The Archivist’s Nook: Ivory Triptych – Renaissance on Display

Ivory Triptych, France, 16th century, New Museum Collection (NMC280), Special Collections, Catholic University.

The following is a selection from Catholic University student Katie Coyle’s class paper on the Ivory Triptych, a piece of Renaissance-era art held by Special Collections at the University. Ms. Coyle’s piece was submitted as an assignment for Professor Tiffany Hunt’s course ART 272: The Cosmopolitan Renaissance and edited by University Archivist William J. Shepherd. The students used art from the University collections for their papers.

To understand the Renaissance and its global connections, one should look at a specific period object and its cultural influences. Although focused in Italy, the Renaissance encompassed cultural influences across the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Africa, and the East and involved a combination of materials, styles, and images from various cultures and artistic traditions. The Ivory Triptych found in the Catholic University Special Collections is a visual representation of important elements of this global Renaissance. It is large at 42 ¾ by 33 ⅝ inches, depicting various Gospel scenes. Special Collections notes indicates it to be one of the largest known ivory triptychs. It is made of wooden panels covered with carved ivory elements displaying scenes of Christ, Mary, and various saints. Two small side panels in the front are fastened by two locking devices to keep them shut when necessary. Metal pieces are attached on the back wood panels to attach the piece to a wall as a hanging decoration. The artist and creation date are unknown, but it has been identified sixteenth century French. The donor, Rev. Arthur T. Connolly, an avid traveler and one of the most prominent benefactors represented in Special Collections, gifted it to Catholic University on May 5, 1917.

Diptych with Scenes of the Life of Christ and the Virgin, Saint Michael, John the Baptist, Thomas Becket, and the Trinity. Special Collections, Catholic University.

The original donation remarks include a description of the figural scenes and specific symbolic representations of the Ivory Triptych. It also contains a reference to its original placement (before being collected) as part of the back of a church altar, though the church or location in France is unknown. It was meant to be viewed most often in its open state because the elaborate and skillful decoration, including all of the ivory elements, are only visible when it is fully open. Although the Ivory Triptych originally served within a faith-based context of worship as a church altarpiece, it is now an object of curiosity and instruction. Since 2001, the Ivory Triptych has been loaned out to several Catholic University faculty members and placed in campus offices where it is a decorative object. Removing a fine art object like this from its original context presents challenges to research who made it and for what purpose. Attempting to understand its original role and placement is important to know its true context within its specific historical setting.

In the sixteenth century, African ivory was particularly rare, especially within France, making it highly desirable for religious art. During the Renaissance, an increasing desire for exotic materials like ivory helped develop a strong trade network connecting Africa, Europe, and the East. Along with this, stylistic ideas spread and deepened cosmopolitan connections. Christian elites used art objects like small diptychs and triptychs in their homes for private worship. Larger ivories like the Ivory Triptych would be commissioned by the wealthy for various churches. Commissions were a vital aspect of Renaissance-era art as a way for artists to sell their work and for patrons to demonstrate their class standing. Art selected by the wealthy and displayed for the public in an open setting like a church, the Ivory Triptych would be on the altar for viewing with its imagery highlighting Gospel stories for a mass audience that was not literate.

Betrayal of Christ and Carrying of the Cross. Special Collection, Catholic University.

Other French ivory objects from the same period include plaques, diptychs, triptychs, and polyptychs. For example, the Diptych with Scenes of the Life of Christ and the Virgin, Saint Michael, John the Baptist, Thomas Becket, and the Trinity from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ca. 1350, depict the life of Christ and various saints. Scenes of the Annunciation, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, Presentation in the Temple, and the Resurrection are all present in the small 10 by 8 ⅚ inch diptych. The Ivory Triptych fostered a sacred atmosphere where onlookers could participate in Gospel scenes. The Adoration of the Magi and the Flight into Egypt are located in the top of the left panel. The bottom of the left panel features Christ’s Baptism and the Agony in the Garden. The top of the right panel portrays the Betrayal of Christ and the Carrying of the Cross. In the bottom right, the Entombment and Resurrection of Christ are portrayed. All of the side panels are divided into these four sections, with a column or jardiniere (floral planter) diving the section into two halves, each with a biblical story. The center of the triptych is Christ crucified with Mary directly below the cross on a pedestal. On her left are St. John the Baptist and St. Margaret of Antioch, and St. John the Divine and Mary Magdalene are on her right. Above the carved figures are ivory stars and bishops’ coats of arms. These symbols were easily recognizable to any viewer, regardless of literacy and social class.

