Torn up book page

Insights Gained Regarding Illustrations in Books of Hours

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Allison Clark from Dr. Beth Yale’s class Transition from Manuscript to Print (HIST: 4920:0001).

Insights Gained Regarding Illustrations in Books of Hours

By Allison Clark

Entering Special Collections for the first time can be, to put it plainly, intimidating. That is to say that no one wants to be the person who accidentally tears a page, leaves a smudge, or, heaven forbid, forgets to wash their hands. But, after a couple visits, familiarity starts to sink in. Suddenly, you instinctively go to wash your hands before handling a book and you know where to turn the page to avoid damage (spoiler: in the middle, not the corner). Once you have moved past the initial feelings of intimidation and take the opportunity to study a book intimately, Special Collections & Archives is a fantastic resource for learning on campus, as I have come to learn. The following are the results from my time spent in Special Collections & Archives, specifically my encounters with three books: Book of Hours of Martine Sesander (xMMs.Bo10), Book of Hours (xMMs.Bo5), and Ces Presentes Heueres (BX2080.A2 1502). My research focuses on the insights that each of these books offers into different practices and aspects relating to illustrations in books of hours.

Books of hours were Christian prayer books that allowed lay people to participate in the liturgy, and they evolved from the books that clergy, monks, and nuns would use for reciting prayers throughout the day. They were extremely popular in their day and have been described as a “best-seller in medieval and early modern Europe” (Reinburg). Initially, they were “given as gifts to the noble patrons of monasteries and convents” (Reinburg). Later on, once lay people began to have more control over their circulation, books of hours began to be commissioned by the wealthy. As usership increased, they were essentially divided into two groups: the luxurious, heavily illuminated manuscripts and the less decorated and thoughtfully designed manuscripts. Then, once the technology of printing was introduced, books of hours became even more accessible, though the appearance of them eventually changed, including the illustrations. The illustrations in books of hours are a particularly integral part of these devotional books. Illustrations served three primary functions. First, they were decorative and “added to the book’s value and splendor” (Reinburg). They also added structure and aided those who were illiterate, guiding the reader through the book. Finally, they were devotional and “offered a focus for prayer and meditation” (Reinburg). Essentially, illustrations would have functioned as “painted prayers” (University of Glasgow Special Collections).  Since illustrations in books of hours are so important, there is a lot to learn surrounding different aspects and practices associated with them, as is evidenced by Book of Hours of Martine Sesander, Book of Hours, and Ces Presentes Heueres.

 

Book of Hours of Martine Sesander (xMMs.Bo10)

 

Book of Hours of Martine Sesander (xMMs.Bo10) is a small manuscript from 1465 written in Latin. According to the University of Iowa Libraries catalog, this book likely came from Belgium, a likelihood based on the saints mentioned in the book. There is a gold inscription in the back of the book that identifies an early user as Martine Sesander, thus the title. It has striking dark green cover with gold details and  is highly illustrated with features illuminated throughout the book, floral decorations in the margins, and six full-page miniatures. Book of Hours of Martine Sesander (xMMs.Bo10) stands out because there is evidence of the physical ritual of kissing and rubbing images in this book of hours. What is particularly interesting about books of hours, is the personal relationship that users had with these books, and this relationship is seen in the act of rubbing and kissing devotional manuscripts, which was a common practice. Christians “kissed images in their prayer books, just as the priest would have kissed the missal during Mass” (Rudy). Furthermore, readers were selective about which images they would rub or kiss. Looking closely at the illustration of Mary and Jesus, there are signs of wear over Jesus’s left shoulder where the paint has been rubbed away. This suggests one user of this book was drawn to this illustration, which begs the question of why this one? When looking at signs of wear, the illustrations in books of hours, like this one, offer a unique look into the religious lives and devotional practices of their owners.

