Ginsberg’s New Year Blues is featured book for January 2017


New Year Blues by Allen Ginsberg is our featured book for the first month in this new year, January 2017.

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997) was an American poet and a pivotal figure of the Beat Movement of the 1950s. Born in Newark, New Jersey, he was one of many influential American writers of his time known as the Beat Generation, which included famous writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, who he befriended while studying at Columbia.

Visit the Allen Ginsberg Project to learn more about him

New Year Blues contains the works “Christmas Blues” and “MacDougal Street Blues.”

“Christmas Blues” starts with:


“MacDougal Street Blues” starts with:


Binghamton University Libraries’ copy of New Year Blues is a first edition, copy No. 81, and signed by Allen Ginsberg. The work is sewn into blue wrappers, has white laid paper and black endpapers.

You can see New Year Blues in Special Collections located on the second floor of the Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room).

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Centuries of New York History Prepare for a Move

Maria Holden, front, the director of archival services, and Laura Montgomery, back (facing to the camera), state archivist, packing documents. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Maria Holden, front, the director of archival services, and Laura Montgomery, back (facing to the camera), state archivist, packing documents. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Caked in dust and dating back to 1674, the written records of a growing city
are headed to new homes, to be preserved and made accessible to researchers.

On the upper floors of the grand courthouse, above the Corinthian columns chiseled from granite and the lobby with sweeping marble staircases peeking out from scaffolding, the rows of shelves, barely shoulderwide, form a maze that never seems to end.

Caked in dust on the shelves are leather-bound volumes and stacks of parchment that, in a way, sketch out the story of New York City. Some of the early records swear allegiance to King George III, and the names of historic figures like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr pop up in documents from when they were working as lawyers in the city.

The rows, on the seventh and eighth floors of the Surrogate’s Courthouse in Manhattan, include the condemnation records of the properties taken to make way for Central Park and the city’s grid system of streets. In one room, shelf after shelf is filled with the immigration documents of Europeans who sought to become citizens of the United States.

The vast collection, once part of a bureaucracy aptly named the Division of Ancient Records, is visited occasionally by researchers, like historians and genealogists (both academic and amateur). It is mostly the province of the staff members who tend to the documents, many of which predate the Declaration of Independence.

Read more here

Do you want to learn more about the preservation of books and documents? Visit Special Collections located on the second floor of the Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room)

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Alumna Molly Peacock publishes new book



The Analyst

A collection of poetry exploring her evolving relationship with Jewish psychoanalyst Joan Stein

When a psychoanalyst became a painter after surviving a stroke, her longtime patient, distinguished and beloved poet Molly Peacock, took up a unique task. The Analyst is a new, visceral, twenty-first century “in memoriam” of ambiguous loss in which Peacock brilliantly tells the story of a decades-long patient-therapist relationship that now reverses and continues to evolve. Peacock invigorates the notion of poetry as word-painting: A tapestry of images, from a red enameled steamer on a black stove to Tibetan monks funneling glowing sand into a painting, create the backdrop for her quest to define identity.

Read more on Molly Peacock’s website

Read more about The Analyst in Salon

Read more about the work in The ProsenPeople

Did you know that Binghamton University holds the Molly Peacock Papers? The Collection contains over 200 linear feet of manuscripts, correspondence, poetry notebooks, photographs, publicity materials, and ephemera.

Please visit Special Collections located on the second floor of the Bartle Library to learn more!

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Check your attics for possible treasures! Long lost photographs of the Titanic indicate a coal fire may have helped sink the ship.

Coal Fire, Not Just Iceberg, Doomed the Titanic, a Journalist Claims

By Dan Bilefsky  January 3, 2017

The Titanic leaving Southampton, England, on its ill-fated voyage on April 10, 1912.  Credit  Southampton City Council, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — Maybe it wasn’t just the iceberg.

Ever since the Titanic sank more than 104 years ago, killing more than 1,500 men, women and children, mystery has swirled around the tragedy.

No one doubts that the ship collided at high speed with an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland.

But a new documentary posits that the sinking of the ship — hailed at the time as the largest ever built, and praised for its professed unsinkability — may have been accelerated by a giant coal fire in its hull that appeared to have started as long as three weeks before it set off on its fateful journey to New York from Southampton, England.

