Tag Archives: Digital Archives

Making the Renaissance Manuscript

Page with excised coat of armsThe Special Collections Research Center is very pleased to announce the opening of Making the Renaissance Manuscript: Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries, an exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania.  It features a manuscript from Temple’s Harry  C. Cochran History of Business Collection, built by a Temple business school faculty member.  Temple is one of nine regional lenders to this exhibition of eighty-eight items.

Our item is included in the “Politics, Economics, and the Merchant Class” section of the exhibition–and in the stunning exhibition catalog which accompanies it.   In addition, Curator Nick Herman’s blog provides additional context and information.   A codex in Italian, created by Giorgio de Lorenzo Chiarini (circa 1400-     ), “Tracta di mercantie et usanze di paesi (Book of Trade and Customs of Countries),” Florence, Italy, 1481, the manuscript is  a “commercial manual for the Renaissance merchant.” It features the “types of goods available in a large number of cities, as well as the units of measure and coinage used, their denominations, and their exchanges rates with principal domestic currencies.”  sample page

The exhibit, and its sister exhibit, Reflections on Medieval Life, soon to open at the Free Library of Philadelphia, are a celebration of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries’  Council on Library and Information Resources  Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, It supported digitization and enhanced cataloging of medieval and renaissance manuscripts throughout the region–including 43 from Temple.  The Free Lbrary exhibition will feature two additional items from Temple’s Cochran collection–more on that soon.

–Margery N. Sly, Director, SCRC



Medieval Manuscript: Pore Caitif

Pore Caitif binding
16th century binding. Pore Caitiff, [14–]. (SPC) MSS LT 085. Special Collections Research Center.
The Special Collections Research Center holds a number of medieval manuscripts of various types, including financial ledgers, notated music, a Book of Hours, and philosophical texts.

One interesting volume in the collection is a manuscript of the “Pore Caitif,” a late 14th and 15th century devotional text consisting of tracts intended for home use by the laity. The compilation of this handbook for religious instruction is most frequently attributed to English reformer John Wycliffe (1330 – 1384), and it contains approximately fourteen tracts intended to teach the reader about the Ten Commandments, the Paternoster, the Creed, and other basic aspects of Christianity. The number of Pore Caitif manuscripts in existence–more than fifty–demonstrates that this text was extremely popular during this time period.

Pore Caitif first page
First page of text. Pore Caitiff, [14–]. (SPC) MSS LT 085. Special Collections Research Center.
It is unlikely that the compiler of this instructional volume was the one to assign the title “Pore Caitif,” even though that title seems to have been used as early as the 14th century. Most likely the common title was taken from the manner in which the compiler refers to himself: “pore” being an alternate spelling of “poor,” and “caitiff” or “caitif” meaning “wretched” or “despicable.”

Temple’s Pore Caitif dates from the 14th century. It has a later binding from the 16th century, made of black Moroccan leather, and contains the bookplate of Robert R. Dearden, a 20th century Philadelphia book collector. An inscription on the last pages of the manuscript indicates that Dame Margaret Hasley, a sister in the Order of Minoresses, presented this work to another sister.

Pore Caitif last page
Last page of text. Inscription in red states that Margaret Hasley presented the volume to another sister in the Order of Minoresses. Pore Caitiff, [14–]. (SPC) MSS LT 085. Special Collections Research Center.
The volume was recently digitized for the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL). The project aims to digitize and make available online medieval manuscripts from fifteen institutions in the Philadelphia area. Images and descriptive metadata will be released into the public domain and easily downloadable at high resolution via University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ OPenn manuscript portal. Temple is contributing over twenty manuscripts to the project.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC

Books of Hours

First page of the calendar
First page of the calendar. Book of Hours: Use of Toul, between 1450 and 1499.

The Special Collections Research Center is fortunate to hold two Books of Hours from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in its collection. Looking at these two volumes side by side, visitors to the SCRC can see for themselves the transition from the manuscript tradition to the printing tradition during the early years of the printing press.

Books of Hours were generally created during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, and contain prayers dedicated to the Virgin Mary to be read throughout the day. These prayer books were intended to aid personal prayer rather than public worship in a church or cathedral. Books of Hours were enormously popular with the middle class of the day, and even today are the most common type of book or manuscript remaining from the medieval period. For more information on books of hours, see the tutorial on the Les Enluminures web site.

From the Gospel of Matthew
From the Gospel of Matthew. Ces presentes heures sont a lusaige de Ro[m]me toutes au long sans require. Ont este imprimees nouuellement a Paris.: Par Germaine Hardouyn demourant audict lieu: Entre les deux portes du Palais: A lenseigne Saincte Marguerite, [1534].
Specific content of Books of Hours varies widely. While all contain the Hours of the Virgin, some might also contain the Hours of the Cross, or certain psalms. The liturgical content of a Book of Hours is referred to as its “use,” and is typically named for the region or area where that use was common, such as “Use of Rome.”

Flight into Egypt miniature
Flight into Egypt miniature. Book of Hours: Use of Toul, between 1450 and 1499

SCRC’s manuscript book of hours is thought to be from Toul, France (Book of Hours: Use of Toul), and dates from between 1450 and 1499. It is written on parchment, which is made from animal skin, and it contains hand painted miniatures. As a manuscript, it is a unique item. The printed Book of Hours (Ces presentes heures sont a lusaige de Ro[m]me, or Book of Hours: Use of Rome), printed in Paris around 1534 by Germain Hardouyn, contains metalcuts hand painted by artist Jean Pichore. It is printed on vellum, which is a finer quality parchment made from the skin of a calf or other young animal. This volume is believed to be one of only three remaining copies of this edition.