 Book of Hours (xMMs.Bo5)

This book of hours is hard to miss with its bright pink leather cover and white leather clasp, which was rebound in 1998 by Pam Spitzmeuller.  It is a French parchment manuscript written in Latin. According to the library catalog, Book of Hours (xMMs.Bo5) was made in the second half of the fifteenth century in France, determined by the inclusion of the Paris calendar. This book has vibrant capitals in gold and blue and decoration in the margins, with illumination throughout. The illustrations in this book, or rather lack thereof, offer insight into the practice of cutting up manuscripts for their decorations. Sadly, this book only has one full page illustration of Mary remains. The floral designs in the margins have also been mutilated. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, the nature of this manuscript is not uncommon, according to librarian Christopher de Hamel. It seems there are a variety of reasons for cutting up manuscripts. For instance, there are stories of libraries giving out clippings from pages as gifts to visitors. There are also cases of children cutting out initials and using them to practice spelling out their names, which is almost amusing, save the destruction of artwork. In addition, manuscript owners would cut up their own books to display them in a portfolio or album, like a scrapbook. Of course, clippings are also sold, and sellers would create albums of manuscript clippings for buyers. These clippings would sell for such high prices that it would have been tempting not to partake in this destruction.

“The deliberate destruction of any unique work of art can only be regarded as unforgivable vandalism.”

-Christopher de Hamel, July 1995

The practice of selling leaves or clippings out of manuscripts continues, although collectors rarely admit to cutting up their own manuscripts and pass the blame onto previous owners (de Hamel). To play devil’s advocate, there are reasons that this practice could potentially be justified. Clippings and leaves allow for manuscripts to be more accessible to more people, since it is easier for libraries and museums to purchase single sheets as opposed to an entire book. They also are easier to store, conserve, and exhibit. And, of course, there is the economic argument, as clippings do sell well. This being said, the practice does remain controversial, and some, such as de Hamel, cannot excuse it. Of course, it should be noted that the manuscript was already in this condition when purchased by the University of Iowa. The damage has been done, but even this damage provides information on book users and the practice of cutting up manuscripts.

Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502)

Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502) is a French book of hours written in Latin with four leaves of French prayers at the end. It has a wooden cover with a leather clasp, and the initials have been stylized in blue and red paint. Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502) is different than the other books of hours discussed above because it is a printed book and not a handwritten manuscript. However, Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502) is printed on parchment, which indicates an overlap of manuscript and printing practices. Therefore, this book offers insight into the effect that the printing industry had on books of hours.

The new technology of printing did not eliminate manuscripts. While the invention of print did make books of hours more accessible to laypeople, manuscript books of hours continued to be produced and remained popular well after the invention of printing (Reinburg).  In addition, there is evidence of scribes copying printed books into manuscripts, showing how scribal work continued to be valued well into the era of printing (Drimmer). Initially, printed books of hours were even created to look like manuscripts, as we can see with the blue and red lettering found within the book.

Eventually, they began to take their own form and started to feature heavily illustrated borders and many full-page illustrations (Reinburg). This is seen in Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502), which is riddled with illustrations. Nearly every page has pictures in the margins as well as many full-page illustrations. It has been said, however, that “as a work of art, the book of hours lost some luster by moving into print” (Reinburg). It could also be suggested that perhaps the quantity of the images was to make up for the fact that they were printed, instead of hand illustrated, or to show off the new technology (Riordan). However, there is no doubt that the illustrations in Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502) are extremely detailed, which is arguably just as, if not more, impressive as the paintings in the manuscript copies. 

One particularly interesting portion was a series of pages which showed the character Death, depicted as a skeleton, coming to take away all different kinds of people, including powerful figures like a king and the Pope. One cannot help but wonder (how readers would feel seeing these images of Death escorting representations of themselves to the next life. Due to the fact that this book is printed on parchment and includes hand-drawn elements on the lettering, Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502) acts as an example for how printing did not completely replace the traditions of manuscript books.

These three books, each reveal different aspects of illustrations in books of hours. The worn illustrations of Book of Hours of Martine Sesander (xMMs. Bo10) disclose a glimpse into the religious life and habits of its reader and demonstrate the personal relationship owners had with their books of hours. The mutilated pages of Book of Hours (xMMs. Bo5) make plain the evolving relationship with these books and the ever so controversial practice of cutting up manuscripts. And, finally, the detailed illustrations and parchment pages of Ces Presentes Heures (BX2080.A2 1502) offer insight into the transition and overlap between manuscript and print. Each of these books offers a unique look into the past and how illustrations in books of hours were used, abused, and changed overtime.