In the documentary, which was broadcast on Channel 4 in Britain on New Year’s Day, Senan Molony, an Irish journalist who has spent more than 30 years researching the Titanic, contends that the fire, in a three-story-high bunker next to one of the ship’s boiler rooms, damaged its hull, helping to seal its fate long before it slammed into the iceberg.

“It’s a perfect storm of extraordinary factors coming together: fire, ice and criminal negligence,” he argues in the documentary, “Titanic: The New Evidence,” which will air in the United States on the Smithsonian Channel on January 21. “The fire was known about, but it was played down. She should never have been put to sea.”

Mr. Molony’s potential breakthrough can be traced to an attic in Wiltshire, in southwest England, where a previously unpublished album of photographs chronicling the ship’s construction and the preparations for its maiden voyage had been gathering dust for more than a century.

The photographs were discovered by a descendant of a director of the Belfast-based company, Harland and Wolff, that built the Titanic. About four years ago, a collaborator of Mr. Molony’s acquired the rare photographs of the ship, meticulously taken by Harland and Wolff’s engineering chief before it left a Belfast shipyard.

When the two men looked closely at the images, Mr. Molony said, they were shocked to discover a 30-foot-long diagonal black mark on the hull’s front starboard side, close to where the ship was pierced by the iceberg. An analysis by engineers at Imperial College London subsequently revealed that the mark was most likely caused by a fire in a coal bunker of the ship.

Mr. Molony called the photographs “the Titanic equivalent of Tutankhamen’s tomb,” because of the richness of historical detail they conveyed, including the mark highlighting the extent of the damage.

Experts said the theory was compelling but were divided over how important a role the fire may have played.

Read more here including footage from the documentary which features the city where the Titanic was constructed and the people who built it.

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Hidebound: the Grisly Invention of Parchment

Fresco of the Last Judgment, with animal skin. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Fresco of the Last Judgment, with animal skin. Via Wikimedia Commons.

While most of the Old World was writing on papyrus, bamboo, and silk, Europe carved its own gruesome path through the history books.

To an ancient Egyptian of the third century BCE, the rolls of papyrus on which the country recorded its history, art, and daily business would have been of all-consuming importance. Scrolls made from papyrus were the medium for hundreds of thousands of books lodged at Alexandria’s wondrous library, and blank papyrus sheets were one of the chief exports to Egypt’s friends, allies, and trading partners across the Mediterranean. But papyrus’s 3,000-year monopoly was about to come under threat. Invented by Egypt’s upstart Hellenic neighbors and made from animal hides at great cost in sweat and blood, parchment was smooth, springy, and resilient where papyrus was rough, brittle, and prone to fraying. Its rise at papyrus’s expense, however, had little to do with the ergonomics of its use or the economics of its manufacture and everything to do with ambitious pharaohs who ignored the cardinal rule of military leadership: never get involved in a land war in Asia.

The invention of parchment is traditionally ascribed to King Eumenes II of Pergamon, ruler from 197 to 159 BCE of a Greek city-state located in what is now northwestern Turkey. Pergamon comprised only the city itself and a few local towns when Eumenes was crowned as king, but at his death thirty-eight years later it had been transformed into a political, martial, and cultural powerhouse. Chief among his achievements was the founding of a great library to rival that of Alexandria, and Eumenes’s institution boasted some 200,000 volumes at its peak. The Pergamenes’ book-collecting mania was so notorious that citizens of the nearby town of Scepsis, having inherited Aristotle’s library from one of the late philosopher’s students, took the extraordinary step of burying its literary treasure to stop it falling into the hands of their acquisitive neighbors. Nor did Eumenes stop at books: in a bid to assemble a staff worthy of his new library he approached Aristophanes, the chief librarian at Alexandria, to offer him a job. The Egyptian king Ptolemy clapped the librarian in irons to ensure his continued loyalty.

Read more here

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It’s all in the details!

20161206_075014 two

Shown is a detail from The Cloisters Apocalypse, an early fourteenth century Latin manuscript depicting the narrative present in the Book of Revelations. The manuscript dates to c.1330 when it was produced in Normandy, France for the noble family de Montigny.