Christ with Mary and Saints. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Symbolism within the scenes points directly to an Eastern influence as devout Christians aimed to connect with a distant land and ancient past.  Artists used symbols associated with the assumed story settings. In the Flight to Egypt the Holy Family approaches a distant setting with large palm trees in a rocky desert, symbols assumed to portray Egypt. The ornamentation on the wood and the ivory elements framing the scenes also shows a distinctly Eastern influence. On the side panels above each scene, geometric shapes in curves and points are imposed, reflecting the common use of Islamic patterns where figural imagery and depiction in a religious context were forbidden. Westerners were able to partially understand the necessary concept of ornamentation for the sake of worship and fascination with these unique styles of decoration took hold in Italy and France. By the time of the sixteenth century, Islamic decorative quality combined with French architectural tradition, can be seen in the architectural elements in the central panel of the Ivory Triptych. The detailed ornate style of the pinnacles and spires surrounding Christ are representative of the Islamic tradition of decoration and geometric elements. Along with many of the other art objects in the Catholic University collection, the Ivory Triptych points to a universality of Renaissance influence that stretched beyond Italy.

Bibliography

Baxandall, Michael. ‘Conditions of Trade,’ Painting and Experience. pp. 1-27.

Belting, Hans. ‘Perspective as a Question of Images’ Paths between East and West,’ Florence and Baghdad, 2011. pp. 13-25; 42-54.

Brotton, Jerry and Jardine, Lisa. ‘Exchanging Identity: Breaching Boundaries of Renaissance Europe,’ Global Interests: Renaissance Art between East and West, Reaktion, 2000. 11-62.

Chapuis, Julien. “Gothic Art,” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002.

‘Diptych with Scenes of the Life of Christ and the Virgin, Saint Michael, John the Baptist, Thomas Becket, and the Trinity,’ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2022.

Guérin, Sarah M. “Ivory Carving in the Gothic Era, Thirteenth–Fifteenth Centuries,” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010.

‘History of the University Museum Collection: Rev. Arthur T. Connolly,’ University Libraries, Washington DC: The Catholic University of America.

‘Ivory Triptych,’ ACUA Museum Collections: New Museum Collection, Washington DC, June 1995.

‘Remarks, No. Museum 1292,’ Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, October 17, 1927.

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Curation, Campus, and the Classroom

Special Collections has shared the University’s treasures with many classes from many schools and departments over the years: History, Library Science, Religious Studies, Anthropology, and Education among them. While we often use our museum collection materials for instructional purposes, we were privileged with our first visit from a class in the Department of Art, Rome School of Music, Drama and Art just this semester.

Professor Tiffany Hunt brought students from her course, ART 272: The Cosmopolitan Renaissance, to Special Collections this month to explore pieces dating from the 1400-1600 period. Because many of the University’s works of art hang in the classrooms, offices, and corridors of the school, this archival visit was actually a campus tour. Professor Hunt’s goal was to have students embark “on an object-based art history research project that begins with a deep engagement, slow looking, and critical analysis of 11 art objects from the early modern period (1300-1600).”

Professor Tiffany Hunt uses the University’s art collection to instruct ART 272 students in the Archives reading room in Aquinas Hall, February, 2022.

The University’s museum collection, from which the pieces were drawn, is comprised of more than 5,000 objects, with the first donations of museum items dating to before the school  opened in 1889. Up until 1905 the collection was displayed in Caldwell Hall. Starting in 1905 and continuing until 1976 parts of the collection were either displayed in McMahon Hall or Mullen Library, or were put into storage. In 1976 the university museum collection was put under the management of the archives and the collection was housed in Curley Hall vault, with items being used in campus exhibition or loaned to campus offices to be displayed and enjoyed as office decoration. The students in ART 272 focused on objects currently housed in Special Collections repositories, the archives’ reading room, Curley Hall, Salve Regina Hall, and Nugent Hall.

 

Catherine Coyle, one of ART 272’s students, notes that “the pieces I saw in the collection helped to illustrate the theme of connectivity of objects and styles that we have been discussing in the course.” Underscoring the “cosmopolitan” aspect of the course, Coyle notes that “all of the objects in the collection are connected to the era of the Renaissance in Italy, but they also visualize the movement of influences across the Mediterranean and even the East. The experience of having the ability to see these connections firsthand through the objects gave me the opportunity to fully see how expansive the Renaissance was.”

