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The Rare Book & Manuscript Library Invites Visiting Scholar Applications

The John “Bud” Velde Visiting Scholars Program

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS, 2016-17 Program Cycle

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library annually awards two stipends of up to $3,000 to scholars and researchers, unaffiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who would like to spend a month or more conducting research with our materials.

The holdings of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library are substantial. Comprehensive collections support research in printing and printing history, Renaissance studies, Elizabethan and Stuart life and letters, John Milton and his age, emblem studies, economic history, and works on early science and natural history. The library also houses the papers of such diverse literary figures as Carl Sandburg, H. G. Wells, William Maxwell, and W. S. Merwin. In addition, it is anticipated that the Gwendolyn Brooks Papers will be open to researchers in time for this program cycle.

For information about this program, how to apply, and to find out more about The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, please visit our Web site at:

Please contact the Public Programs Manager, Dennis Sears, with further questions about the program or the Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

Or email Dennis: dsears (at) illinois (dot) edu.

Deadline for application: *5 February 2016*.

Thank you!


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The Rule of Saint Benedict

This wonderful historiated initial comes from the opening of our copy of the La regle saint Benoit, a French translation of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The illustration shows Saint Benedict addressing four attentive nuns. The artist incorporates suggestive details that give the scene a liveliness that is surprising for so small a picture. The nun closest to Benedict points to a passage, as if asking for clarification. Benedict holds his book closed, appearing to keep his place with his index finger as he pauses to answer a question.

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Decorated initials are among the most striking features of manuscripts, but they were not widely attested until the Middle Ages. Books were rarely decorated in the ancient world because, even though literacy rates were higher, oratory remained the principal means of delivery while the physical books and scrolls were relegated to supporting roles.

During the Middle Ages, with the influence of Christianity, the book became important both symbolically and practically as an instrument of textual transmission. Decorated initials helped to reveal the structure of a text by emphasizing the beginnings of works, sections and verses. Historiated initials such as this one tended to be reserved for major divisions, while smaller initials might break a text into sections. A memorably decorated initial would help a reader locate its associated text. This is especially so when it reflected the text’s meaning, as in this case, where the initial introduces the sentence, Escoute fille les coma[n]demens de ton maître [Listen, daughters, to the commandments of your teacher]. It may seem odd that the initial, so appealing to the eye, introduces the injunction to “listen.” It reflects a cultural milieu in which the reception of texts was both auditory and visual.

Our copy was produced in northeastern France toward the end of the thirteenth century. In addition to the Rule, it also contains other devotional works, including Li livres des tribulations, Chanson d’amors de pure povreteit, and three short treatises. The French has feminine inflections, suggesting that the book was made for a female readership. An inscription pasted into the book by Claude de Grilly, a nun at the Abbey of Sainte-Glossinde, suggests the book may have been made for that convent.  JC


Benedict, Saint, Abbot of Monte Cassino. La regle saint Benoit. ([Lorraine, approximately 1275-1300]). Pre-1650 MS 0098

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Like an insect in amber

It is not unusual to run across insects in old books: flies and spiders get squashed in the margins, and paper-loving silverfish perish between the pages they’ve been dining on. However, it is out of the ordinary to find one embedded in a book’s actual paper, as RBML cataloger Linda Bial did recently!

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This unfortunate spider evidently fell into the mold where fresh paper was dried during the paper-making process. Paper in the days of handpress books was a precious and pricey commodity, and undoubtedly the printer saw no reason to discard a perfectly good piece of it just because of one little arachnid. The spider portion of the paper ended up being incorporated into the final blank leaf of gathering 3R and none of the previous owners opened the uncut top edge, perhaps seeing no reason to expose the spider any more than it already was.

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The book, a mathematical work by Gerardus Vossius, was printed in Amsterdam in 1650 and the paper was likely manufactured in the same area, making this a Western European spider. It appears to be of the family Pholcidae, known informally as “cellar spiders.”

Like the ghostly handprint which cataloger Chloe Ottenhoff found in the paper of a book earlier this year (, the material presence of the spider makes book production from over 350 years ago seem like it happened just yesterday. SL

Gerardus Joannes Vossius. Gerardi Ioannis Vossii De quatuor artibus popularibus, de philologia, et scientiis mathematicis. (Amstelaedami : Ex typographeio Ioannis Blaeu, MDCL [1650])
839.38 V93q:

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Who Saw the Wright Brothers’ First Successful Flight?