Many of the illustrations in the book depict half-human half-bestial beings and were most likely drawn by the scribe himself as he created the Cloisters Apocalypse. The figures rarely correspond to the content of the text and are perhaps reflective of the scribe’s own thoughts and imaginations.

An original of this work is held by the Met in New York City, however Binghamton University Libraries owns a quality facsimile for students, faculty and other scholars to examine.

Please visit Special Collections located on the second floor of the Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room to see this work which is currently on display as part of the From Aesop to Joachim: Medieval and the Early Modern Facsimiles of Special Collections exhibit.

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Students meet new acquisition


Professor Bridget Whearty and her students examine new acquisition, Postilla litteralis super epistolam ad hebraeos. Photograph by Jonathan Cohen.

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Postilla litteralis super epistolam ad hebraeos is the November 2016 Book of the Month



NICHOLAS OF LYRA, Postilla litteralis super epistolam ad hebraeos (Literal Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews)

Special Collections in the Bartle Library, is celebrating a new acquisition: a 14th-century manuscript of Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla litteralis super epistolam ad hebraeos. This important medieval manuscript was purchased for Special Collections through the generosity of Alex Huppé.


In Latin, manuscript on parchment Northern France (Paris?) or England (?), c. 1340-1375

i (paper) + 30 + i (paper), modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto, complete, (collation i-ii12 iii12[-7 through 12, cancelled blanks]), trace of horizontal catchword remains f. 12v, ruled in lead with the top and bottom horizontal rules full across, single full-length vertical bounding lines, prickings in three outer margins (justification 207-20 x 140-137 mm.), written in a quick gothic bookhand (textualis currens)in two columns of forty-nine lines, majuscules in text stroked with red, biblical lemmata underlined in red, no rubrics apart from explicit, blank spaces for initials (six- to two-line), with guide letters visible, in very good condition apart from minor cockling and a few worm holes.  Bound in modern red leather in 1988 by Donald Taylor of Toronto, title on spine, “Nicholas/ Lyra/ Super/ Hebreos,” excellent condition.  Dimensions 248 x 183 mm.

Nicholas of Lyra’s literal commentary on the Bible is arguably the most influential biblical commentary from the Middle Ages – one that was studied by students of the Bible for centuries afterwards.  This is an early copy of his unedited Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, almost certainly made in university circles in France or England.  The textual and historical implications of the transmission of the text in manuscripts such as this one that include commentaries on single books of the Bible, or small groups of books, have been neglected in the scholarly literature, and deserve careful study.


1. Written in Northern France, likely in Paris, or in England, perhaps at Oxford, in the middle of the fourteenth century, based on the evidence of the script.  The script is a good example of the type some scholars have called littera parisiensis describing the clear, but quickly written gothic bookhand found in so many university texts copied in Paris in the thirteenth and fourteenth century centuries.  The name is, however, somewhat misleading, for similar scripts were used at the English universities (and also in non-university contexts) (discussion and bibliography, Derolez, 2003, p. 100).  This could have been copied in Paris, Oxford, or Cambridge.  Evidence that might hint at an English origin includes the frequent use pendular abbreviations that are attached to the letter and curl around above line, the forked ascenders, and the occasional “forked” (but here short) ‘r’.  Citations within the text use Arabic numerals, again perhaps tilting the balance very slightly towards England.  (Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS 22 is a fragment of Nicholas of Lyre’s Postill on the Psalter from the mid-fourteenth century, securely localizable in England based on the style of the penwork initials.  Its script is more formal than the script in our manuscript, but the similar use of pendular abbreviations is noteworthy).

The first folio is darkened, suggesting it has stood at the beginning for a long time, and this is a complete copy of the Postill on Hebrews.  It is possible this was once part of a longer manuscript, possibly a Nicholas’s commentary on all the Pauline Epistles, of which Hebrews is the last.  The verso of the last folio is unruled and quite clean, but it was once followed by six blank leaves (removed when owned by Joseph Pope, see below).

Extensive contemporary corrections, particularly in the first half of the manuscript, chapter numbers added in margin.  A few later notes show use:  f. 12v, “Experimentalis”; f. 20v, “Questio.”

