The Archivist’s Nook: Conservation in Rare Books, Part II

First folio of MS 126. Image of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, often pictured with the devil in chains.

This past academic year, Special Collections staff continued our long-term project of addressing conservation issues within the Catholic University’s Rare Books collection. As “Part I” of the conservation blog post reported, we began by looking at four of our late medieval European manuscripts. While we continue to prioritize our handwritten manuscripts, this time, the date and geographic range of Quarto’s efforts varied from medieval Europe to late colonial Mexico! 

Our goal in Special Collections is to provide both our external and campus patrons with access to the works they need to research and study. And thus, our number one goal in conserving these manuscripts was to render them stable for both eventual digitization and in-person access, without damaging the text or any original materials in the binding.

As this project progresses, we will continue to keep the campus community informed about the ongoing conservation work and what materials are now safe for full access! And thus, without further ado, we present the five most recently conserved works:

MS 115 – Exposed textblock on the top. Bottom: the rebound textblock.

1. Quadriga Spirituale, ca. 1500, (MS 115)

This work faced real challenges with its binding. The original binding had become quite loose, with tears throughout. The conservators stabilized the binding using wheat starch and Japanese tissue. The binding was preserved and stored in a separate box with a foam insert to mimic the original textblock (the pages inside the covers and binding) and support the binding.

The endbands (the cords affixed on a book spine to provide structural support) of the textblock were stabilized, with the spine stabilized through Japanese tissue and new alum tawed (a calf leather prepared with a liquid solution to create a white appearance) sewing supports sown in. The text was covered with a handmade non-adhesive paper binding to protect the spine and text.

2. Instruccion del Estado del Regno de Mexico, 1794 (MS 121)

MS 121 – The exposed textblock (left). After stabilization, the covered work (right).

This volume lacked any binding, leaving the textblock fully exposed. The spine was loose, with tears in the page caused by abrasive iron gall ink used in the original writing. Iron gall ink was a widely used ink in European works until the nineteenth century, made of iron salts and tannic acids. The conservators worked to stabilize the spine and remove – but conserve for our records – some of the abrasive papers and glue in the spine. They cleaned, stabilized, and mended the tears caused by the ink on the first few pages of the text. A paper binding was created to cover and protect the work.

3. Meditationes Beati Bernardi Abbatis, ca. 1400 (MS 126)

The text’s binding and end cover boards (front and back) were loose, with the boards completely detached from the textblock. This binding was a nineteenth-century addition to the original text.

MS 126 – Left: Detached cover boards. Right: Cover boards reattached to the textblock.

The conservators cleaned the spine and end boards, stabilizing them. They then carefully reattached the endsheets (blank sheets often bound at either end of a textblock to protect the text) and end boards to the textblock. Utilizing microscopic analysis, they reviewed the ink of the text to see if any stabilization was required and noted that none was currently necessary. 

4. The interior Christian or a sure guide for those who aspire to perfection in the spiritual life, 1796 (MS 262)

The leather cover was worn along the spine, but the most grave concern about this work was that the binding and textblock was split down the middle of the spine. The work was literally falling in half, with the two halves stiff and difficult to open.

MS 262 – One the left image, the split in the spine is visible. One the right, the mended spine.

The conservators stabilized the leather front and back cover boards, as well as cleaned the interior of the text. They gently lifted the leather spine and added new sown bindings to stabilize the textblock and make it accessible to readers again. The original spine was removed and safely stored with our records, with a new paper spine created to cover the binding.

5. Theologiae polemicae, 1733 (MS 264)

MS 264 – Top shows the red rot damaged cover, with the loose pieces on the spine. Bottom: the new cover.

This work’s leather cover was heavily damaged through red rot. The spine of the cover had completely disintegrated over the years, leaving the threads of the binding exposed. However, the threads were heavily compromised, offering no support to the text and thus rendering the pages loose. Some damage was noted along the pages that had been in close contact with the leather binding. The binding is original to the text, but was so damaged that it needed to be replaced (but with the threads and cover boards kept). 

The conservators unbound the text and carefully paginated the pages to maintain proper order. The spine was cleaned and tears throughout the text mended with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. The textblock was resewn, with new endsheets added to protect the original pages. A historically similar binding with boards was created to protect the text.

