Friday, June 27, 2014

Folger Shakespeare Library: Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints

Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints

The Folger Shakespeare Library invites experienced, innovative, and collaborative applicants for the position of Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints. The Curator has primary responsibility for our world-renowned collection of early modern books and prints. Some of the great strengths of this collection are English publications from the period 1470 to 1640 (including 82 copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio), Continental publications relating to the Reformation, and etchings by Wenceslaus Hollar. This is a rare opportunity to join the staff of an internationally recognized cultural institution during an exciting period of growth. As a key member of the curatorial team, the Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints will share collection development and conservation-related responsibilities; and be part of creating new avenues of access to the Folger collections through exhibitions and web-based initiatives. The Curator will represent the Folger within the broader community of scholars, collectors, dealers, librarians, students, and the public, nationally and internationally. We invite you to learn more about this unique opportunity at:

Please respond to

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ICMS/Kalamazoo 2015: Calls for Papers for Sessions from MAM

Chiesa di San Benedetto in Piscinula (Rome, Italy)

1. The Formation of Identity in Middle English Arthurian Romance
Organizer: Kristin Bovaird-Abbo (

This session will explore issues of identity formation specifically in Middle English Arthurian Romance. Although abstracts dealing with Malory and/or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight will be considered, we are particularly interested in abstracts that consider less frequently discussed texts such as Awntyrs off Arthur, Gologras and Gawain, Ywain and Gawain, Libeaus Desconus, et cetera. Possible topics may include the contested space between subject/object, material culture's participation in identity formation, the relationship between humans and animals, knightly masculinity/femininity, spiritual/religious identity, geographical (or environmental) impacts on identity formation, transmission of characters from French romances to Middle English romances, boundaries between the human and the monstrous, et cetera.

2. Good Love for All: Opening the Libro de buen amor
Organizer: Abraham Quintanar (quintana@DICKINSON.EDU)

This session seeks to encourage any approximation that increases accessibility to the Libro de buen amor, a masterwork considered sometimes cryptic, sometimes inscrutable, and always challenging. Theoretical, literary, linguistic as well as philological approaches are welcome, though papers grounded in the text and with a clearly defined methodology are preferred. Also encouraged are papers that explore innovative approaches that shed light on particularly difficult passages or readings. Taking into account the already voluminous bibliography of the Libro, all aspects of this work will be considered, as will papers that take up, from a distinctive perspective, previously explored topics.

3. Animal Languages
Organizer: Alison Langdon (

Language is one trait by which humans in the Middle Ages defined themselves against other animals, yet at the same time many animals were understood to possess language of their own and in some cases to participate in human language. This session will explore animal languages broadly, addressing questions such as: What kinds of communicative strategies did medievals recognize in the animal world, and how were they interpreted? How was human meaning imposed on animal vocalizations? How were animals themselves used as symbolic language in visual texts such as the Bayeux tapestry or manuscript illuminations?

4. Justice and Law in Medieval Contexts and Beyond
Organizer: Toy-Fung Tung

How are medieval law and justice explored at the juncture where legal texts and/or principles intersect with literary, philosophical, theological, and historical texts, as well with the visual arts, architecture, and performances? This question invites an interdisciplinary approach that examines how competing and/or complementary texts, genres, discourses, expressions, and values contributed to the formation of medieval concepts of law and justice, such as legal identity, citizenship, sovereignty, polity, fairness, legitimacy, criminality, contracts, international relations, and individual and social welfare. Interdisciplinary papers and new approaches from a global perspective are especially welcome, as are papers that link medieval concepts of law and justice with their subsequent development in succeeding centuries.

Inquiries and proposals should be sent to the individual session organizers. Proposals are due by September 15 and should be accompanied by the Participant Information Form, available at

Monday, June 9, 2014

Stories About Books and Libraries

From a Gradual manuscript at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.

With apologies for not being at the keyboard/flatscreen much in the past month, I bring you a collection of book news that might be of interest to medievalists (or those who work with manuscripts).


American Libraries Direct, May 7, 2014:

Vatican Library moves into the 21st century
Aimee Chanthadavong writes: “The Vatican Apostolic Library has begun mass digitizing 82,000 historic manuscripts to make them available online. As part of the project, EMC Corporation has offered the library 2.8 petabytes of storage—enough to store about 40 million pages of digitized manuscripts. Speaking at EMC World 2014, Vatican Library Chief Information Officer Luciano Ammenti (right) said the project is halfway through.” IT World Canada has more information....
ZDNet, May 6; IT World Canada, May 6

The beauty of the injured book
Erik Kwakkel writes: “While our eyes are naturally drawn to pages filled with color and gold, those without decoration can be equally appealing. Indeed, even damaged goods—mutilated bindings, torn pages, parchment with cuts and holes—can be highly attractive. The visual power of damage may be generated by close-up photography, with camera and book at just the right angle, catching just the right amount of light. These images celebrate the beauty of the injured book, the art of devastation.”...
Medieval Fragments, May 2

 May 21, 2014:

The brave sage of Timbuktu
Joshua Hammer writes: “It was early in the summer of 2012, and at the Mamma Haidara Library in Timbuktu, Mali, a clandestine operation was underway. Night after night, a team under the direction of the library’s founder, Abdel Kader Haidara (right), quietly packed the ancient works of astronomy, poetry, history, and jurisprudence into metal chests, then spirited them out of the library in mule carts and 4x4s to safe houses scattered around the city.”...
National Geographic, Apr.

The lost desert libraries of Chinguetti
Vanessa Grall writes: “The sands of the Sahara have all but swallowed Chinguetti, a near ghost town found at the end of a harsh desert road in Mauritania, West Africa. This was once a prosperous medieval metropolis. A principal gathering place for pilgrims on their way to Mecca, it even became known as a holy city in its own right and over time, it was recognized as the seventh holy city of Islam, the City of Libraries. Against all odds, behind these walls sleep 6,000 books, some kept intact since the 9th century in the dry desert air.”...
Messy Nessy Chic, May 14

May 28, 2014:

World-class Glasgow art library destroyed by fire
The iconic library at Glasgow School of Art has been lost in a fire that swept through the building on May 23. The library was recognized as one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world. The fire completely destroyed the school’s west wing library, but fire crews managed to preserve 90% of the building and 70% of its contents, including the museum and lecture theatre. Priceless watercolors, drawings, and letters by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh kept in a fireproof vault escaped undamaged. Initial indications are that a projector overheated and lit nearby combustible materials. To offer financial or practical support, visit the GSA website....
BBC News, May 25; Glasgow (UK) Herald, May 26

June 4, 2014:

The burden of writing: Scribes in medieval manuscripts
Sarah J. Biggs writes: “When we speak to visitors or students about our medieval manuscripts, we frequently find ourselves spending a significant amount of time talking about how such books were created. We discuss the ways that scribes worked and artists painted, and quite often we will then be asked just how it is that we can know such details. There are, of course, medieval manuals for craftspeople that still exist, but often we can find clues in the manuscripts themselves.”...
British Library: Medieval Manuscripts Blog, June 3

This one is really bound in human skin
Heather Cole writes: “Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs, and cannibals alike: Tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame is without a doubt bound in human skin. Harvard conservators and scientists tested the binding using several different methods. According to Senior Rare Book Conservator Alan Puglia, they are 99.9% confident that the binding is of human origin.”...
Houghton Library Blog, May 24, June 4