Some are surprised at the beauty and abundance of  furniture present in the Museum collection. This piece, which students examined as part of the Cosmopolitan Renaissance class, is a Spanish antique wood cabinet dated ca. 1550-1600.

 

Some students were surprised at the scope of the objects in the University’s collections. Annaliese Haman observed that “the furniture pieces surprised me. I knew that furniture had much to say about the time it was created as well as the materials available, but after the brief discussion and visit to the Archives, I was more intrigued by furniture and its uses for research and for its uses during the Renaissance.”

Students examine a terra cotta Madonna and child by Antonio Rosselino ca. 1450-70. The piece is located in Curley Hall.

 

Haman chose a painting of the Madonna and Child hanging in Salve Regina Hall for her deep analysis. Why that particular painting? I asked her. “it was close to my dorm,” she wrote,”and I wanted to research a painting. Because this piece is located in Salve Regina, I can go and view it on a frequent basis which was wonderful to be able to do. After I learned St. Genesius was pictured in the piece, I got very excited, as I have a special devotion to him.”

 

 

 

In fact, Haman recounts some of the painting’s colorful history, including a connection to the psychic, astrologer, and Washington, D.C. resident, Jeanne Dixon (1904-1997). You can read more about the ART 272 students’ adventures with their various works on Professor Hunt’s course website here: https://hunttl.wixsite.com/website. Additionally, we will publish selected works by the students here at The Archivist’s Nook in the coming weeks.

ART 272 student Annaliese Haman chose to examine this Madonna and child painting hanging in Salve Regina Hall, for which she found a rich and interesting history.

Sources:

  1. Professor Tiffany Hunt, The Cosmopolitan Renaissance website: https://hunttl.wixsite.com/website
  2. Email communications between Maria Mazzenga, Catherine Coyle (March 14, 2022), and Annaliese Haman (April 8, 2022).

 

 

Trial Database: MGG ONLINE

Attention music researchers!

Through March 30, 2022, the University Libraries has a trial running for MGG OnlineMGG Online builds on the second edition of Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (which the University Libraries has in print), offering new and updated content. MGG Online’s content covers an array of topics not only in all areas of music but also in related fields, such as literature, philosophy, and the visual arts.

This is the time of year when  librarians in the University Libraries begin to think about new e-resources for the next fiscal year, so your feedback will be most appreciated.  Try it out and if you’d like to share your thoughts, please send your comments to Joan Stahl (stahlj@cua.edu), Director, Research and Instruction,  by 4/15/2022.

OLL Blog – A selection of gems: nineteenth-century Brazilian Literature and Culture materials from the Oliveira Lima Library collection – Giovanna Gobbi Alves Araujo

Giovanna Gobbi Alves Araújo 

Doutora em Literatura Brasileira, Universidade de São Paulo (CNPq/Fulbright) 

Scholar-in-residence at the Brasiliana Guita and José Mindlin Library (BBM-USP)

giovannagobbi@alumni.usp.br

Cover of A confederação dos Tamoyos…(1857).

 

Manoel de Oliveira Lima’s efforts in curating a personal library throughout the years dedicated to diplomatic service, teaching, and research built a collection of immeasurable value not only for Latin American Studies, but for Brazilian Literature in particular. 

 

Thanks to a Fulbright fellowship, I had the privilege of consulting a number of books and pamphlets related to Brazilian History and Literature at the Oliveira Lima Library, which have greatly contributed to my doctoral investigation of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian representation in nineteenth-century Brazilian epic poetry. Among myriads of holdings, the consultation of A confederação dos Tamoyos (1857), the Souvenir of the “Land of Palms” [1892?], and the Discussão litteraria entre o notavel jornalista bahiano Belarmino Barreto e os Drs. Frederico Lisboa, Arthur Americano e Aquino Fonseca acerca das poesias de Castro Alves, por occasião das manifestações do decennario do desapparecimento deste immortal poeta (1902) were notably significant in establishing the rhetorical-poetic traditions and the socio-cultural practices that underlay the construction of Indianist and abolitionist works committed to the rewriting of national history in the nineteenth century.