To find out more about these books or the general Catholic University Rare Books collection, please contact us at: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu

Our digitized manuscripts may also be viewed at this link.

The Archivist’s Nook: The Dress at the End of the Rainbow

If you were around during the Golden Age of Hollywood, you would have heard of Mercedes McCambridge. She had an Oscar winning role as Best Supporting Actress in the 1949 movie All the King’s Men. She was nominated for the same award in the 1956 film Giant. If you haven’t seen either of those classics or are more into horror, you might have heard her voice the demon Pazuzu in the 1973 film classic, The Exorcist. Indeed, she was renowned for her voice. Orson Welles, who, incidentally, addressed Catholic University’s first class of drama students in 1939, called her “the world’s greatest living radio actress.”

A Mercedes McCambridge publicity photo from the 1949 film All the King’s Men. (Photo: AP Wirephoto.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCambridge was also an artist-in-residence here at Catholic University from 1972-1973, lured, no doubt, by the University’s stellar drama program and its illustrious head, Father Gilbert Hartke (1907-1986). McCambridge once commented on Father Hartke’s sartorial tastes, which extended well beyond the Dominican robes of his order to include a silk Nehru jacket, a six foot long aviator scarf, a Russian fur hat and light blue canvas sneakers, among many other articles of clothing.

Most of these articles were gifts given to him by those who knew he loved clothing and costumes. And were it not for his extravagant tastes, we perhaps might not today have an absolutely precious piece of cinematic history: one of the dresses Judy Garland wore on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Articles in The Tower and The Washington Post allude to it, and rumors have swirled for years that Hartke had the dress, but it wasn’t until recently that Matt Ripa, Lecturer and Operations Coordinator at the Drama Department rediscovered it. I asked Mr. Ripa how he found the dress, and he responded that he too, “had heard rumors that Father Hartke was gifted Dorothy’s dress and that it was located somewhere in the building.” But “I could never get confirmation on exactly where it was located.” He explains:

I had looked in our archives, storage closets, etc. to no avail. I assumed it was a tall tale (of which many exist for Father Hartke). Our building is in the process of renovations and upgrades, so I was cleaning out my office to prepare. I noticed on top of the faculty mailboxes a trashbag and asked my co-worker to hand it to me. On the trashbag was a note for our former chair stating that he had found ‘this’ in his office and that he must have moved it when he moved out of the chair’s office… I was curious what was inside and opened the trashbag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoe box was the dress!! I couldn’t believe it. My co-worker and I quickly grabbed some gloves and looked at the dress and took some pictures before putting it back in the box and heading over to the archives. I called one of our faculty members and former chair, who always told me the dress existed and that it was in the building to let her know that I had found it. Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in the Hartke during my time at CUA, but I think this one takes the cake.

McCambridge gave Father Gilbert Hartke one of the dresses Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939) when she was an artist in residence in the early 1970s. Though rumors of the dress have swirled for decades, the dress was only recently located by Matthew Ripa in the Drama Department. Father Hartke is pictured here with student Carol Pearson holding the dress, ca. 1975-76. There are several photos of Hartke holding the dress in the University’s Special Collections. (Photo: Special Collections, The Catholic University of America)

As archivists, we were obliged to work on gaining additional documentation for this popular culture national treasure. Objects such as this one might be forged and passed off as authentic because of their cultural and monetary value. So how do we know the dress is the real thing? We do not yet know how Mercedes McCambridge got the dress, though we do know she was a Hollywood contemporary of Judy Garland’s and that they were supposedly friends. McCambridge was friends with many luminaries in the film and radio industry. Garland had died by the time the dress went from McCambridge to Father Hartke. Moreover, we have several photos of Father Hartke holding the dress, and the abovementioned articles from The Tower and The Washington Post referencing it. So the circumstantial evidence is strong.

Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz dress in June, 2021. Judy’s name is written by hand on the inside of the dress, as the second image shows. (Photos by Shane MacDonald and Maria Mazzenga)

 

Nonetheless, we reached out to experts in cultural memorabilia at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The Museum has several artifacts from the Wizard of Oz set, including a famous pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. Curator with the Division of Cultural and Community Life, Ryan Lintelman, an expert in the Museum’s Oz memorabilia, offered a wealth of information he’s gathered on the history of the film’s Dorothy dresses. There were several of them, though it appears that five, excluding the University’s dress, have been verified as probably authentic. All of the dresses have certain verifiable characteristics: a “secret pocket” on the right side of the pinafore skirt for Dorothy’s handkerchief, “Judy Garland” written by hand in a script specific to a single person who labeled all of the extant dresses in the same hand, for example. Apparently, the thin material of the blouse was prone to tearing when Garland took it off after filming, and a seamstress often repaired it before she donned it for the next shoot. The Hartke dress has all of these characteristics, including blouse tears where the pinafore straps sat on the shoulders.

