Resting, that is what these old books appear to be doing. And they deserve it. The volumes date from the 17th and 18th centuries and have been on these shelves for several hundreds of years. They are part of York Cathedral Library and occupy a packed room (Pic 5) just adjacent to a larger reading room. When I visited the place, last week, I found myself whispering and walking slowly, so as not to wake them. These images transmit, I hope, some of the magic that hangs in the air: the red and green shine of leather bindings mixed with the distinct musky smell of old books.
Pics (my own): York Minster Library, established precisely 600 years ago this year. More about the library here.
Ahhh, one of my favourite places in York!
Like the houses in the Game of Thrones' land of Westeros, families in the Middle Ages often boasted clever mottos.
"Arte et marte!" (Art and war!) —House Derrer
This week we’ll be sharing some of our favorite clever and cunning family tag lines. Stay tuned!
Obit of the Day: 1st Latina on the LAPD
After working at Lockheed-Martin during World War II, Josephine Serrano found herself out of a job when soldiers returned from the front and women were no longer needed. She went to work in a drug store until a co-worker told her that the Los Angeles Police Department was looking to hire a new group of female officers.
Ms. Serrano applied to join the force along with 200 other women. Only 21 would graduate from the police academy in 1946. And within six months there were only nine left including Ms. Serrano who was the first Latina to serve on the LAPD.
The daughter of Mexican parents, she was born in Arizona before they moved to Mexico after her brother lost a leg in a mining accidents. They had to hurriedly flee north when another brother was threatened with death by Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. The family would settle in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood in east LA.
Joining the LAPD at the age of 23, she and her fellow female officers were not treated in the same way as their male counterparts. They received no diploma upon graduation, no gun, and no uniform (they were not yet designed). Paid $200 a month, women were assigned to either juvenile detention or the Lincoln Heights jail. Ms. Serrano ended up at the latter, where the officers were forced to wear nurses uniforms in place of the not-yet-ready police attire.
Later, after she and her colleagues were issued guns, Ms. Serrano walked a beat in LA’s Pershing Square. They worked undercover in a dress, high heels, hat and gloves.
Josephine Serrao, who married Jack Collier in 1948, retired from the force in 1960 due to a back injury. She passed away on February 25, 2014 at the age of 91. As of October 2013, the LAPD had 842 Latina officers on the force, 45% of all women serving. (However they make up only 8.5% of the total force of 9,909.)
(Image of Josephine Serrano Collier, circa 1948, modeling the newly issued LAPD policewomen’s uniform. The photo is courtesy of the Los Angeles Police Museum and via KFWB-AM)
Also of interest on Obit of the Day:
Johnnie P. Jones - One of Atlanta’s first eight black police officers
Because of all the attention of this morning’s library post, I thought it’d only be fair to post the NYPL’s response. I’m quoting four points that they’ve asked me to clarify:
*The man says “I work at this Library.” Ends up, he doesn’t “work” for the library in the sense of being an employee….
Another Tumblr user kindly contacted me to let me know that there had been a follow-up post had been written about the NYPL story I shared yesterday.
I’m not surprised there’s more to it than a brief photoblog could convey. I’d suggest anyone interested in knowing more about this particular story reads the arguments presented by all sides.
I still regret when collections are split, or moved to offsite storage. Serendipity is a wonderful thing, and rather thwarted by the need to order material in advance.
Thin pieces of metal that are bluntly attached to precious illuminated pages. It is not something you see every day in a medieval book - or imagined to see at all in such delicate objects. They are pilgrim’s badges, mementos purchased during pilgrimages to holy sites in medieval Europe. They are really not very different from the Eiffel Towers, baseball caps or Big Bens that we carry home in our suitcases today: they are mass-produced, cheap and highly portable souvenirs. If you went to see the shrine of St Thomas Becket, you would take a badge home, partly to show that you had been (like this one). The badges above are special because the pilgrim attached them to the pages of his prayerbook when he came home, which is how they survived. The shiny pieces of metal are religious instruments, of course, but they also proudly emphasize that the owner of the book went on a real pilgrimage: been there, done that!
Pics: Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce MS 51 (Book of Hours, Flanders, c. 1490). More images and information here. More about medieval pilgrimages here. A safer (but not cheaper) alternative was to have pilgrim’s badges painted into a book (here).
"You want to photograph me eating chicken?"
"Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message."
"I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It’s my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me."
It breaks my heart to see how quickly the good work of libraries the world over is being cast aside. Valuable, irreplaceable collections are being broken up to make way for more Starbucks-like spaces. I have no qualms about libraries providing coffee shops, and I am an avid user of electronic resources; what I fear is homogeneity. I fear that by the time we’ve replaced libraries with vast empty coffee shops that we’ll realise we haven’t created an information commons or an inspirational environment, but a noisy echoey draughty room which is no longer a palace of learning. Coffee shops are ten-a-penny. Great, inspiring, historic, and carefully curated collections which lead to serendipitous finding of ideas and knowledge are not. We owe it to future generations not to throw libraries away in exchange for the fleeting but empty reward of “being hip.”