 

Bibliography

de Hamel, Christopher. “Cutting Up Manuscripts for Pleasure and Profit.” Rare Book School Lectures. Lecture, July 1995.

Drimmer, Sonja. “Introduction: The Manuscript Copy and the Printed Original in the Digital Present.” Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures 9, no. 2 (2020).

“Fifteenth Century Book of Hours.” University of Glasgow Special Collections, December 2006. <https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/library/files/special/exhibns/month/dec2006.html>

Reinburg, V. (2012). French books of hours : Making an archive of prayer, c.1400–1600. ProQuest Ebook Central <https://ebookcentral.proquest.com>

Riordan, Elizabeth. Personal communication, University of Iowa Special Collections & Archives, March 30,2021.

Rudy, Kathryn M. “Kissing Images, Unfurling Rolls, Measuring Wounds, Sewing Badges and Carrying Talismans: Considering Some Harley Manuscripts Through the Physical Rituals

They Reveal.” British Library, 2011.

University of Iowa Library Catalog, “Book of Hours of Martine Sesander (Use of Rome)”.

University of Iowa Library Catalog, Catholic Church. (1499). Ces presentes heures a lusaig. de Tou : au long sans requerir.

University of Iowa Library Catalog, Spitzmueller, Pamela J., Ficke, Charles August, & University of Iowa. Libraries. Special Collections Department. (n.d.). Book of Hours, second half of the 15th century.

Wijsman, Hanno. Books in Transition at the Time of Philip the Fair. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2010.

“Willem Vrelant (Getty Museum).” The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles.

Anti-Asian Racism Historically Archived

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Robert Henderson from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001).

A note from the University Libraries:  Some resources in our collections may contain offensive stereotypes, visuals, or language. Such materials serve as evidence of the time period in which they were created, and are part of the historical record. These items do not represent the views of the library or the institution.

 

Anti-Asian Racism Historically Archived

By Robert Henderson

Race and ethnic representation in the United States (U.S.) continues to be a white-centric consensus on the branding of non-white peoples. Alongside heightened scrutiny into race relations, the COVID-19 pandemic has manifested damning rhetoric blaming the Asian diaspora for the creation and spread of the virus. As hate crimes against people of Asian descent rise globally, conducting research on the struggles of race and ethnic identity within the U.S. is pertinent to understanding the continued misrepresentations of the Asian-American. With pandemic restrictions on in-person research impeded, the digital collections within the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives provide a historical account on the mass conditioning of false ethnic representation found within Iowa’s periodicals.

Editorial cartoons have long been sources of sociopolitical imagery. Reaching across populations, these caricatures have the capacity to relay information without the confines of age and literacy. Within the editorial cartoons of J.N. “Ding” Darling Collection, we see the exacerbation of ethnic discrimination through Darling’s satirical perversions on Asians in the early 20th century. A figurehead in editorial cartoons, Darling’s images can be interpreted as foundations for continued ideologies on race and ethnic relations in popular culture within the U.S. Midwest.

Referencing sociopolitical discord, Darling’s images are records of the white-American stance on international relations. Imagine being a young Asian-American child of the 21st century and coming across a cartoon window promoting racial exclusion. With the digital age of information technologies, we can research and challenge conforms of racial misinterpretation. Now, imagine being a young Asian person in the U.S. during the early 20th century and seeing oppressive imagery of your familial lineage reaching across the entirety of the immediate white populace.

Fig. 1: Ding Darling’s It tastes so different when you make it yourself, 1927

Printed in 1927, It tastes so different when you make it yourself [Fig. 1], is an example of such relays on Asian separatism. Over four decades since the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act enactment, Darling relishes in the irony of the U.S. receiving karmic retribution for such atrocious foreign legislation. Shown as satirical, the depiction of the Chinese man, taking the medicine of exclusion and feeding it back to Uncle Sam, does nothing to uphold inclusion and racial equity. In fact, many may see the child-like facial expressions and U.S. inspired mimicry to measure inferior intellect.

The proliferation of anti-Asian imagery within Darling’s cartoons spans a career from 1900-1949. During this era of world wars, reflections on Asians are incredibly perpetuated by the institution of the white-savior-complex. In 1941, Darling reflects on Nazism with Beginning to understand the Nazi philosophy [Fig.2], an editorial cartoon reflecting hostile Japanese occupation and the American intervention. Carrying a seemingly dead Asian child while hordes of Asian people grasp at his feet for help, the symbolic Uncle Sam casts a farfetched rendition of peace without acknowledging the U.S. contribution to colonial induced war within Asia.