A confederação dos Tamoyos is an epic poem in ten cantos by Domingos José Gonçalves de Magalhães (1811-1882) that focuses on Native Brazilians’ resistance to Portuguese colonizers in the sixteenth century and the demise of indigenous peoples following their confrontation with European armed forces. Its mythological narrative, commissioned by the emperor Pedro II, was part of the political project of the Second Reign, which entailed the forging of national symbols through artistic, historiographic, and literary productions. Published in 1856, A confederação dos Tamoyos is not only Magalhães’s most prominent work, but a paradigm of nation-building literature for subsequent poets. OLL owns the 1857 edition, a reprint of the 1856 editio princeps by the same typographer, the Empresa Tipográfica Dous de Dezembro.  

Title page of A confederação dos Tamoyos…(1857).

Souvenir of the “Land of Palms” is an extremely rare pamphlet that presents the poem “Canção do Exílio” written in Coimbra, Portugal, in 1843 by Antônio Gonçalves Dias (1823-1864) and its English version, “The exile’s song”, translated by D. M. Fox in Bornemouth, England, in 1892. The unique material also contains a handwritten French translation of the poem [La chanson de l’exile], possibly transcribed by Manoel de Oliveira Lima himself. There is no mention of the translator’s name in the French version of the poem. Its pages are decorated with sepia illustrations of tropical plants, palm trees in particular, which evoke the Edenic landscape depicted by European travelers to the New World. In a nostalgic mood, “Canção do exílio”, published in “Poesias Americanas”–Primeiros Cantos, inaugurated a particular mode of representation of the Brazilian natural landscape and an emotive viewpoint from which to represent Brazilian indigenous cultures. The publication of “Canção do Exílio” as a souvenir in the late nineteenth century illustrates the interest of anglophone and francophone readerships in Dias’s work, a testament to the longevity of his Indianist writings.

Front page of Souvenir of the “Land of Palms” by Antônio Gonçalves Dias. Translated by D. M. Fox, n.p., [1892?].
Discussão litteraria is a compilation of texts first published in the Bahian periodical press in 1881 concerning the public commemoration of the ten year anniversary of the death of Antonio de Castro Alves (1847-1871),  a republican and abolitionist poet, playwright, and activist. Though some commentators celebrated Alves’s poetry and political reach in his own time, others emphasized the limitations of his writing, which was prone to hyperbolic diction. From the late nineteenth century on, critiques of his work oscillated between praise and repudiation, both of which can be identified in this singular edition. In nearly 400 pages and three volumes, intellectuals Belarmino Barreto, Frederico Lisboa, Arthur Americano, and Aquino Fonseca discuss the (de)merits of Castro Alves’s work and the parameters of literary criticism as well as argue over the literary pre-eminence of various European authors, offering insightful remarks on the cultural atmosphere of nineteenth-century Brazil. 

Title page of Barreto and Lisboa’s Discussão litteraria (1902).

From books and pamphlets to manuscripts, the items related to Brazilian literature and culture in the Oliveira Lima Library (OLL) collection open up avenues of possibility for scholars of the Nineteenth-century and cast light on a complex period of Brazilian history. 

Works cited

Barreto, Belarmino, and Frederico Lisboa. Discussão litteraria entre o notavel jornalista bahiano Belarmino Barreto e os Drs. Frederico Lisboa, Arthur Americano e Aquino Fonseca acerca das poesias de Castro Alves, por occasião das manifestações do decennario do desapparecimento deste immortal poeta. 3 v. Typographia Genesio de Souza Pitanga,1902.

Dias, Antônio Gonçalves. Souvenir of the “Land of Palms”. Translated by D. M. Fox, n.p.,[1892?].

Magalhães, Domingos José Gonçalves de. A confederação dos Tamoyos; poema. Rio de Janeiro: Empreza Typographica Dous de Dezembro, 1857.

The Archivist’s Nook: Catholic University’s Sisters of Life Collections

March for Life Program Journal, January 22,1990 edition. March for Life Memorabilia, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Special Collections at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., is happy to announce the receipt in September of the donation of eight small collections of Pro-Life archival materials from The Sisters of Life of New York City. While the Sisters decided to donate the bulk of their archives, centered on the Joseph Stanton Papers, to Harvard’s Schlesinger Women’s History Library, it is nevertheless gratifying for Catholic University to host at least a portion of this valuable archive dedicated to an issue of vital importance to the American Catholic Church.