I don’t know if some of you have been to these live reads at LACMA, where a classic film is read live on stage by actors who just sit and read the script. We did one recently of American Pie, but we reversed the gender roles. All the women played men; all the men played women. And it was so fascinating to be a part of this because, as the women took on these central roles — they had all the good lines, they had all the good laughs, all the great moments — the men who joined us to sit on stage started squirming rather uncomfortably and got really bored because they weren’t used to being the supporting cast.
It was fascinating to feel their discomfort [and] to discuss it with them afterward, when they said, “It’s boring to play the girl role!” And I said, “Yeah. Yeah. You think? Welcome to our world!—Olivia Wilde crushing it when she talks about women in Hollywood. (via leanin)
Today I visited the medieval library at Merton College, Oxford as a guest of the Fellow Librarian. It is the UK’s oldest library that was designed to be used by scholars, and it has been functioning as such since its construction in the 1370s. You enter the library at the ground level through a massive door. Going up the stairs you reach the upper floor, where the books are stored. It is sensational to walk among the rows of book cases in the half-lit room. Their shelves are filled with hundreds of early-modern books (many still fitted in their original bindings), which are patiently waiting until someone will touch them again. Heavy benches hoovering over wooden floors are a reminder that this room was once filled with scholars leaning over their books, trying to catch the last light of the day. In the middle of the library a heavy 13th-century book chest is found, next to a small collection of shiny 14th-century astrolabes. What a heavenly place.
Pics (my own): library, book cases, consultation bench, book chest (13th century), stained-glass window (medieval), and entrance. More information about the library on Merton College’s website (here) and also here; more on Merton College, which dates from the 13th-century, here.
I’m taking a brief break from blogging whilst I focus on my Open University homework and finish painting the hallway of our home. Juggling a full-time job as a ninja librarian, plus studying in the evenings leaves me a bit short of time. Fear not though, the blog will be back soon!
V for Victory
This man is made to suffer by the decorator. The large letter V he is carrying marks the opening of the Book of Hosea (“Verbum Domini quod factum est…”). There are few scenes found in this 12th-century Bible, so this Bible book likely had a particular significance to the monastic community that had the manuscript made. Flipping page after page of text, the monk-reader was suddenly confronted with a red-cheeked person carrying a letter-burden on his shoulder, like Atlas and the world. His feet are firmly planted in the first line of text: he is pushing himself and the V forward with gusto, if with difficulty. At the top a few letters peek through a little hole, as an expression of encouragement: Hail to the victor!
Pic: Engelberg, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 3 (more information and a full facsimile here).
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is a leaf from the Alumgavar Hours, a rich and lavishly detailed manuscript in the collection of the Walters Museum. Quite a contrast to the books we’ve looked at lately!
Image source: Walters Museum MS W. 420. Creative Commons licensed via Flickr.
Extra thanks to Lindsay for finishing her MLS and getting hired full time so I can call her “librarian” there for the first time :)
Thanks to librarian Lindsay Morecraft for supplying perfectly appropriate thumbs for this shot.
Facsimile edition of the 15th century (ca. 1460-1477), heart-shaped Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu (Ms. Occ. Rothschild 2973) housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Polyphonic chansons for 2-4 voices.
Choir book is in the shape of a heart. Issued in leather case (23 cm.).
Contains Middle French and Italian secular pieces by or attributed to Barbingant, Fedé, Bedingham, Dufay, Dunstable, Binchois, Frye, Busnois, Caron, Cornago, Ghizeghem, Morton, Ockeghem, Vincenet and others.
One of 1380 numbered copies signed by a notary.
Rita Benton Music Rare Book Room FOLIO M2 .C428 2010
University of Iowa.
This gives me feelings one probably shouldn’t have about books.
That is a daily job hazard in Special Collections.
Also, congratulations and well done on the MLIS! :)
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day shows… well I’m not quite sure! Is the bishop blessing this chap’s behind? Or is he mocking the bishop? No idea, but it’s an excellent example of the drollery, a comic marginal illustration in a medieval book of hours.
Image source: Walters Museum MS W. 88. Creative Commons licensed via Flickr.
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is the binding of a fourteenth century manuscript. The leather part is not original, but the middle panel (sadly made of ivory) is, just showing how fancy some medieval books were!
Image source: British Library MS Additional 35515. Image declared as public domain on the British Library website.
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is another cutting, this time from the border of a sixteenth century missal produced in either Florence or Rome. This depicts Peter, Isaiah, and another prophet.
Image source: British Library MS Additional 60630. Image declared as public domain on the British Library website.