Smithsonian staff members, from left, Dawn Wallace, Sunae Park Evans, and Ryan Lintelman examine the dress, June 2021. (Photo by Maria Mazzenga)

 

 

Lintelman, along with his colleagues at the Museum, Dawn Wallace, Objects Conservator, and Sunae Park Evans, Senior Costume Conservator, paid us a visit to view the dress. Employees at the Museum are not authorized to authenticate objects like this one, but they suggested that the dress was consistent with the other objects from the film, and that the evidence around the dress was strong.

Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz dress, once the province of myth, is now a real object in the University’s Special Collections. We can now preserve it in proper storage in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. By the way, if any of you readers have your own story connected to this dress, drop us a line!

A scene that needs no explaining… (Photo: Silver Screen/Getty)

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Mary Jo Santo Pietro, Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy (Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 201.

“Father Hartke: Kudos from the President, A Look At the Past,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1975, B1. The article alludes to “the original gingham dress that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz,” hanging in his closet.

McCambridge talks about her relationships with various Hollywood figures throughout her autobiography, and specifically mentions her residency at Catholic University in the early 1970s in her autobiography, The Quality of Mercy (New York: Times Books, 1981), see pages 107, 189 for mention of her year as artist-in-residence. See also, Richard Coe,  “Backstage And Back In Town,” The Washington Post, September 9, 1972, C9.

 

OLL Blog – Engraved Illustrations of Jesuit Martyrdoms During the Persecution of Christianity in Early Modern Japan – Jan Levin Propach

Dr. Jan Levin Propach

Postdoctoral Researcher at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich – Department of Catholic Theology

 

The Oliveira Lima Library contains a collection of engraved illustrations showing Jesuit martyrdoms during the persecution of Christianity in 17th century Japan. Even though these illustrations were made in Europe in a propagandistic manner, they tell a story which is not well-known in the West: the rise and fall of Christianity in Early Modern Japan.

In 1549 Francis Xavier S.J. (1506–1552)—one of the first disciples of Ignatius of Loyola S.J. (1491–1556)—arrived at Japan’s southern Island Kyushu together with two other Jesuits and a former Samurai. What political context did the missionaries enter? Since the Ōnin War (1467–1477), Japan was no longer reigned by the emperor and a shogun (Muromachi Shogunate). Instead, dozens of small local rulers (daimyō and kunishū), different Buddhist monasteries fought for their supremacy. The three Great Unifiers Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582), Toyotomi Hideyashi (1537–1598) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) attempted to bring the Age of Warring States (sengoku) to an end and to unify the country under the reign of a shogun again.

Martyrdom of Augustinus Ota S.J. (1572-1622). IN: Cardim. Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650)

The destiny of Christianity in Japan is neatly wedded into this Age of Warring States. Many Japanese local lords allowed the Jesuits to proselytize their subjects, because they benefited from the Portuguese trade and weapon technologies. They also perceived in Christianity an instrument against the influence of different powerful Buddhist sects. On the other hand, Christian missionaries were seen as representatives of foreign powers trying to increase their influence in Japan.

Despite this, the early Japanese missions were highly successful: about 150.000 Japanese were converted in 1583; 75 Jesuits organized the Japanese mission; there was a novitiate in Usuki, seminaries in Arima and Azuchi and about ten Jesuit residences throughout Japan. However, missionaries would be increasingly perceived as antagonists to the efforts to reach the country’s unity, especially after the donation of Nagasaki to the Jesuits in 1580. Thus on July 24th, 1587 Hideyoshi issued an edict that expelled the Jesuit missionaries. This first edict had only a limited impact on the Japanese mission, although it caused the confiscation and demolition of Christian buildings, such as the college in Funai and the novitiate in Usuki. From this moment on, the Jesuit mission focused on Kyushu.

