CEMERS 50th Anniversary Conference, Oct. 21-22


The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CEMERS) will host its 50th anniversary conference – titled “The Pre-modern Book in a Global Context: Materiality and Visuality” – Oct. 21 and 22, at the University Downtown Center. The conference, which begins at 9 a.m. each day, is free and open to all Binghamton University faculty, students and staff. Guests can arrive at any time during the conference.

This conference will address all aspects of the study of the pre-modern book as artifact. Plenary lectures include:
• Bruce Holsinger, University of Virginia, “Theologies and Biologies of the Book: Past and Present”
• Lucille Chia, UC Riverside, “Impressions of East Asian Book Cultures: Print and Manuscript Culture in China and Japan, 7th-17th Centuries,”
• Megan Hale Williams, San Francisco State University, “Ideals and Realities in Late Fourth-Century Historical Research: Books and Libraries in Late Antiquity,”
• David Roxburgh, Harvard University, “Emulation in the Arts of the Book: The Early Fifteenth-Century Timurid Workshop in Herat.”
A plenary panel on technology and the study of the book will feature William Noel, University of Pennsylvania, Suzanne Paul, Cambridge University Library, and Paola Ricciardi, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.
An additional 74 papers will be presented in concurrent sessions. For more information, including the full program, go online.

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Celebrating CEMERS Golden Anniversary with the Book of the Month

The Ellesmere Chaucer is the October Book of the Month in honor of  the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies’ (CEMERS) 50th Anniversary

The Knight's Tale from the Ellesmere Chaucer

The Knight’s Tale from the Ellesmere Chaucer

The Ellesmere Chaucer reproduced in facsimile.  Manchester : The University Press, 1911.  Call number:  Z 1152 .C496, v.1-2.

The Ellesmere Chaucer, or Ellesmere Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, is an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  It was first owned by John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford (1408–1462), but the manuscript takes its popular name from the fact that it later belonged to Sir Thomas Egerton (1540–1617), Baron Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley, who apparently obtained it from Roger North, 2nd Baron North (1530/31-1600).  The library of manuscripts, known as the Bridgewater Library, remained at the Egerton house, Ashridge, Hertfordshire, until 1802 when it was removed to London. Francis Egerton, created Earl of Ellesmere in 1846, inherited the library, and it remained in the family until its sale to Henry Huntington by John Francis Granville Scrope Egerton (1872–1944), 4th Earl of Ellesmere. Huntington purchased the Bridgewater library privately in 1917 through Sotheby’s, and the Ellesmere Chaucer manuscript is now owned by the Huntington Library, in San Marino, California (EL 26 C 9).  In addition to the Canterbury Tales, the manuscript contains a “balade” on the House of Vere (Earls of Oxford), by one Rotheley, in a later hand (1450-80); a Table of Contents, and Chaucer’s “Ballade of Truth” in a still different hand (before 1450); numerous signatures, marginal glosses, and many scribblings on the four fly-leaves at each end of the text.

The Ellesmere manuscript is a highly polished example of scribal workmanship, with a great deal of elaborate illumination and, notably, a series of illustrations of the various narrators of the Tales (including a famous one of Chaucer himself, mounted on a horse). As such, it was clearly a de luxe product, commissioned by a very wealthy patron.  The manuscript is written on fine vellum and the leaves are approximately 400mm by 284mm in size; there are 240 leaves, of which 232 contain the text of the Tales.[2] Though the text was apparently copied by a single scribe, the illustrations were executed by perhaps as many as three artists.

The text of the Canterbury Tales in the Ellesmere manuscript is complete, in a large, clear book hand, covering 232 leaves of the finest quality thin vellum, sound and flexible. The page dimensions are noble, nearly 16 x 11 inches (the largest known manuscript of the Tales, Harley 7333, is about 18 x 13 inches), with unusually generous margins. But the main glory of the manuscript is the lavish illumination and illustration, in which the Ellesmere is easily unrivaled: on no less than seventy-one pages large foliated initials are joined to “demi-vinet” borders, in gold and other colors, framing the text on three sides. This “demi-vinet” is a conventionalized vine, the stem formed by a thick double bar, one of gold and one of color. This stem gives off, at intervals, rather stiffly curled branches bearing leaves, flowers, and hairline pen flourishes often tipped with gold balls — these last having something of the pleasant incongruity of our Christmas tree ornaments. On the whole, the design has an admirable suitability to the text it encloses: the thickness of the stem is balanced by the grace and delicacy of the hairlines, avoiding undue austerity on one side or decadent over-elaboration on the other. The text is supported by the border, not overwhelmed by it. Opposite the first line of each tale is the figure of the Pilgrim narrator, twenty-three highly individualized portraits, including a very famous one of Chaucer himself. There are, besides, over two-hundred large illuminated initials.