Natural Family Planning Pamphlet, n.d. Natural Family Planning Collection, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The Sisters of Life are a uniquely American, Roman Catholic religious institute, following the Augustinian rule.  It is both a contemplative and active religious community, dedicated to the promotion of pro-life causes. Their abbreviation S.V. stands for Sorores Vitae, which is the Latin version of their name. They were founded under the auspices of John O’Connor (1920-2000), the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York in 1991, when eight women gathered in New York to begin the new community. Since then, they have grown to over a hundred Sisters from across the globe, in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, and the Philippines. They have also expanded missions from their birthplace in New York beyond to Denver, Stamford, Philadelphia, Washington, and Toronto.

Secular Feminist Publication, Spokeswowan, November 1, 1979. Catholic and Other Periodicals Collection. Special Collections, The Catholic University of Amerca.

The new collections at Catholic University total fifty-one boxes, over sixty linear feet, covering the 1970s to 2000. They include the Abortion Parental Consent Legal Research Case Files from the University of St. Thomas Law School, the Center for the Rights of the Terminally Ill Collection, The Long Island Grass Roots Pro-Life Collection, March for Life Memorabilia, National Right to Life News Complete Collection, Natural Family Planning Archival Collection, Pro-Life Movement Newsletters and Periodicals, and various rare Catholic and other periodicals.

Report Newsletter, July/August/September 1990 Edition. Center for the Rights of the Termininally Ill Collection. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Each of these collections will be processed, primarily by student workers and practicum volunteers, to create online finding aids (inventories), joining those presently on the Special Collections website.(1) We also plan to craft a Pro-life research guide to the related materials. For more information on these and other collections, including another order of homegrown sisters, please contact us at https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/archives/about/contact-us.html 

 

(1) Special thanks to Brandi Marulli, both for visiting the Sisters of Life in person in 2020 to assess their records, and for her help with this blog post.

Latin American Independence: a guide to resources at the Oliveira Lima Library and Catholic University’s Special Collections

In anticipation of the upcoming celebrations of the bicentennial of the independence movements of many Latin American countries, the Oliveira Lima Library has collaborated with Special Collections on a guide to relevant source material. 

Holland, William, active 1782-1817. General Miranda, an accurate likeness taken at Barbadoes (1806).

 

While the materials presented focus on Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela, we cannot overstate just how much impact these independence movements had throughout the whole of the European continent, particularly in the ever more powerful British Empire. Readers will thus note the presence of many materials written in English. It should also be noted that the materials contained in this guide do not merely relate to portrayals of the great figures of the time, though figures like Agustín de Iturbide, Simón Bolívar, Francisco de Miranda and Dom João VI are certainly present. In many instances, readers will also gain insight into daily life in the erstwhile colonies.

We hope you enjoy this guide as much as we did working alongside the staff at Special Collections! To access the libguide, please visit the following link: https://guides.lib.cua.edu/c.php?g=1163778

Chamberlain, Henry, Lieutenant, 1796-1843. Views and costumes of the city and neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1822). Plate 4: A market stall.

To access materials in the Oliveira Lima Library, please schedule a visit with us via email at cua-limalibrary@cua.edu.

SAGE Video Collection: Trial through July 8, 2021

The University Libraries offers a trial of a rich and diverse collection of videos across the social, behavioral, and health sciences.  The SAGE Video Collection is designed to support instruction, learning, and research in colleges and universities.  The subject areas represented in this trial include business & management; counseling & psychotherapy; criminology & criminal justice; education; geography, earth & environmental science; health & social care; leadership; media & communication; nursing; politics & international relations; psychology, social work, and sociology. The videos range from documentaries to in-practice classes, interviews, tutorials, and raw observational footage.

Enjoy exploring and tell us what you think of this resource.  To get started, click here. To let us know what you liked or didn’t like, click here.

OLL Blog – Paesi nouamente retrouati. Et Nouo Mondo da Alberico Velputio Florentino intitulato (1507): Findings from a Study of the Oldest Book in the Oliveira Lima Library

Paesi nouamente retrouati. Et Nouo Mondo da Alberico Velputio Florentino intitulato (1507):
Findings from a Study of the Oldest Book in the Oliveira Lima Library

Erin Mir-Aliyev

Master of Science in Library and Information Science – The Catholic University of America
Flora de Oliveira Lima Fellowship for Graduate Students in Library and Information Science – The Oliveira Lima Library

Image 1: Rare Books shelf at the Oliveira Lima Library

As part of a rare books course this past fall, I was given an assignment to choose any book I wanted and to “write its biography”. Since I wanted to be able to review and make use of everything I had been learning about how to conduct bibliography in my classes, as well as take advantage of all of the rare books available to me in the Oliveira Lima Library collection, I decided to take a closer look at the oldest book contained in it – a work titled Paesi nouamente retrouati. Et Nouo Mondo da Alberico Velputio Florentino intitulato (Images 2 and 3). Compiled by Fracanzano da Montalboddo and first published in 1507, it contains the first printed narrative of the voyage of discovery of Brazil by Pedro Alvares Cabral among other early accounts of early exploratory voyages by Europeans, and is a very significant resource for many patrons of the collection.