Fig 2: Ding Darling’s Beginning to understand the Nazi philosophy, 1941

Rising to over 150% in 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. continue to climb. From “China virus” to “Kung-flu,” the white political platform refrains from accountability; and without accountability, there is no racial equity. As an Asian-American academic in the Midwest, the fear of violence is very real. The structural heart of white America is rooted in ethnic and racial exploitation. Understanding the roots of oppression through Iowan-created content and imagery found in Special Collections is a great step toward social repair. Until the U.S. accepts the harsh realities of its history and associated imagery, there can be no evolution to racial equity. Special Collections & Archives is a resource not to be overlooked and should be your first stop into acquiring regional archives that can teach the social structures of the region.

 

Robert Henderson is a gay Korean-American artist and activist living in Iowa City, IA.

 

Further reading:

Lee, Jennifer and Min Zhou. Asian American Youth Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity. Routledge, New York, NY, 2004.

Pak, Jenny Hyun Chung. Korean American Women: Stories of Acculturation and Changing Selves. Routledge, New York, NY, 2006.

Park, Hee Sun, Doshik Yun, Hye Jeong Choi, Hye Eun Lee, Dong Wook Lee, and Jiyoung Ahn. “Social Identity, Attribution, and Emotion: Comparisons of Americans, Korean Americans, and Koreans.” International Journal of Psychology 48, no. 5 (2013): 922-34.

Rienzi, Elizabeth S. “A Part Yet Apart: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Identity Formation for Korean Transracial Adoptees Raised in the U.S. Midwest.” Dissertation, University of Oregon, 2012.

Read Behind the Lines: Recovering Deleted Verses in a 15th-century Manuscript

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Laura Moser from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001).

Read Behind the Lines: Recovering Deleted Verses in a 15th-century Manuscript

By Laura Moser

Some may know Latin as a “dead language,” but here in Special Collections & Archives it is still very much alive. It lives not only in ancient literature preserved by manuscripts and printed books, but also in centuries-old notes scribbled in their margins by past readers. A few Latin words penned in the back of a book, like that of a 15th-century Latin manuscript of Lucan’s Pharsalia (xMMs. Hi1), can open up a whole new story about an object.

A history written in verse,  Pharsalia narrates the civil war led by Julius Caesar against the Roman Republic in 49-45 BCE. As an epic poem, its literary predecessors include the works of Homer and Virgil, but its focus on historical events and grim pessimism about human nature set it apart from other poetic works at this time. Thue author, Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (better known as Lucan today), was just 26 years old when he fell out of emperor Nero’s favor and was sentenced to death in 65 AD, before the poem was finished.

Perhaps it was this grisly history that drew a young Italian schoolboy named Tommaso Baldinotti, fourteen hundred years later, to undertake the task of copying the poem. In addition to the poem, Tommaso included in the margins a detailed commentary on the text, interlinear vocabulary notes, and two hand-drawn maps depicting scenes in the narrative (see Figs. 1 and 2). Though Tommaso’s copy of Pharsalia is far from the only surviving copy of this poem, his edition offers unique insight into the reception of Latin literature and educational practices in Italy during this time period, when copying texts by hand was a crucial part of education in Latin. It is also a work of visual beauty; neatly written in humanist miniscule, the pages show careful planning and attention to detail, with a richly decorated initial marking the beginning of each of the poem’s ten sections (see Fig. 3).

Fig 3: Verso 19 of the Pharsalia, with a richly decorated “I” marking the start of Book II, rubricated capitals beginning each line, and generous marginal and interlinear notes.

But just as interesting as what was put into this book is what was removed from it—not in edits to the poem itself, but in four lines added at the end that were carefully crossed out in black ink (see Fig. 4). An occasional error in a handwritten manuscript is to be expected (as anyone who still writes by hand can attest!), but the removal of entire lines after the end of the poem is more puzzling: what had our scribe written and why was it taken out? Did the same hand write and remove these words, or was it a later reader who wished to exclude them?