Martyrdom of Emmanuel Borges, S.J. IN: Cardim. Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650)

The pragmatic politician Hideyoshi only reluctantly tolerated the Jesuits’ bidding out of an interest in and dependence on trade with the Portuguese. These economic relations could only be achieved with the help of the Jesuits. Tokugawa Ieyasu, who followed Hideyoshi after his death in 1598, tolerated the Jesuits’ missionary activities for economic reasons too, but once he issued a trade permit for the Dutch (1609) and the English (1613), he limited the Portuguese ships to the port of Nagasaki. There was no further need of tolerance for Christianity to get involved in the profitable European trade. And when in 1612 a court intrigue—involving Okamoto Paulo Daihachi and Arima Harunobi who were both Christians—was disclosed, Ieyasu’s aversion against the Christian missionaries increased considerably.

In 1614, the bakufu, or military government, announced the expulsion of all missionaries from Japan. This edict was renewed under Ieyasu’s successor Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632) in 1616. The great martyrdoms in Kyoto 1619 (88 martyrdoms), Nagasaki in 1622 (55 martyrdoms) and Edo, now Tokyo, in 1624 (50 martyrdoms) all attest to the serious commitment of the shogun’s government to this new policy. Between 1614 and 1650, 2,128 Christians died under the persecution, 71 of whom were European missionaries (1). The following illustrations from Antonio Francisco Cardim’s Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650) in the Oliveira Lima Library depict the martyrdoms of Emmanuel Borges S.J., Augustinus Ota S.J. (1572–1622) and Diego Yuki S.J. (1574–1636) by anatsurushi (2) and by smiting with a sword.

Martyrdom of Diego Yuki S.J. (1574-1636). IN: Cardim. Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650)

By 1643, after all of Japan’s missionaries were forced either to flee to China and the Philippines, were killed or apostatized, about one hundred missionaries had secretly entered Japan to maintain the religious, and especially the sacramental life of the Church. Between 1714, the year of the death in Edo of Giovanni Battista Sidotti (1668–1714), the last priest to enter Japan secretly, until the enactment of religious freedom in 1889, Christianity survived in the underground, disconnected from the Church hierarchy. Many of those Hidden Christians rejoined the Catholic Church in the late 19th century. However, down to the present day some Christian communities remain hidden in the underground, opting not to reenter the Catholic Church in order to keep their own religious identities in contact with the greater Japanese religious environment. (3)

 

(1) For a list of all Japanese martyrdoms see Boxer, Charles Ralph. The Christian Century in Japan (1549–1650). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951, 448.

(2) Anatsurushi was a method of torture by facing the victim upside down in an Excrement-filled hole in the ground; a lid closed on the neck. Slow death made it possible for those who were tortured to renounce their faith and thus save their lives.

(3) Cf. Turnbull, Stephen. The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan. A Study of Their Development, Beliefs and Rituals to the Present Day. Richmond: Japan Library Press, 1998; Harrington, Ann M. Japan’s Hidden Christians. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1993 and Pella, Kristian. The Kakure Kirishitan of Ikitsuki Island. The End of a Tradition. Uppsala: Uppsala University, 2013.

Mullen Library Study Space Reservations: Update

Beginning Monday, April 5, reserving a study space in Mullen Library will be easier, and the library will no longer be closing during the day for cleaning. Frequent disinfecting of all common, high-contact surfaces will be on-going throughout the day.  Reservations will be available for all hours that Mullen Library is open. There will be no limitation to how many hours you may reserve, but please be courteous to other students and only schedule for times you realistically expect to use. Library users will be required to submit a reservation request at least 2 hours in advance of their selected time and reservations can be made 10 days in advance. For more information and to reserve a study space in Mullen Library, please click here.

Coptic Resources in The CUA Libraries: Part One

Henry Hyvernat  (1858-1941), the youngest member of the original faculty of The Catholic University of America, spent fifty-two years in distinguished service to The Catholic University of America. He was Professor of Oriental Languages and Biblical Archaeology (1889-1895/96) as part of the Faculty of Theology, and then Professor of Semitic Languages and Biblical Archaeology (1895/96-1910/1911) in the new School of Philosophy’s Department of Letters.  He served as Professor of Semitic Languages and Literatures (1911/12-1940/41) in what is today the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures (School of Arts and Sciences).  He is best known as a scholar of Coptic, the language of Christian Egypt.