Resources Consulted

Image 2: Front cover of Oliveira Lima Library’s copy of Paesi
Image 3: Title Page of Oliveira Lima Library’s copy of Paesi

My main task was to examine the physical characteristics of the copy available to me, the digitized version of the 1507 edition copy held by Oliveira Lima Library and available to the CUA community through Gale’s Brazilian and Portuguese History and Culture collection, in order to understand the processes involved in how it was made. I also compared this copy to another edition, which in this case was a digitized copy of a 1508 edition published as a facsimile in 1916 and held at Harvard University’s collection. Besides these two copies of the book, I also found useful information from outside sources including Ruth E. V. Holmes’ 1926 bibliography Bibliographical and historical description of the rarest books in the Oliveira Lima collection at the Catholic university of America, lists of known editions such as the one on the John Carter Brown Library website, Philip Gaskell’s book A New Introduction to Bibliography, and a 1917 article about Vespucci reprints in The American Historical Review. Going through this process allowed me to better understand where to go for bibliographical information and what to look for when studying books as artifacts, in order to gather clues about a book’s origin and the history of its development. This exercise also highlighted the continued importance of being able to physically, not only digitally, access books in library collections, as the information I was able to glean was limited by only viewing digitized versions. In order to give an idea of what kinds of information bibliographical research can uncover, as well as some limitations encountered, I briefly describe a few interesting things I discovered by analyzing the information I found through secondary sources as well as from looking at the physical traits of the copies themselves.

Circumstances of Compilation and Production

While common knowledge of the culture and time period in which Paesi was written, such as the atmosphere of competition between European nations to find and claim new lands, was helpful, researching also led me to detailed information about circumstances surrounding the book’s creation. Holmes’ bibliography contributed to my understanding of this a lot. According to her, writings by Jose Carlos Rodrigues reveal that a Venetian admiral and historian named Malipiero had connections to Venetian ambassadors in Madrid and Lisbon, who covertly passed on news and details of the voyage and discovery of Brazil mentioned within the text. One of these ambassadors had access to a letter from Pero Vaz de Caminha to King Dom Manoel of Portugal concerning the voyages, and based on the knowledge contained therein wrote a letter to Malipiero. It arrived too late for Malipiero to use it in the composition of his own works. However, Fracanzano da Montalboddo, a well-known sixteenth-century professor at Vicentia, Italy, was still able to use it to compile Paesi. This bit of information reveals that detailed knowledge about these exploratory voyages was not necessarily meant to be shared between different countries or meant for the average person, and hints that this knowledge about the Portuguese journeys contained in the text was probably not meant to be published, at least not at that time or in Italy. However, certain groups of people were seeking after it and produced the text anyway.

Quality of Materials and Unfinished Pages

Image 5: Inferior Paper Quality
Image 4: Good Paper Quality

Examination of the digitized images of the paper used in the production of the 1507 edition copy appears to indicate that quality was less of a concern as printing progressed. Some pages appear to be higher quality; these are mostly in the first half of the book and appear whiter in color, flatter, and without major flaws. Other pages, mostly in the second half of the book, have a more off-white color and have many imperfections such as warping that appear to have originated in the paper-making process (Images 4 & 5). Paper quality especially seems lower towards the end of the book, in section six. This variation in paper quality throughout the book could indicate that the creator or printer was running out of money towards the end of the printing of this book, and began to use any paper he could afford. It could also indicate that time became more of a concern, and that less focus was placed on having the best materials and more focus was placed on finishing the book the later into the process he got. Paper quality does not appear to be so varied in the 1508 edition copy, though the ability to see the paper closely in this version was more difficult due to the way the facsimile was made.

As mentioned before, this activity highlighted the necessity of accessing a physical copy of a book to thoroughly research some aspects of it or confirm certain details, which was at the time impossible due to Covid restrictions. A patron’s ability to analyze certain aspects of a book like paper, chain lines, format, ink, bindings, etc. are very limited without being able to hold and handle the object in person. This activity also brought to attention how often the bindings, covers, endpapers, and flyleaves of books are often not even digitized with other content deemed significant by whoever is doing the digitizing, leading to important information contained in those features being lost to those who only have access to digital versions. Good quality digitization, with the goal of providing patrons with as close a representation of the original object as possible, should include these features in the digitization process.