Luckily, with the careful eyes of a scholar and some help from digital technology has gotten us closer to answering these questions. Classical scholar and digital humanist Samuel J. Huskey, who has worked extensively with this manuscript, observed that the final page of the manuscript was unusual in that it held more than one “colophon,” which refers in manuscripts to the brief statement (usually found at the end of a book) that records the scribe’s name and the date of the work’s completion, often among other details. In this Pharsalia, we find three such colophons. The first, following directly after the word FINIS (Latin for “the end”) in a recognizably similar color and style of handwriting, is just a single line of Latin: Hoc scripsi totum pro p[o]ena da mihi potus, which translates to something like, “I wrote all this; give me a drink for my trouble.”

The lines that follow look to have been written in the same hand and shade of red, but are obscured by two heavy lines of black ink, a clearly deliberate attempt to make the underlying text illegible. Beyond making out a few letters here and there, deciphering these lost lines might have seemed a hopeless task. That is, until Huskey was inspired to try and recover them through some unusual means; he enlisted the help of a local Criminalistics Lab, where they were able to produce infrared images of the page in question and render the excised text visible once more. What this revealed was a second colophon written in verse, similar in spirit to the first, but with a far more personal touch that can only be Tommaso’s. Huskey transcribes and translates the passage as follows:

Thommas adolescens Lucanum hunc scripsit & ipsi

De baldinoctis atque manu propria.

Det veniam Christus moritur cum & debita purget

Dirigat atque ipsum per loca sacra deus.

Tommaso Baldinotti, a young man, wrote this Lucan for himself and with his own hand. May Christ grant him mercy when he dies, and may the Lord forgive his debts and direct him along the path of righteousness.

Fig. 4: Verso 141 of the Pharsalia, showing the end of the poem followed by three separate colophons, including one that has been crossed out.

Whether Tommaso immediately disliked these verses, or he came in at a later age and was embarrassed by the poetic aspirations of his teenage self (something we can all perhaps relate to), or the pen which excised these lines belonged to a later reader, we will perhaps never know. But what we do know is that another manuscript copied by Tommaso includes a similar poem as its colophon, and that one evaded deletion.

The third colophon, then, is the closest thing this book has to a scribe’s signature, in including both his name (Latinized in the accusative as Tomam) and the date of the copy (January 1465). What Huskey noticed was peculiar about this, however—and easily missed by the untrained eye—is that the handwriting and ink color differ from the other words on this page, despite an apparent attempt to match them. Not only that, Huskey saw whoever wrote the colophon didn’t have the scribal skill Tommaso did (or, apparently, strong Latin—it contains at least one grammatical error). Leaving us to ask, who would have gone to such trouble to essentially forge the scribe’s signature, thus rescuing his efforts from anonymity? Huskey’s guess: Tommaso’s nephew, who inherited the book and loved his uncle too much to let his work go unacknowledged.

Maybe this kind of manuscript detective work doesn’t change how history will remember the Pharsalia. But it does tell us more about the people who have chosen to read, copy, and share these kinds of books across history. And if that’s not a reason to study Latin, I don’t know what is.

 

Further Reading:

Samuel J. Huskey, “Three Colophons in Tommaso Baldinotti’s Manuscript of Lucan,” Textual Cultures 5, 1 (2010): 99–110.

Samuel J. Huskey, “Fragments of an Anonymous Medieval Commentary in a Manuscript of Lucan’s ‘De bello civili,” International Journal of Medieval and Humanistic Studies 46 (2011): 91–110.

Armando Petrucci, “Baldinotti, Tommaso,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 5 (1963): https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/tommaso-baldinotti

Eva Matthews Sanford, “The Manuscripts of Lucan: Accessus and Marginalia,” Speculum 9, 3 (1934): 278-295

Civilian Conservation Corps, Civilian Climate Corps: The CCC Then and Now

The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Rachel Miller-Haughton 

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a program established in 1933 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt to provide jobs for “young, unemployed men during the Great Depression.” As a program, it existed for 9 years and employed about 3 million men across the country, ages 17 to 28, who were US citizens. The men enrolled served 6-month terms, and could serve up to two years. They were required to send a large chunk of the $30 a month they made home to their families 

During the Great Depression, these men were fed, clothed, and housed. They made the equivalent of $500 a month in today’s dollars and worked physically demanding jobs. The money made a huge difference to these men and their families (they were usually unmarried). At the beginning of the CCC program, the program was about creating model manual laborers; by the end of 1942, men enrolled were seen as future soldiers and many enlisted in WWII after finishing their time in the Corps.  