The Hyvernat Papers are housed in Special Collections (#56 University Archives). They cover a span of some sixty-five years, from 1876 through and beyond his death in 1941. The growth and development of Coptic studies as a modern academic discipline can be tracked in the Hyvernat Papers. Series 1. General Correspondence [17 manuscript boxes = 7.33 linear ft.] is a “Who’s Who” of several generations of Coptologists and Orientalists. Series  2. Professional Correspondence. Morgan Collection [6 manuscript boxes = 2.5 linear ft.; currently on loan to the Semitics/ICOR library] contains much information about one of the major twentieth-century discoveries of ancient Christian documents in Egypt, the library associated with the Coptic Monastery of St. Michael near the modern town of Hamuli in the Egyptian Fayyum. These Papers relate to the purchase of the manuscripts by the American financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), Hyvernat’s commission to work on them, and Vatican Library restoration work on the manuscripts.

Theodore Christian Petersen, C.S.P.

The Research Papers of two other CUA Coptic scholars are housed in the Semitics/ICOR Library.  (1) The Papers of Fr. Theodore Christian Petersen, C.S.P. (1883-1966) [3 filing cases = 24 linear ft.], Hyvernat’s student, colleague, and eventual successor in the Semitics department and the Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR) after Hyvernat’s death.  The Papers contain Petersen’s collaborative work with Hyvernat on the Coptic manuscripts of the Morgan Library & Museum and Petersen’s own studies of Coptic manuscript ornament and Coptic bindings. Included are the various manuscript drafts of Petersen’s unpublished study of Coptic bindings in the Morgan Collection.  An edition of Petersen’s study of the Morgan Coptic bindings is expected this year. The Petersen Papers also include a 1935 manuscript copy of Hyvernat’s unpublished “Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the Pierpont Morgan Library” (452 leaves). (2)The Papers of Prof. Paulinus Bellet, O.S.B. (1913-1987) [2 filing cases = 15 linear ft.]. His own research was centered on the Coptic Bible and the Coptic manuscript tradition. Bellet served as Coptic editor for the Madrid Biblia Polyglotta. His Papers also include facsimile copies (microfilm and photographs) and transcriptions of Coptic manuscripts, and card file indexes.

Since March 2018 the Semitics/ICOR Library has partnered with the University Libraries Resource Management (Preservation) and then with the University Libraries Electronic Resources and Services to begin digitizing some of the Coptic research materials here. In April 2019 Katherine DeFonzo, GLP, Semitics/ICOR Library, took on primary responsibility for digitizing the ICOR collections.

Three Coptic resources are now available in Islandora:

(1) Bybliothecae Pierpont Morgan codices coptici photographice expressi 56 vols. in 63 and 1 index vol.  (8,582 images)

This is CUA’s copy of the 1922 folio facsimile edition of the Morgan Coptic codices (Hamuli Collection) prepared by Hyvernat. Only twelve sets were printed. Two of the twelve sets were reserved for the Morgan Library (now the Morgan Museum and Library) and for The Catholic University of America. The remaining ten sets were distributed around the world to the Vatican Library, the Egyptian government, and to major American and European universities and libraries. Forty-seven of the fifty-six volumes of the edition include the Hamuli codices at the Morgan Museum and Library; four volumes include the Hamuli codices at the Cairo Coptic Museum; five other volumes include Morgan Coptic manuscripts not from Hamuli. Two of the twelve sets, those at CUA and at the Morgan Museum, include facsimiles of additional related leaves not present in the other sets.

The Bybliothecae Pierpont Morgan codices coptici photographice expressi… is housed in the Semitics/ICOR Library. Shelved nearby is Hyvernat’s working set of bound photostats (reduced size) of the manuscripts. Some of the photostat images appear to show evidence of binding details no longer fully visible in the facsimile edition.

(2) 1911 Galleys of a dealer’s catalog of the Hamuli Coptic manuscripts written by the French Egyptologist Émile Chassinat (1868-1948) with the assistance of Hyvernat. The dealer’s catalog was never published because the financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1867-1943) purchased most of these manuscripts in 1911. The two sets of galley proofs were extensively annotated by Hyvernat. They provide access to the manuscripts before the purchase, and before restoration work was done on the manuscripts. (286 images).

