novelist, screenwriter, and memoirist James Ellroy, the “demon dog” of American literature. The bulk of Ellroy’s papers came to us as a gift in the late 1990s, and he has been generously adding to the archive since. I’m happy to report a new arrival of two boxes of material which documents some of Ellroy’s writing projects and activities over the past year or so.
The day these boxes arrived, I had a research methods class scheduled to come into Rare Books and Special Collections later that afternoon. After peeking into the first box, I decided to save the second one until the afternoon so we could open it in class together and discover what it contained. We were able to talk briefly about how materials like this could be used for research, the steps librarians and archivists take to describe materials like this, and of course the thrill of encountering the unknown. Here’s some of what we found in that box:
The Ellroy Papers finding aid is available here, and we welcome researchers and questions about the collection.
University Libraries Student Book Collecting Contest, 2013
Submission deadline: April 1, 2013
Entries are invited from students currently enrolled at the University of South Carolina (all campuses) for the University Libraries Student Book Collecting Award, carrying a first prize of $250. The award is sponsored by the Thomas Cooper Society, which initiated it in 1993 to encourage beginning book collectors. A list of previous winners and the topics of their collections is available at: http://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/bookcoll/winners.html.
The collection may be in any field or may emphasize some particular area of interest within a subject. Collections may illustrate a certain bibliographical feature such as edition, illustration, typography, binding, &tc. Books and printed documents in all formats are acceptable for submission. Materials submitted by entrants must be owned and have been collected primarily by them. Entries should be submitted by April 1, 2013, and should include the following:
a) A brief essay (2-3 pages, double-spaced) describing how and why the collection was assembled, including plans for future growth and development.
b) An annotated bibliography of selected titles (about 25-40) from the collection.
c) A cover sheet listing the entrant’s name, address, phone and email contacts.
N.B.: The entrant’s name should not appear anywhere on the entry except on the cover sheet. If submitting electronically, please try to send as PDF files. Entrants may wish to look over a previous successful entry to get ideas on arranging their material: a folder of such entries is on reserve in the Smith Reading Room in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library.
A panel of judges will evaluate each anonymous entry. Each entrant’s essay and bibliography will be evaluated on how well they illustrate the concept of the collection. The winner will also receive a complimentary ticket to the Thomas Cooper Society’s Annual General Meeting and Dinner on May 2nd, featuring remarks by Elmore Leonard. They will also be asked to exhibit selected items from their collection in Thomas Cooper Library. The winning entry will be submitted to the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, and the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies. The university’s 2007 winner was a runner-up in the national contest.
Entries should be submitted by midnight on Monday, April 1, 2013, to: Jeffrey Makala, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Hollings Special Collections Library, Columbia SC 29208. (803) 777-0296. Or to: email@example.com.
Our new exhibition, opeing on February 5, explores the history and meaning of the alphabet and its treatment in ABC books, for children and adults.
It will be open in our galleries through the end of April. A short article on the exhibit can be found here. Please come to the opening on the 5th at 5:30 to hear Dr. Pat Feehan of the School of Library and Information Science give opening remarks!
The Libraries have recently received a large gift of the family library and material culture collections of Mr. Hemrick (Hink) Salley of Salley, SC. Parts of the library have been in his family for several generations, and Mr. Salley himself is an avid collector with varied interests.
One area he has especially focused on is African American literature, culture, and history, especially in the South. In addition to a substantial book collection, currently being cataloged here in the Irvin department, there is a large ephemera collection relating to African American imagery and race in America that stretches back to Reconstruction.
Much, if not most, of this imagery is overtly stereotypical and racist. There are many colored photo postcards from the early 20th century depicting rural life across the South as well as comic postcards with racist caricatures. Of especial interest are the late 19th century items, such as a number of tintypes with African American portraits and a large group of advertising cards, fold-out pieces, and trade cards featuring African Americans.
All told, there are several hundred pieces in the collection, which is now available for research use.
Many manufacturers, Northern and Southern, adopted “old South” imagery in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to advertise their products to consumers in all parts of the United States. This nostalgia for an idealized antebellum world of placid Southern order was, of course, far from the reality experienced by those enslaved. The degrees to which African Americans are in turn idealized, scorned, laughed at, disparaged, and threatened in these pieces varies widely in scope and degree, from the relatively mild to the shockingly violent. As a result, this collection will have a great deal of future research value to students of American history, advertising, visual culture, and race.
I have consciously chosen to show several of what I will call milder images of racial difference in this post. There are many more items that are far more disturbing in the collection, and for that reason they are worth preserving, if perhaps not reproducing widely here. The collection is open and available for use anytime, and I would welcome further inquiries about it.
The new Brad Pitt film “Killing Them Softly,” which just opened, is based on Cogan’s Trade, George V. Higgins’s third novel, published in 1974. Anthony Lane just reviewed the film in The New Yorker, and his review (quoted above) is half concerned with the film, and half about the significance of Higgins as an author. Lane thinks Higgins is often overlooked when filmmakers (and readers) are looking for source material on gritty realism, authentic dialogue, and treatments of low-life in general amongst small-time hoods, thugs, politicos, and other mostly shady creatures.
We have known this all along, of course, because the Irvin Department houses Higgins’s papers, including all the drafts of Cogan’s Trade, his other novels, short fiction, journalism, law practice records, newspaper columns, and much, much more. In fact, it is our largest and most comprehensive author collection, as Higgins saved everything from his several careers, and it is all here and available for research. More information on Higgins and the collection can be found here.
Higgins was a significant influence on Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, and many others. His name is consistantly referenced up as one of the writers who best “gets” Boston on paper. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, his first novel, was made into an excellent film in 1973 starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle. It’s currently available on Netflix and on DVD.
Here’s to more popular interest in Higgins’s work!