The men in the CCC “made valuable contributions to forest management, flood control, conservation projects, and the development of state and national parks, forests, and historic sites. In return, the men received the benefits of education and training, a small paycheck, and the dignity of honest work.  One such man was Harry L. Hogancamp, whose scrapbook is held in Special Collections & Archives.

A member of CCC Company 3728 in Bancroft, Iowa, Hogancamp was an Iowa native with a camera who documented his bunkmates, peers and officers, and daily work. His certificate of proficiency in “Stump Blasting” is found at the beginning of his scrapbook, along with a cigarette purchase card, both from 1940. What follows are images of trucks of explosives, his friends at work, and portraits of men about camp. Harry’s photos offer us some insight into the realities of President Roosevelt’s favorite New Deal program, according to Jean Edward Smith in her 2007 biography FDR 

Other sources of information about the historic CCC in Special Collections are the Frederick Elliott Biermann Papers (Msc0128) and the Quenton C. Nolte Collection of WWI and CCC Materials (MsC0996). The program has a strong history in Iowa.  

Of course, the realities of the CCC program were far from perfect. It was segregated, and Black men were not allowed into supervisory positions except as educational directors in the all-Black camps; the majority of all CCC camps were led by white men. There was also a separate division for federally recognized tribes: the “Indian Emergency Conservation Work Division” (IECW), also known as CCC-ID (“Indian Division”) [Gower].  

President Joe Biden has reinstated the CCC, but with a different aim, and certainly one that is inclusive. His Civilian Climate Corps borrows the letters of FDR’s CCC and spins it on its head: it is an initiative “to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.”  The establishment of this new Corps was part of a brief from January 27, and shows that the new president, like FDR, wants Americans to have opportunities on improving the environment. Although the setup of Biden’s CCC is likely to be different, it is impossible to deny the parallels between the New Deal and the current administration.  

Like its predecessor, this new CCC uses government programs for jobs and training for “public projects aimed at preparing for, mitigating or forestalling some of the worst environmental impacts of global warming.” This project is, so far, not up and running. But it is worth it to look back on the example set by the 1930s CCC and see what to emulate and what to change. With examples from the archives like the scrapbook of Harry Hogancamp, we can see how the values of hard work and concern for the environment carry on and can help to build a better future for America.  

Page from Harry’s scrapbook showing life working for the CCC

 

Further Reading:

Gower, Calvin W. (1972). “The CCC Indian Division: Aid for Depressed Americans, 1933–1942”. Minnesota History. 3–13.

Gower, Calvin W. (1976). “The Struggle of Blacks for Leadership Positions in the Civilian Conservation Corps: 1933-1942.” The Journal of African American History, 61(2), pp. 123-135. 

Heller, C. E. (2010) ‘The U.S. Army, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Leadership for World War II, 1933—1942.” Armed Forces & Society, 36(3), pp. 439–453. doi: 10.1177/0095327X09333944.

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Alexa Starry from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

Alexa Starry

Cookbooks are a wonderful way to share things through time, heritage, and generations – recipes, ideas, home remedies, you name it. They are an incredibly valuable source of information for historical narratives. When you follow a recipe that was handwritten with care by someone before you, you’re keeping a piece of that person alive. Cooking can be a beautiful, shared experience throughout history, and, in that case, cookbooks can be the blueprint for interpretations of these experiences. They can help shed a light upon the past.

Through Julia Booker Thompson’s 1898 recipe and travel book, we get a glimpse into the daily life of a woman during the nineteenth century. We know she enjoyed trying new recipes, traveled occasionally, and oftentimes looked through the newspaper for home remedies. The details in the journal point to a woman dedicated to running an efficient household, something expected of many middle- and upper-class women at the time. 