Margaret Rickert’s study of English illumination shows the Ellesmere border design to be in a fourteenth-century East Anglian style, done not by monks but by lay craftsmen, probably in London. The work of three — possibly four — different hands is discernible in the illumination and the miniatures, although the text itself is probably the work of one scribe. The evidence suggests, moreover, that text, border, and figures were all done at the same time — this commonplace of modern bookmaking is not, of course, to be taken for granted in medieval manuscripts.

The miniatures are of great charm and interest. They all show a perfect understanding of the text they are intended to illustrate — which is notoriously untrue of illustrating in general, even in our own day — and every horse as well as every rider is individually and appropriately conceived. Part of the appropriateness is achieved symbolically, — the Physician holds up a flask, for example, — and they are imagined as part of the text in a way no longer familiar to us. Thus, the figures all face the text; Chaucer, and the Nun’s Priest, point upwards to the words “My Tale…” The several artists responsible must have worked under the close supervision of one guiding hand. The figure opposite the “Tale of Melibeus” (f.157b) is that of Chaucer himself, on horseback like the other pilgrims (see below)

The Knight’s Tale from the Ellesmere Chaucer

The proportions of rider and horse suggest that this miniature is a copy or adaptation, of an earlier standing figure: in any case, it is probably the earliest portrait of Chaucer, the beginning of one of the two main “portrait traditions” of the fifteenth century.

Chaucer depicted in the Ellesmere

The original Ellesmere manuscript has most fortunately come down to us almost undamaged. Its importance may be better understood after some account of the way in which Chaucer’s works in general, and the Canterbury Tales in particular, have come down to us, nearly six centuries later. In contrast to the unique Beowulf manuscript, for instance — the only manuscript of the only epic surviving from Anglo-Saxon times — the complexity of the Chaucerian textual problem is enormous. Of the Canterbury Tales alone, Manly and Rickert have counted eighty-two, including fragments, and the manuscripts of his other works are counted in tens or scores. None of these can be certainly dated in Chaucer’s own lifetime, nor traced to a scribe directly employed or supervised by him. This means that nearly all the surviving manuscripts were written between 1400 and the time of Caxton’s printing press less than a century later, after which the expense and tedium of hand-copying no longer seemed worthwhile. (Caxton himself printed two editions of the Canterbury Tales from manuscripts now lost.) It means, further, that the attempt to get at what Chaucer himself wrote can be made only through that elaborate system of rigorously controlled inference and comparison that we know as textual criticism. In this case, the thorough examination and comparison of eighty-two scattered and jealously guarded, fragile manuscripts appear an impossibility, yet that is just what the incredibly devoted efforts of John Manly and Edith Rickert, and their associates, brought to successful completion in 1940, in their eight volume work The Text of the Canterbury Tales.

The literary significance of the Ellesmere Chaucer is impressive: it is one of the two or three earliest manuscripts; it provides the best readings, except for one manuscript which is much less complete; it has been long recognized as best representing a contemporary spelling standard; finally, it is the best authority for the order of the tales. We must now add this: it is also one of the most splendid examples of medieval bookmaking, and easily the finest manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, in every respect worthy of our first great poet.

From The University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The Ellesmere Chaucer  by Philip H. GoeppVolume VII · Winter 1952 · Number 2.

Binghamton University Libraries’ copy of the facsimile of  The Ellesmere Chaucer is located in the Special Collections department located on the second floor of the Bartle Library.  The facsimile is available for viewing to the public Monday – Friday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

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October is American Archives Month!


Did you know that October is American Archives Month?

An archives is a place where people go to find information. But rather than gathering information from books as you would in a library, people who do research in archives often gather firsthand facts, data, and evidence from letters, reports, notes, memos, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other primary sources.

Archivists are professionals who assess, collect, organize, preserve, maintain control of, and provide access to the portions of this information that have lasting value. Archivists keep records that have enduring value as reliable memories of the past, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records.


Whether or not you realize it, you probably have an archives in your home. It might be in a filing cabinet in the study, a box in the basement, a chest in the attic – or even in all three. This is your personal archives: a collection of material that records important events from your family’s history.

Believe it or not, there are similarities between your family’s archives and local, state, or national archives. All save items to serve as proof that an event occurred, to explain how something happened, or for financial or sentimental reasons. All types of archives may be stored in more than one location. And both personal archives and larger archives save a variety of materials that can range from letters, to photographs, to films, to databases, to official documents, and more.

Come and celebrate American Archives Month with us!

To learn more about archives and archivists, visit Special Collections on the second floor of Bartle Library!