When the Wright Brothers went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to successfully test their “Flyer,” the first successful airplane, they did not drag behind them a train of reporters, public relations flacks, or the other impedimenta we associate with technological breakthroughs. There was too much uncertainty; there had been too much failure before. As it happened, the December 1903 flights were a breakthrough—but unspectacular, as the Wrights struggled to control the plane.

A few scant messages about the flight leaked out from this distant outpost. They did not make an impression, except upon Amos Ives Root, a businessman in Medina, Ohio. He was a beekeeper and owned a candle business, and published a beekeeper’s journal, Gleanings in Bee Culture. Besides beeswax, he was passionate about both his fervent conservative Christian faith and about keeping abreast of the latest advances in technology. He was the first American to ride a velocipede and was an early adopter of the automobile, which he had to defend on Christian grounds to his detractors. Inspired by the bees around him, he eagerly awaited powered flight.

The Wrights, and their Flyer, were thus of tremendous interest. Root particularly liked that they were the sons of a prominent minister. In March 1904—three months after the first flight—he mentioned them in his “Our Homes” editorial column, which closed out every issue of Gleanings. Several months later, Root drove across Ohio to see the Wrights in Dayton.

By fall and winter of 1904, the Wrights had made significant improvements both to the Flyer and to their piloting skill. Over the course of 1904 they would perform over a hundred flights—again, to very little fanfare until Amos Root arrived at Huffman Prairie. There, Root was the first journalist of any definition to actually see an airplane in action—and it was quite a show, with the airplane able to make complete circles, get thirty feet in the air, and stay aloft for more than five minutes, all of which had been impossible two years earlier.

Root depicted the scene at length in “Our Homes” feature for the January 1, 1905 issue of Gleanings in Bee Culture. He began by invoking a Biblical text—“What Hath God Wrought?” from the prophet Jeremiah—which was also Samuel Morse’s first telegraph message. He described the flights he saw, the conversations he had with the Wrights and their assistants, and explained the plane’s shape and its workings, in layman’s terms.  He also speculated on the future of the airplane—even though he hedged his bets, his technological optimism shone through.

Gleanings in Bee Culture lives on as Bee Culture, and Root Candles still produces candles. Root’s status as the first published eyewitness of powered flight is just now becoming widely known. The 1904 and 1905 issues of Gleanings in Bee Culture featuring the Wrights have become rare, and the ones that survive have become brittle with age.  The University of Illinois Library is fortunate to have copies in good condition, with only minor wear. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library invites you to take a look at them, where they stand alongside a collection of other important scientific and technological articles and journals. —Alfred Wallace, graduate student, Graduate School of Library and Information Science

Gleanings in Bee Culture. Medina, Ohio: A. I. Root Co., 1904 and 1905. 638.05 G 

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Reunited for the First Time Since 1879: Six Books and an Invoice

Cavagna Receipt_2

When private libraries like the Cavagna Collection–containing over 40,000 books and manuscripts–are purchased, one of the first questions that arises is how these owners and collectors acquired their books. A Pavia native, Cavagna purchased his books primarily from booksellers around northern Italy. The evidence we’ve encountered so far suggests that he turned and returned to several sources when buying. We look at one of these sources in this post, a bookseller in Como who sold Cavagna six books in October, 1879.

We discovered this bookseller’s invoice in July 2015, laid in Constitutiones synodales Burgi S. Donnini (1697). It details six books that Cavagna bought and their prices, including the book in which we found the invoice. The bookseller was Felice Mojana whose shop was located at Via Meraviglie N. 249. Mojana advertised himself as a dealer of antique and modern books, both Italian and foreign (“stranieri”). Among the other services he offered were bookbinding and book-lending; for a 1.50 lire monthly fee and a 5 lire deposit, a customer could borrow secondhand books from the shop. Mojana also apparently bought and sold other antiques, including furniture, currency, weapons, and paintings.

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The invoice is dated the 11th of October and the total bill was 14 lire, after Mojana gave Cavagna a 5.75 lire discount. Does the discount indicate that Cavagna was rewarded for being a loyal customer, or was such generosity an everyday part of Mojana’s service? We have not yet come across any similar invoices, but there is at least one other book in the Cavagna Collection that was sold by Mojana, a scarce 1878 pamphlet titled Il Santissimo Crocifisso di Como, suggesting that Cavagna may have paid recurring visits to the shop. The invoice is also inscribed in a familiar manner by Mojana, “mi segno con profondo rispetto, il divotissimo servo Mojana Felice” (“Signed with deep respect, your devoted servant Mojana Felice”). A couple of the titles from the invoice exist in multiple copies within the Cavagna Collection, suggesting that Cavagna either did not keep track of what he owned or that he couldn’t resist a good deal.