Image 6: Unfinished Page with Missing Block Print Letter
Image 7: Unfinished Page with Missing Block Print Letter

Similarly, something else interesting about the 1507 edition copy is that there are several pages in the second half of the book, especially in sections five and six, where the empty space intended to contain a block print of a large, decorative beginning letter is not filled with any design (Images 6 & 7).

Since this is something that would have been completed by hand after printing with the press, it is as if the printer was inattentive or rushed at this point in the process. When taken into consideration along with the decreasing paper quality mentioned above, it could indicate an instance of rushed production in which these details were not carefully checked before distribution of the final product. It could also indicate the importance of the written content over artistic details. It is unknown whether this is something unique to this individual copy, or something encountered in all 1507 edition copies. In contrast, the 1508 edition copy I looked at does not appear to be missing any of these images.

Different Perspectives Over Time

Reviewing the editions of this work that have been produced since the first one in 1507, also led me to realize how Paesi has remained relevant and important for scholars since the sixteenth century, but the format in which it is presented has changed. Unlike the 1507 edition and other early editions in which Paesi was published as its own standalone book, the 1916 version of the 1508 edition was created as part of a series of similar books, all containing Vespucci texts. The context of creation for this 1916 version is different in that the text is embedded within a body of similar information not originally associated with it, and the point of view of the creator and reader of this one is very different from the one that a creator or reader in 1507 would have had. The knowledge we now have of the events and results of the age of exploration contributes to how the information about it is now presented, consumed, and understood.

All of the conclusions made in this study are of course preliminary, but this was still a valuable exercise that taught me to start thinking as bibliographers do about the materials I encounter each day. 

Changes to Curbside Pick-up

Beginning Monday, November 30, curbside pick-up becomes book pick-up and moves from the back of Mullen Library to inside its front doors.  Library borrowers will still need to follow the instructions in the Libraries COVID-19 Information Guide to request a specific book(s) and schedule a pick-up time, but we anticipate that this change will save staff time and enable us to fill more requests.

Book pick-up hours from November 30 through the end of the semester will be M-F, 11 AM – 1 PM and M, W, F, 3 – 4 PM.

Library borrowers will enter the library wearing a face mask.  They will show their CU ID to the guard at the Welcome Desk and be directed to the opposite side of the Welcome Desk where they will pick-up their bagged item(s) and exit the library.

The Archivist’s Nook: What’s So Special About Special Collections?

Most major institutional libraries have Special Collections, but what exactly are Special Collections and why are they so special? A special collection is a group of items that includes rare books, museum objects, or archival documents. They are irreplaceable or otherwise unique and valuable. Special collections are usually housed separately from the mainstream library collections and are secured in locations with environmental controls that enhance preservation. Special collections include rare materials that are focused on specific topics such as labor relations, social welfare, and military history. They benefit researchers by consolidating related items together in one repository that are distinguishable from the other libraries. At The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., our Special Collections consists of four distinct departments that have converged over the course of the last century and longer. These departments include the Museum, Rare Books, University Archives, and the Manuscript collection named The American Catholic History Research Collection. This current configuration was created in May 2019, though each department has its own unique history.[1]

Brandi Marulli, Special Collections Technician, with a Statue of St. Francis from the CU Museum Collection.

The Museum’s first donations arrived before Catholic University opened its doors in 1889 and were displayed in Caldwell Hall until 1905. Thereafter, items were housed in McMahon Hall, Mullen Library, or put into storage. Management of the Museum was placed under the University Archives in 1976 and was primarily kept in the Curley Hall Vault. Since then, some items are kept stored in Aquinas Hall while many others are loaned out to various campus offices to use for decoration. Today, it includes art works and artifacts representing different periods and genres which total over 5,000 pieces. They are broken down into three main categories:  Art and Artifacts, History, and Anthropology. The first includes paintings, statues, terra cotta works, ivories, and triptychs, Asian objets d’art, a coin collection from the Classical World, lithographs, engravings, modern works by Gene Davis and S. Saklarian, as well as varied decorative arts and furniture. The second consists of portraits and busts of important religious figures, artifacts related to the university, and Catholic devotional objects, while the third is made up of Ancient Near East archaeological artifacts, Native American implements and pottery, and ethnographic items from Samoa, the Philippines, and North America. For additional information or to inquire about a loan, please contact lib-archives@cua.edu.