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Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies to host lecture on velum making


Wednesday, October 5, 3:00 - LN 1106, IASH Conference Room

Parchmentally Yours: Animal Materiality in the Intimate Study of Medieval Book Production and its Related Fields

Jesse Meyer, Pergamena Parchment and Leathers

Parchment, or vellum, is one of the oldest and most durable of bookbinding and production materials, both as a covering material and as a text support. It was the principle “plastic” material of the Middle Ages, and remains one of the strongest, most sensuous, and most archival of natural materials available to the bookbinder and calligrapher. Its alkalinity makes it an ideal material for conservation purposes and its continued existence in our libraries and institutions provides an invaluable window into our written history.

Join us as Jesse Meyer discusses and demonstrates the process of producing vellum by hand. Jesse will guide us through the “wet work” portion using actual raw animal skins, as well as tools and equipment, taking the fresh animal skins through the dehairing stage to the point of stretching and scraping them on the frame. We will also learn about the “dry work”, the finishing processes of the skins, and will end with sanding the skins to proper thickness and finish. There will also be numerous examples of the material available for inspection and handling.

Jesse Meyer has been producing parchment for over 15 years at his family-owned leather tannery located in Montgomery, NY.  His background includes a degree in fine arts which, along with his long family history in the craft of leather production, helped lay the foundation for exploring animal skins as an art material, and eventual research and production of the material as a binding and writing material used in ancient and medieval manuscripts.

CEMERS  Lecture Series/Calendar of Events

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Rare, first edition discovered within book sale donations!

An incredible rare book was found during a review of the recent gift book donations. The novella, Under a Glass Bell, was written by Anaïs Nin in 1944. It is a first edition, and is one of 300 unnumbered copies printed at the Gemor Press.

George Leite and Anaïs Nin at Daliel's Bookstore in Berkeley, CA, 1946.

George Leite and Anaïs Nin at Daliel’s Bookstore in Berkeley, CA, 1946.

Anaïs Nin began writing the stories collected in Under a Glass Bell in Paris during the mid to late 1930s and finished in New York after she fled France because of the war.  When she could not find a publisher for her original collection of eight short stories, she resorted to self-publishing with her Gemor Press in 1944.

Designed completely at the Gemor Press, the text was handset by Nin in Bernhard Gothic Light Italic, ten point, and printed on Watermarked Zurich Plate Finish paper.  The cover and the seventeen engravings on copper were designed and created by Nin’s husband, Ian Hugo.

The book is in excellent condition with little wear to its spine or edges, considering no dust jacket was issued.  It has an interesting provenance as it is was once owned by Harold Geisse, Jr.– a former librarian in the Bartle Library.

Geisse inscription

This book can be considered an association copy due to this inscription written on the front free endpaper:  Harold L. Geisse, Jr. Camp Ritchie, April 1944.

According to Wikipedia, during World War II, Fort (Camp) Ritchie became the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Training Center, the first time in the history of the U.S. military that it had a facility for this type of centralized intelligence training. Once soldiers arrived, they were told not to identify themselves as “military intelligence” to anyone, not even their families.

Thousands lived and worked at Fort Ritchie during World War II. The Army conducted signal intelligence training, instruction regarding interrogation techniques and close-combat training (in a mock German village constructed at the site) throughout the war.  More than 10,000 students graduated from the Army’s intelligence program at Fort Ritchie by the end of the war.

Our thanks to Mr. Geisse for his support of the University Libraries. This book will become part of the rare book collection in our Special Collections Department.
For more information, contact Beth Kilmarx, Curator of Rare Books at bkilmarx@binghamton.edu or 607-777-3403.
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Maria Mazziotti Gillan Poem Featured on Writer’s Almanac


The poem “My Mother Was a Brilliant Cook” was featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keiller for September 21, 2016. Each day on the program a poem is featured along with literary and historical notes from the day in history.

Hear Garrison Keiller read “My Mother Was a Brilliant Cook” [text of poem is included]

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the Director of the Creative Writing Program / The Binghamton Center for Writers, and a Professor of Poetry at Binghamton University-State University of New York.

She has published 20 books, including The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets (Cat in the Sun Books, 2014); Ancestors’ Song (Bordighera Press, 2013); The Silence in an Empty House (NYQ Books, 2013); Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories (MiroLand, Guernica Editions, 2013); The Place I Call Home (NYQ Books, 2012); and What We Pass On: Collected Poems 1980-2009 (Guernica Editions, 2010). With her daughter Jennifer, she is co-editor of four anthologies.

Many of Gillan’s books and other materials about her are housed in the Faculty Archives and the Maria Mazziotti Gillan Archive located in Special Collections. Special Collections is located on the second floor of the Bartle Library [off of the North Reading Room].

Visit maria Mazziotti Gillan’s official site

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Congratulations to Shantanu Patel and thank you for showcasing our University Archives!