Julia’s recipe collection ranges from sponge cake to pumpkin pie to potato puffs. She includes a recipe for scalloped tomatoes which consists of tomatoes seasoned with sugar, pepper, salt, and butter, then covered with breadcrumbs and baked. There are also recipes for grape juice, orange filling, ice cream, and soda mixtures. She would often leave notes in the margins of these recipes with brief personal reviews such as “fine” and “good.” Though short, these notes are an impression of Julia’s character, her tastes and thoughts. A few of her recipes are credited to a woman named Ella Churchill, and there are also recipes from an “Aunt Florence,” the namesake behind Julia’s entry of “Aunt Florence’s Chicken Pie and Biscuits.” The preservation of cookbooks like this one give us the chance to recreate ideas, such as meals, in the present day. It is a way to vividly reimagine the past in a modern context.

Some of the most interesting things in the book are the home remedies and newspaper clippings tucked inside, including tips on how to remove mildew, a remedy for poison ivy, how to clean silk with a raw potato, a trick to remove ink stains with a “paste of sweet milk and corn meal,” and a cure for Cholera Infantum that calls for boiled strawberry leaves. These remedies not only provide a glimpse into common ailments that might afflict a household during this time, but also a look into how people were applying their knowledge and resources to fight these afflictions. 

Another noteworthy and unique component of the book is that a short portion of it serves as a travel journal. There are notes of a trip to Montreal, followed by a quick journey to St. Paul, as well. It is a look into not only the ordinary home life of Julia Booker Thompson, but also an exciting moment in time for her. 

Though we often associate women of the nineteenth century with the home, this little book shows several facets to Julia Booker Thompson. The recipes and reviews show a woman who cared about the food she cooked, and the names with the recipes show a community of women Julia found herself a part of. Paper clippings show someone interested in furthering her knowledge of best practices for a healthy, clean, and efficient household. And the unique travel log shows a woman not just confined to one space. In fact, her recipe and travel book offers a vivid and sensorial look into the past. It has been over a hundred years since Julia wrote in this book, but we are still able to see details of a life lived, of Julia’s life, live on. 

 

Further Reading:

Driver, Elizabeth. “Cookbooks as primary sources for writing history: a bibliographer’s view.” Food, Culture & Society, vol. 12, no. 3, 2009, p. 257+. Gale Academic OneFile. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

“Everyday Life & Women in America: C.1800-1920 / from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture, Duke University, & the New York Public Library.” Marlborough, Wiltshire, England: Adam Matthew Publications, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, 2006.

Robinson, Jane. Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wessell, A. “Cookbooks for Making History: As Sources for Historians and As Records of the Past”. M/C Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Aug. 2013.

17th Century Armenian Bookbinding Traditions

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Natasha Otteson from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

17th Century Armenian Bookbinding Traditions

By Natasha Otteson

The University of Iowa Libraries has a number of bookbinding models available for research in its Book Model Collection, found in the Conservation Department located at the Main Library. Often utilized in Special Collections classes, this collection is used to exemplify and demonstrate the various mechanisms of books. One of these models is a reproduction of a 17th century Armenian codex Hayrapet Gospels, and was produced by Shanna Leino (Collection Number: 17a.01).

Though the printing press came to the Western world in the fifteenth century through German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, hand-written manuscripts continued to be produced in Armenia until the First World War in the early twentieth century. This was likely due to either one of two reasons. Creating a manuscript by hand was seen as a holy act, one that paid homage to the monk-scribes before them, or, as in the case with texts of religious significance, multi-colored illustrations and illuminations were of higher quality when done by hand, rather than at the press.

A flap was part of the binding to protect the pages within

There are several qualities that distinguish Armenian bookbinding traditions from others. Armenian codices were bound in either calf or goatskin leather, and the color of the leather would be a shade of brown. The surface of the leather would contain blind tooling (though never in gilt) on both the front and the back covers. Attached to the back cover was a fore-edge flap. This flap was also bound in the same leather as the cover, and it would contain tooling in the same style as that on the front and back covers. The flap was precisely the same size of the fore-edge, and the purpose of this flap was to protect the leaves from damage. The inclusion of this flap created a protective, almost box-like container for the text block. 