(3) Hyvernat’s unpublished catalogs of Coptic manuscripts in European libraries: Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Berlin [1889] Berlin and London (95 images) , Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Vatican Library (167 images),  Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Clarendon Press  [1886-1887]   (261 images), Hyvernat. Crawford and Curzon Collections [n.d.] (167 images), Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Bibliothèque nationale. Paris [ca. 1886; later entries 1931] (123 images), Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Bodleian Library [n.d.] (173 images).

Manuscript collections are not static. The physical condition, location, and local identification of individual items and collections may change over time. Hyvernat’s catalogs provide valuable information about these collections as they were when he visited them–a snapshot in time. In 2017 Mark Sheridan OSB, CUA alumnus and former rector and dean of faculty, Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, Rome presented a public lecture on the value of Hyvernat’s 1886/1887 Clarendon Press catalog in tracking these manuscripts in the Bodleian Library (Oxford):  “Hidden in Plain Sight: On the Trail of the Clarendon Press Manuscripts from Mullen Library (CUA) to the Bodleian (Oxford)” .

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. 

The Archivist’s Nook: On Presidents and Parades, Part II: Bush and Biden

Image of Msgr. John A. Ryan behind US President Franklin D. Roosevelt at his January 20, 1945 Inaguration.

In January 1945, Franklin Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration was held on the White House lawn. The ongoing Second World War called for a scaled-back ceremony. Catholic University faculty member Fr. John A. Ryan was present and provided the benediction at this event. The 1945 swearing-in, highlighted in our records on past inaugurations, provides a precedent for the scaled-back ceremonies that occurred this week.

Typically the city of Washington bustles with the excitement of a presidential inauguration, with thousands of spectators gathering along the National Mall, hoping to catch sight of the new (or re-elected) President. But this year’s inaugural ceremonies were smaller due to COVID-19. So while we can’t safely attend a typical inauguration in DC this year, we can reflect on the person at the center of it all and how they are represented in the history of Catholic University. The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden represents the second time a Catholic has been sworn into the highest office in the United States, and also now represents another chapter in the long history of visits by presidents (current and future) to the Catholic University campus.

Then-Senator Joe Biden in today’s Aquinas Hall, 1978.

Like his fellow Catholic Commander-in-Chief, John F. Kennedy, Biden also paid a visit to Catholic University as a young senator! While Kennedy came to campus in 1956 to receive the Cardinal Gibbons Medal, Biden’s three known visits all involved speaking to students and parents about contemporary politics and the role of Catholic faith in 1970s America.

In September 1973, during his first year in the Senate, Biden was invited to campus by the Graduate Student Association. Addressing a crowd in Caldwell auditorium, Biden spoke about the state of American politics and the many critiques of politicians. In February 1974, Biden would again return to campus as a guest speaker during a Sunday brunch on Annual Parents’ Visitation weekend. Unfortunately, we have no reports on what he told the assembled parents over their waffles and coffee.

George H.W. and Barbara Bush, with then-CUA President Rev. William J. Byron, S.J., 1989.

In November 1978, the inaugural National Conference of Catholic College and University Student Government Leaders was held at Catholic University. A student-led conference, its 85 attendees from across the nation met in the then-Boy’s Town Center (today’s Aquinas Hall, and home to our archives!). The conference was opened by Biden, who provided a discussion on “a Catholic’s posture in contemporary America.” The student newspaper, The Tower, reports that the attendees listened to Biden discuss Catholic social teaching and its role in the politics of the late 1970s.

While Biden’s three visits to campus represent the last time a (future) President came to campus as of this writing, other Presidents such as George H.W. Bush would show their support for the school. President Bush would attend the inaugural Cardinal’s Dinner – a fundraiser for the University – which was held off campus in 1989. And perhaps there are guests and students who have walked the campus recently who will someday serve in the Oval Office?

Learn more about all the Presidential visitors to campus by checking out our video here.

Study Space Reservations, January 6: Update

Repair of the water main break on the north side of Mullen Library is taking longer than anticipated. At this time, we do not know if we will have any water in the building on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. If you have made a study space reservation for tomorrow or plan to do that, consider this information and re-schedule if you are uncomfortable being in the building without access to water.

Book pickup is not affected.

We are sorry for any inconvenience.