2. Top margin, f. 1, a bold “82” in ink; inside lower margin, ff. 29, 30, “6,” also in ink; price code (?), in pencil, back pastedown, top corner, “63XSL.”

3. Belonged to Ruth J. Dean (1902-2003), the author of Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (1999), and a graduate of Wellesley College (1922,) and Oxford University.  Dean taught at Mount Holyoke, and at the University of Pennsylvania, and served as president of the Medieval Academy of America in 1973 (Chance, 2005).

4. Collection of Joseph Pope (1921-2010) of Toronto, investment banker and prominent collector of medieval manuscripts, who acquired it in March, 1984 from Deane.  Bergendal MS 72 (described in Pope, 1999; brief description in Stoneman, p. 194; an overview of the collection is given in Pope, 1997).  The Bergendal catalogue states that this was bound in a seventeenth-century binding when it was acquired, which was in poor condition.  When the manuscript was rebound the last six folios of third quire, originally blank, were removed.

5. Bergendal Sale, London, Sotheby’s, Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, July 5, 2011, lot 80.


ff. 1-30 [contemporary heading, added in the upper margin, Postilla magistri nicholay de lira super epistola ad hebreos], incipit, “[C]um uenerit quod perfectum est euacuabitur quod ex parte est, prima ad cor. 13 [1 Corinthians 13:10].  In primatiua ecclesia illi qui de iudaismo conuertebantur ad fidem christi …; f. 4, incipit, In primis dicendum est etc., Epistole ad hebreos.  Iste prologus communiter preponitur …; f. 4v, Multifarie multisque modus, etc. [Hebrews 1:1], Sicut predictum est.  Apostolus Paulus hanc [ap: expunged] epistolam scripsit aliquibus conversis ad fidem christi …”; f. 6v, incipit, Propteria habundantius [Hebrews 2:1],   Posquam apostolus in capitulo …; f. 20v, incipit, Vmbram enim habens etc. [Hebrews 10:1], In capitulo precedenti probauit …”; f. 29, incipit, Caritas fraternitatis [Hebrews 13:1], Superius apostolus … uobis. Amen. Id est confirmetur in presenti et in futuro per gloriam consummere.  Prestante domino nostro ihesu christo cui honor et gloria in secula seculorum, amen.  Explicit postilla super epistolam ad hebreos eddita a magistro Nicholao de Lyra de ordine fratrum minorum [Ends mid col. b, f. 30, remainder and f. 30v, blank].

Nicolaus de Lyra, Postilla litteralis super epistolam ad hebreos; Stegmüller, no. 5915; there is no modern edition of Nicholas’s Postill on the Epistle to Hebrews.  Indeed, of Nicholas’s most important achievement, a running commentary on the entire Bible that was focused on the literal sense of the text, only the Song of Songs has been edited by a modern scholar (Kiecker, 1998); his Apocalypse commentary has been translated into English (Krey, 1997).  The Strasbourg 1492 edition of the Postillae on the entire Bible is available in a reprinted edition, and online (Frankfurt am Main, 1970; Online Resources).  Nicholas composed the work c. 1322-1331, drawing no doubt on his earlier the lectures on the Bible that he prepared for his students in Paris. This commentary, like his commentary on the Apocalypse and Romans, dates from 1329, but was probably based on lectures very early in his career, c. 1301-03 (Klepper in Krey and Smith, eds., 2000, p. 309; Krey in Dahan, ed., 2011, p. 155). The Postillae were enormously popular, and survive in at least 800 manuscripts, and likely more (Stegmüller, 1950-61, 1976-80, nos. 5829-5923, with a partial list of c. 200 manuscripts; Gosselin, 1970; Krey and Smith, 2000, p. 8); some copies include the commentaries on the entire Bible, others include commentaries on just one or a small group of biblical books.  It was the first biblical commentary to appear in print; first printed in Rome in 1471, and then in more than one hundred editions until 1600, including editions in Basel, Douai, Cologne, Lyons, Nuremberg, Paris, Venice and Strasbourg; Anton Koberger in Nuremberg, printed this work seven times from 1479-97 (Gosselin, 1970).