The spine of the codex was composed of thin, vertical fillets intended to aid in opening. Armenian books were bound in the Coptic style, where the quires of the text block were sewn together through the folds. Armenian bookbinders would employ the use of “grecquage”, a technique that inserted V-shaped notches into the quires. This would allow the sewing needle to pass through the notches with ease, as well as the support cords to be recessed within the spine of the codex. Endbands were utilized to protect the structural integrity of the spine, and a chevron design was often used. [insert “Blog Image 3.jpg” photo]

Close up of the endbands

The size of the boards used in the binding are the same size as the text block of the codex. Compared to other books of this time period, the boards used are relatively thin, usually between 2-5mm thick. In a typical codex the grain of the wood runs vertically, but in most Armenian books, the wood grain of the board runs horizontally. Lastly, instead of paper, parchment, or vellum, like most other books of this era, Armenian books utilize a cloth covering on the inside of the front and back boards, usually linen. Together, these characteristics make early Armenian books a fascinating study in bookbinding techniques.

 

 

For further reading on Armenian binding practices, see:

1. Kouymjian, Dickran. Armenian bookbinding from manuscript to printed book (Sixteenth to nineteenth century). In: Gazette du livre médiéval, n°49. Automne 2006. pp. 1-14; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/galim.2006.1715.

2. Merian, Sylvie M. “The Structure of Armenian Bookbinding and Its Relation to Near-Eastern Bookmaking Traditions”. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1993.

To learn more about the Book Model Collection, or to schedule a time to view it, please check out the Conservation Department’s website or contact Head of Conservation, Giselle Simon (giselle-simon@uiowa.edu). 

Cookbooks, Citation, and Community

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Breanna Himschoot  from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

 Cookbooks, Citation, and Community

By Breanna Himschoot

Under its bright lavender marbled binding, this handwritten American cookbook (American cookbook, ca. 1850, US32 in the Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts Collection at the University of Iowa) holds a world of community and relationships, even though the two writers of the book are unknown to us. Given the context of its recipes and handwriting, we believe this book to have been written by two women in America, in the years following 1851. Though the first page contains penned illustrations fit for a cover page, this book has no self-prescribed title or mention of the names of the women who wrote it. Yet, we can learn about these women through their interactions with the book itself.

In the hand of the first writer, the text is formatted consistently throughout, with numbered pages that leave extra room to fill in before a roughly alphabetic index relating page number to recipe. This neat and practical formatting, paired with her recipe for Harvey’s Fish Sauce (page 17) copied from Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery (1851), suggests that the first writer has at least some familiarity with printed books, and cookbooks especially. She also uses the pages of this cookbook to comment on her own recipes, noting her preference of one pea soup over another and adding tips based on her experience using the recipes she records.

Both hands on one page with citation, page 39

Our second writer is much less neat and is unafraid to scribble through, and write over her own writing. She begins filling in her new recipes in any space she can find before she reaches the previously unfilled pages (page 50). Though our first writer did occasionally attribute her recipes to others (Mrs. Downe’s raisin wine on page 35 and Mr. Pendrill’s rec’t when a barrel of beer turns sour on page 46 for example), our second writer is much more likely to attribute her recipes to named people. Over the course of her writing, she names the sources of at least 59 of her recipes, with a Mrs. Saward (often abbreviated to Mrs. S) having a notable number of contributions. Mrs. Saward is the citation for almost every recipe from pages 98-104, 23 in total. Could our unnamed writer have been visiting her and consulting her favorite recipes together, perhaps copying them from Mrs. S’s own cookbook? Was she a friend, mentor, or relative? These names, especially when looking at how they appear in the text, give us a sense of the community that this unnamed second writer lived in, and allow us to speculate on her interactions in this community.

Though we cannot be sure of the second writer’s relationship to the first, we can see in these pages an engagement with the recipes that the first writer recorded. From correcting her spelling of “spinach” (page 43), striking through recipes in the index, and pasting over the recipe for Hunter’s pudding with a recipe for Plum pudding instead (6), we see this text being used, updated, and commented on. Beyond its written engagements, the staining on certain pages point to this book having an active life the kitchen rather than remaining a pristine set of records. Though we may never know these women’s names, perhaps by spending time among their notes and the pages they stained, we can learn more about the community they lived in and the recipes they valued.

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

 

Theophano, Janet. 2002. Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote. New York: Palgrave.