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All six books eventually came to reside at RBML after a trans-Atlantic journey and nearly one hundred years of knocking around the University of Illinois library, and for the first time since their 1879 purchase, we’ve reunited them. Together, they provide a rich insight into a 19th-century collector and his habits. SL

Cavagna Receipt_5

1. Acta primae et secundae synodi dioec. Comen de annis MDLXV et MDLXXIX. (Comi : Apud Hieronymum Frouam, 1588). 10 lire.
274.522 C731579 copy 2:
2. Constitutiones synodales Burgi S. Donnini … (Fidenza : Typis Iosephi Rossetti, impressoris episcopalis, 1697). 2.75 lire.
274.5411 B645c:
3. Pasta, Guiseppe. Delle acque minerali del Bergamasco: trattato. (Bergamo : Dalla stamperia Locatelli, 1794) 2.50 lire.
615.79 P26d copy 2:
4. Raineri, Giovanni Battista. Breve ragguaglio delle virtù della marchesa d. Maria Margherita Durina Serponti. (Milano : Nella Stampería di Pietro Antonio Frigerio, 1756). 1.50 lire.
B. D962r:
5. Regola di S. Benedetto abate e patriarca de’ monaci … (Mantova : Nella stamperìa di S. Benedetto, per Alberto Pazzoni, stampatore arciducale, 1723) 1.50 lire.
Cavagna 271.1 B43rI1723:
6. Mattioti, Giovanni. Vita di s. Francesca Romana … (Venetia : Appresso Francesco Bolzetta, 1610) 1.50 lire.
B. F8153mI:

Cavagna Receipt_7

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Charles Dickens: Journalist, Novelist, and – Actor?

Most know Charles Dickens as a great novelist, with a style so distinctive that it now bears his name. But Dickens fans might celebrate him for very different achievements, save for one bad cold.

Drama and theater played an important role in Dickens’ life from an early age. As a small and somewhat sickly boy, Dickens was unable to participate in athletic activities. Instead, he spent his time playing games of make-believe with friends, putting on magic lantern shows, and performing comic songs, sometimes alone, and sometimes with his older sister Fanny. The two even performed publicly at the Mitre tavern in Rochester, a neighboring town to Chatham, where the Dickens family lived during Dickens’ early years.

Due to his family’s difficult financial circumstances, in 1827, at the age of fifteen, Dickens left school to work as a solicitor’s clerk. However, in 1828 he left this position in hopes of making a career as a journalist. He taught himself the Gurney system of shorthand, and began to get some work with his uncle’s paper, the Mirror of Parliament. Journalism was not the only career that Dickens considered, though. Knowing that he had true talent as a performer, he obtained an audition at Covent Garden in the spring of 1832. He never attended the audition, however, due to a bad cold.

But though Dickens may have missed his chance to become a professional actor, he never lost his love of performing. Whether he was organizing amateur theatricals at his parents’ home or giving public readings of passages from his novels, Dickens seemed to always find some way to perform on a stage. It is fitting, then, that one of Dickens’ first published literary works revolves around family theatricals. “Mrs. Joseph Porter, ‘Over the Way’” tells the story of a private play staged by the Gattleton family of Clapham Rise. Witty and satirical, the tale also demonstrates Dickens’ great talent for crafting unforgettable characters. The true stars of the story (though they never once appear on the Gattleton family stage), are the Gattletons’ Uncle Tom and their notorious neighbor, Mrs. Joseph Porter. Uncle Tom, a Shakespeare devotee who has memorized “all the principal plays of Shakespeare from beginning to end,” unwittingly plays into Mrs. Porter’s scheme to sabotage the production, leading to disaster for the actors but much hilarity for their audience (and readers).


“Mrs. Joseph Porter, ‘Over the Way’” first appeared in print in January 1834 in the London Monthly Magazine. However, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s copy of the tale actually comes from the 26 August 1834 issue of Waldie’s Select Circulating Library, printed by Adam Waldie in Philadelphia. It is very likely that this printing is a piracy; due to a lack of any copyright agreement between the United States and Great Britain, American newspapers commonly pirated the works of British authors. In his History of American Magazines, Frank Luther Mott describes the situation thusly:

“[Newspaper printers] would have their messengers awaiting the steamships to board them before they docked, and receive the earliest copies of the new English novels; they would then rush the books into type by working large forces of typesetters night and day, and within twenty-four hours would have them on the streets . . . And the purchaser of a G. P. R. James or Dickens novel in eighty closely-printed quarto pages would forget the injury to his eyes in the saving to his pocketbook” (Mott 360).