Shane MacDonald, Special Collections Archivist, with an Early Modern Choir Book from the Rare Books Collection in Mullen Library.

The Rare Books Department was created by donations from Arthur T. Connolly, the Clementine Library, and the Maryland Collections that converged from the 1910s to the 1950s. The holdings contain approximately 70,000 volumes, which range from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth century authors. Its primary holdings contain printed books and pamphlets dating back to the fifteenth century, over 100 incunabula[2], and 1,400 books from the sixteenth century. There are also over 100 manuscripts, spanning from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries, and include papal bulls, books of hours, choir books and, in particular, the Quodlibeta of Godfrey of Fontaines. A significant section is the Clementine Library, acquired from the remains of the Albani family library, of which a member of whom was Pope Clement XI. Other collections include Connolly’s eighteenth and nineteenth century books and pamphlets, Richard Foley’s modern literature, the Order of Malta materials, Michael Jenkins’ Maryland Collection, pre Vatican II pamphlets, and American parish histories. For additional information, or to schedule a tour or class visit, please contact-lib-rarebooks@cua.edu.

W. J. Shepherd, University Archivist and Head of Special Collections, with the 1885 Deed for Catholic U. signed by Frederick Douglass, D.C. Recorder of Deeds.

The University Archives officially opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1949, with an impressive ceremony that included Wayne Grover, who was Archivist of the United States; Archbishop O’Boyle, chancellor of the university; Ernst Posner, archivist of American University and a seminal theorist of archives; and Philip Brooks, president of the Society of American Archivists. They spoke about the importance of archives in regard to the preservation of culture as well as the Catholic Church’s long tradition as a keeper of historical records. As the official memory of the University, the Archives acquires and administers non-current records, organized by office, department, or program, which document institutional activities. Materials often include minutes, reports, correspondence, photographs, or digital materials.  The donating office controls access but may not destroy any records in the Archives. Any questions can be directed to lib-archives@cua.edu.

Dr. Maria Mazzenga, Curator of the American Catholic History Collection, with a photograph from the T.V. Powderly Papers of women delegates, including L. Barry with her infant daughter, to the 1886 Knights of Labor meeting.

The Manuscript Collection, also known as The American Catholic History Research Collection, was founded in tandem with the University Archives in 1949. It has the separate function of collecting personal papers and institutional records beyond Catholic University which document the heritage and history of the American Catholic people. Areas of concentration are social welfare, philanthropy, labor relations, immigration, and international peace, in addition to Catholic intellectual, educational, cultural, and religious lives. These manuscript collections contain unpublished primary sources such as correspondence, meeting minutes, diaries, photographs, maps, oral histories, electronic records, and sound and video recordings. Consisting of over 400 collections, they range in size of less than one linear foot for the Josephine McGarry Callan Papers to major organizations such as the National Catholic Education Association equally nearly 700 linear feet. The index of collections lists them all alphabetically, with further links to more detailed descriptions including finding aids or inventories. To inquire about remote or in person access, please contact us lib-archives@cua.edu.

Our full-time professional staff, whether working remotely or on site, and assisted by several graduate student workers or volunteer interns, are here and happy to assist researchers and other interested parties as needed. We are happy to present on our materials to classes either virtually or in-house in the Rare Books space in Mullen Library or the other departmental materials in Aquinas Hall. These include myself as University Archivist and Head of Special Collections; Dr. Maria Mazzenga, Curator of the American Catholic History Collections; Shane MacDonald, Special Collections Archivist; and Brandi Marulli, Special Collections Technician. Please see our ‘Contact’ page, our ‘Come Visit Us’ page, and our ‘Reproduction’ policies.[3]

 

  

 

 

[1] Additionally, there are also two other independent and highly specialized Special Collections: The Oliveira Lima Library dedicated to the history and culture of Portugal and Brazil and the Semitics-Institute of Christian Oriental Research Library supporting the languages and thought of the Bible and Ancient Near East.

 

[2] An incunable, or sometimes incunabulum is a book, pamphlet, or broadside printed in Europe before 1501. Incunabula are not manuscripts, which are documents written by hand. As of 2014, there are about 30,000 distinct known incunable editions extant, 

[3] Thanks to MM, and SM.