Nicolaus de Lyra, O.F.M., (c. 1270-1349) was the greatest biblical scholars of the fourteenth century; indeed, many consider him one of the greatest biblical scholars of the Middle Ages.  He was born in Lyre, near Évreux in Normandy.   At the age of thirty, around 1300, he entered the Franciscan Convent at Verneuil, and was soon sent to the Franciscan House in Paris to study at the University; the remainder of his life was spent in Paris.  He became a regent master in theology in 1308/09, and later the Franciscan provincial minister for the Province of Paris from 1319-1324, and the provincial minister for Burgundy from 1324-1330.

Nicholas’s greatest work was his running commentary on the whole Bible, the Postilla litteralis in vetus et novum testamentum (The Literal Postil on the Whole Bible).  He stresses the importance of the literal sense of the scriptures, which he argues was often neglected by other commentators, and discusses the grammar, philology, and historical context of the text. “Postilla,” a term which may derive from “post illa verba” (after that word), refers to a commentary written out as a continuous gloss, interspersed with scriptural lemmata. Throughout this commentary, he exhibits a thorough grounding in Jewish commentaries on the Bible, including the Talmud, the Midrash, and the works of Rashi (Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac), (1045-1105), and a knowledge of Hebrew. Scholars have suggested that he studied with Jewish scholars in Évreux, which was an important center of Jewish learning in the late thirteenth century, although more recently it has been suggested that he studied Hebrew in Paris (Klepper in Krey and Smith, eds., 2000, pp. 289-312; Geiger in Dahan, ed., 2011, 167-203).

In this commentary, Nicholas presents the main theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews as the superiority of the New Testament over the Old, comparing the old covenant with the perfection of evangelical law established by Christ.  There is no modern critical edition, nor has there been a census of the surviving manuscripts of this commentary.  The Postils survive both in impressive multi-volume manuscripts that include the commentaries on the entire Bible (many of these expensive, illuminated copies), and in manuscripts that include the commentary on a single book of the Bible, or a group of books, such as this one; this latter type of manuscript has been comparatively neglected by modern scholars.  Future studies of the textual tradition will need to analyze both types of manuscripts.  Our modern perception of Nicholas’s commentaries, and their text, has been based on the one hand on evidence of the expensive copies of the complete commentaries (studied often for the diagrams and illustrations more than for their text), and on the other, on the widely available fifteenth-century printed editions, many of which present the text of the commentaries together with the Ordinary Gloss and the complete biblical text.  The layout of this practical, working copy of the Postil on Hebrews, could not be more different.  Most university students of theology, and even masters, in the fourteenth and into the fifteenth century would have known Nicholas’s commentaries in manuscripts such as this one.

The influence of the Postilla extended far beyond the Middle Ages, and they were valued by Martin Luther and others.  The often-cited little couplet, attributed to Julius von Pflug (1499-1564), “Si Lyra non lyrasset/ Lutherus non saltasset” (If Lyra had not played, Luther could not have danced), aptly summarizes the importance of Nicholas of Lyra’s thought to Martin Luther, who praised Lyra for his knowledge of Hebrew, and considered him “A fine soul:  a good hebraist and a true christian” (quoted in Wood, 1958, p. 83; see Noblesse-Rocher in Dahan, 2011, 335-357).

The manuscript is available for study in the Special Collections and University Archives department located on the second floor of the Bartle Library.  The department is open to the public Monday – Friday from 10 am – 4 pm.

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Happy Halloween event!


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A-Bombs, the Cold War and the Red Scare


Join us in unearthing surprises, prying open the vaults and breathing life into long dead…documents!

Noon-1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, Special Collections, 2nd floor of Bartle Library

Explore the fears of nuclear warfare in the 1950’s and how those fears were exploited by Hollywood. This talk is illustrated with posters from the campus McLaughlin Collection. By Jean Green, head of Special Collections and Archives.

Learn about a civil defense drill on our campus in 1960, at which several students refused to participate. This particular event defined student protests during the infamously tumultuous 1960’s. By Yvonne Deligato, university archivist.

Discover a new mystery genre, atomic renaissance – a term used for female mystery writers of the 1940′s and ‘50s. By Beth Kilmarx, curator of rare books.

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