Shantanu won the Libraries’ Welcome Weekend #baxterbooks photo contest for this shot, taken in Special Collections during the recent Welcome Weekend tours here in Bartle Library. The photograph shows a freshman beanie and a banner from the early days of Binghamton University – both items are housed in the University Archives! Great photograph, Shantanu!

Thanks to all of the students who visited Special Collections – we love visitors and were so happy to see so many of you! We hope that you enjoyed learning about the treasures in the Binghamton University Libraries’ Special Collections & University Archives. We welcome you to come back and see even more of our interesting and wonderful materials.

To learn more about Special Collections, visit our webpage.

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The Genius: A Memoir of Max Reinhardt is featured book for September


The Special Collections featured book for September is The Genius: A Memoir of Max Reinhardt. Written by his son, Gottfried Reinhardt, this is an intimate look into the life of Max Reinhardt from his birth near Vienna in 1873 until his death in New York City in 1943. Gottfried tells of the power and mastery of his father on a stage as well as the charm of Reinhardt and the love he generated in those whose lives he touched. This is poignantly expressed in a simple tribute from longtime admirer, Albert Einstein: “A man like your father, the world will not see again soon.”

Max Reinhardt was  theater and film director and theatrical producer. With his innovative stage productions, powerful staging techniques, and harmonization of stage design, language, music and choreography, he is regarded worldwide as one of the most prominent directors of German-language theater in the early 20th century. His career coincided with a major shift in the evolution of modern theater: the ascendancy of the director as the key figure in theatrical production. Reinhardt’s reputation in international theater history is secured by the leading role he played in this transformation, as well as by his innovative use of new theater technology and endless experimentation with theater spaces and locales, which together redefined traditional relationships between actor and audience toward a new participatory theater.

Reinhardt was a co-founder of the Schall und Rauch Kabarett stage [later known as the Kleines Theater] in Berlin in 1901 and later managed the Neues Theater and the Deutsches Theater, also both in Berlin. By 1930, he ran 11 stages in Berlin and, in addition, managed the Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna from 1924 to 1933. His theaters embraced a number of genres including ballet, pantomime, opera and the morality play. Reinhardt had multitudes of successful productions both in Europe and in the United States including Vollmoller’s Das Mirakel [The Miracle], Gorki’s The Lower Depths, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. Reinhardt also directed a film version in 1935 of a  Midsummer Nights Dream with a cast that included James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, and Olivia de Havilland.

After the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi-governed Germany in 1938, he emigrated first to Britain, then to the United States. Reinhardt opened the Reinhardt School of the Theatre in Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard.  In 1940 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Binghamton University holds the Max Reinhardt Archives & Library which is located in Special Collections on the second floor of the Bartle Library. The collection  contains over 240,000 papers, personal letters, documents, and original promptbooks of Reinhardt productions; over 14,000 photographs and negatives, including a number of costume and set designs; films of some of Reinhardt’s productions; and a portion of Reinhardt’s personal library.

To read The Genius: A Memoir of Max Reinhardt or learn more about the man himself, please visit Special Collections. We are open Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

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National Digital Newspaper Program Now to Include Newspapers from the Earliest Days of America’s Founding

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Gazette of the U.S., National Gazette & National Intelligencer Among Early Papers Now Included in Chronicling America from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress

Want to read how an 18th-century newspaper covered the inauguration of George Washington? How about learning what issues divided Congress in the early 1800s?

Going back into early American history is now possible due to new digital content that has been added to Chronicling America, the open access database of historic U.S. newspapers that is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

The newly available digital content is from 18th-century newspapers from the three early capitals of the United States: New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. At nearly 15,000 pages total, these early newspapers from the earliest days of the country are part of the database because of an expansion of the chronological scope of NDNP. The program is expanding its current time window of the years 1836-1922, to include digitized newspapers from the years 1690-1963. The expansion will further the program goal of capturing the richness and diversity of our nation’s history in an open access database, which anyone can use.

Read more here 

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Celebrate inventors – including Edwin A. Link – at Bartle Library

August’s Pop-Up Exhibit celebrates American inventors and their inventions. America is home to great inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone and Orville and Wilbur Wright who invented the Airplane. Binghamton University and surrounding community are home to many great (and future) inventors, including the local inventor Edwin A. Link.

Discover more about inventions with the Patents & Trademarks subject guide or reach out subject librarian Aleshia Huber at hubera@binghamton.edu.

Learn about the Edwin A. Link and Marion Link Collections located in Special Collections on the second floor of Bartle Library or reach out to curator Beth Kilmarx at bkilmarx@binghamton.edu.


The Pop-Up Exhibit is located at the corner of the Reader Services Desk in the Bartle Library. Free themed bookmarks are available each month.

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