Dickens spoke about piracy several times during his first visit to the United States in 1842; nevertheless, it was not until 1891, with the passing of the International Copyright Act in the United States, that any provisions existed for the protection of foreign authors’ works.


The Select Circulating Library version of “Mrs. Joseph Porter” is notable not just for its shady background. According to Richard Gimbel, a notable book collector whose Dickensiana collection now resides at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the piracy also represents the first American printing of any of Dickens’ work. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is fortunate to have such a unique item, and we are grateful to the James M. & Mary Marsh Givens Library Endowment Fund for making the acquisition possible. Mary Marsh Givens earned a BA in English Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1951, and a master’s degree from San José State University in 1981. She and her husband James established the fund in 1990. The fund provides for the acquisition of materials by Charles Dickens as well as Dickensiana—that is, materials related to Dickens and his work. Thank you, Mary and James, for your support both of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and of Charles Dickens! BS

Interested in learning more about the pirating of printed works? Make sure to visit our Fall 2015 Exhibit, Pirates of the Press, opening September 18th.

[Dickens, Charles.] “Mrs. Joseph Porter, ‘Over the Way.'” Waldie’s Select Circulating Library, August 26, 1834.


Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines 1741-1850. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1939. Print.

Post, David G. “Some Thoughts on the Political Economy of Intellectual Property: A Brief Look at the International Copyright relations of the United States.” David G. Post: Research & Writing. Temple University Beasley School of Law. September 2014. Web. 14 May 2015.

Slater, Michael. “Dickens, Charles John Huffam (1812–1870).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. Web. 14 May 2015.

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Suffragette City

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Congress proposed the Nineteenth Amendment in June 1919. To commemorate this event, we are looking at a important book, Jailed for Freedom, by suffragist Doris Stevens.

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Born in 1892 in Nebraska, Doris Stevens attended Oberlin College and briefly worked as a social worker and teacher before joining the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). When the National Woman’s Party (NWP) was formed in 1916, she served on the executive board. In January of 1917, members of the NWP took their cause to the gates of the White House where they hoped to ultimately sway President Woodrow Wilson on the issue of voting rights. They protested six days a week for almost two-and-a-half years, acquiring the nickname “Silent Sentinels” for their mute method of protesting. At first the picketers were tolerated, but when the United States formally entered World War I just a few months later, they were criticized by some as being unpatriotic and distracting from the war effort. Stevens strongly believed that the protests should not stop for the war, and felt that it was hypocritical of Wilson to champion democracy overseas while denying it to half of American citizens at home.

In July of that year, law enforcement began to arrest protesters, ostensibly for obstructing traffic. Stevens herself was arrested and sentenced to sixty days in the Occoquan Workhouse in Washington, D.C. She served three and when released, dedicated herself to publicizing the inhumane treatment of NWP members serving longer sentences. Activists like Lucy Burns were given spoiled food, beaten by prison guards, subjected to solitary confinement, and force-fed when they continued to protest via hunger strikes. Stevens called the treatment “administrative terrorism.” The prisoners were finally released in late November 1917.

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Stevens reports in Jailed for Freedom: “Immediately following the release of the prisoners and the magnificent demonstration of public support of them, culminating at the mass meeting recorded in the preceding chapter, political events happened thick and fast” (248). In September 1918, Wilson came out in support of women’s suffrage, framing it, incidentally, as vital to the war effort. The war, he said, “could not have been fought, either by the other nations engaged or by America, if it had not been for the services of women–services rendered in every sphere–not merely in the fields of effort in which we have been accustomed to see them work, but wherever men have worked and upon the very skirts and edges of the battle itself.” He told Congress that, “the extension of suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of this great war of humanity in which we are engaged …”

RBML holds a first edition of Jailed for Freedom, wherein Stevens describes the protests and the events leading up to them, the suffragists’ prison experiences, and finally the amendment’s June 1919 ratification. The book is inscribed by Stevens “To Carrie Harrison faithful, devoted, tireless in her work for women” and dated “October 20, 1931 Washington D.C.” The dedicatee is Carrie Harrison of the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., an Iowa native who studied at Wellesley College and Cornell University. She was a dedicated botanist and a member of the College Equal Suffrage League (CESL). She is also credited with coining the 4-H organization’s motto “To make the best better.” SL

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Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. New York : Boni and Liveright, 1920.
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