Planetary Man
Planetary Man. Ces presentes heures sont a lusaige de Ro[m]me toutes au long sans require. Ont este imprimees nouuellement a Paris.: Par Germaine Hardouyn demourant audict lieu: Entre les deux portes du Palais: A lenseigne Saincte Marguerite, [1534].
The manuscript Book of Hours was recently digitized for Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis a Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) . The project aims to digitize and make available online medieval manuscripts from fifteen institutions in the Philadelphia area. Images and descriptive metadata will be released into the public domain and easily downloadable at high resolution via University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ OPenn manuscript portal. Temple is contributing over twenty manuscripts to the project.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC
With thanks to Katharine Chandler, Bryn Mawr College, for her assistance

Metadata Nerdvana

Metadata enhancement 2017 05 12Fueled by pizza, cookies, caffeine, a love of description, and the desire to expose more content about women’s history to interested users, 25 archivists, librarians, and graduate students gathered at Temple University Libraries on Friday, May 12, 2017, for a metadata enhancement event.

The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries is concluding a one-year NEH planning grant, “In Her Own Right: Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920.”  This pilot  project is designed to identify and aggregate material documenting the early struggle for women’s rights in the collections of PACSCL’s members, focusing on women’s efforts to improve the lives of women, children, and families in the 19th and early 20th century, leading to passage of the 19th Amendment and suffrage for white women.  When completed, collection metadata and representative images will be accessible through a single interface–all in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary suffrage in 2020.Metadata Enhancement

Our project surveyor reviewed 45 nominated collections from 8 PACSCL institutions around themes of the woman suffrage movement, work-related rights and professional opportunities, education, civic activism, and related issues. And from those, the steering committee identified ten collections from seven institutions for the pilot interface. These collections are centered on three themes: 1) Nineteenth Century Work and Friendship Across Racial Lines, 2) Philanthropy or Self-Determination in the Progressive-Era City, and 3) Medical Women Confront Race, Professionalism, and Respectability.  Member institutions scanned content, but a tight time frame did not always allow for robust description.

The brain child of Margaret Graham, Scott Ziegler, and the InHOR project Tech Group, this metadata enhancement event was designed to add searchable data for the letters, journals, diaries, scrapbooks, publications, and pamphlets that tell the story of women working for their and other’s rights.    With the additional data, students and scholars will be able to make maps, timelines, network graphs, and other visualizations. This is an experimental approach to enhancing library records for unique items.  For students, this was a great way to get started understanding metadata and its role in visualization and digital scholarship, to meet people in the field who share these interests, and to build their resumes. For digital humanists, archivists, librarians, public historians and everyone, this was a great way to come together as a community to ensure this material is as useful as possible for us all.sign up spreadsheet

And the results, after almost 4 hours of concentrated work:

Number of items with subjects added: 94

Number of items with names added: 99

Number of items with geospatial info added: 71

Number of items with transcriptions added: 40

Thanks to all the participants for their hard work (four hours of almost silent concentration)! The results are impressive and will make the end product infinitely more useful for us all.


Friendly Visits

Women and children of League St., 1899
Women and children of League St., 1899

The Octavia Hill Association was incorporated in 1896 to improve working class housing conditions through the sympathetic management of dwellings which it purchased and renovated. The association’s activities were modeled after the work in London of Octavia Hill, with whom one of its founders, Helen Parrish, had studied. Helen Parrish who served as secretary for the association, kept a diary in 1888, and created correspondence, notes, reports, and other publications describing the associations’ work, (1888-1943).  The OHA archives are housed at Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center.

Parrish Diary Cover
Parrish Diary

Parrish’s 1888 diaries (in three volumes) were recently digitized and describe her “friendly visits” to OHA’s  tenants.  In common with other social welfare activists of the era, Parrish and other agency staff members believed that part of their role was to police tenants’  behavior.

Dr. Christina Larocco who surveyed the collection as part of the In Her Own Right grant project, notes:  “It is rare for historical figures to lay out their thoughts, influences, and goals so explicitly. Helen Parrish emerges as a figure as complex and compelling as Jane Addams, one whose life and work encapsulate the central paradox of Progressivism as both altruistic and coercive. This collection adds new evidence to the perennial debate over which characteristic more fundamentally describes this movement. Moreover, these papers reveal Philadelphia to be a city as important to Progressive reform as New York and Chicago, not only within the U.S.but also as a hub in the transatlantic circulation of Progressive ideas.”

In addition to the diaries, many of the images in the OHA archives have been digitized, illustrating housing interiors and exteriors before and after renovations, court yards, and street scenes around Philadelphia.

Children outside property owned by OHA, 1920
Children outside property owned by OHA, 1920

Additional material from the Octavia Hill Association archives is in the process of being digitized and will be available both through Temple Libraries and through a pilot site “In Her Own Right:  Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920,”  being built as a part of a NEH planning grant received by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries which looks toward commemorating the 100th anniversary of women receiving the vote in 2020.

–Margery N. Sly, Director, SCRC


“We Ought to Have Our Fences Up”: Nativism and Xenophobia in the Progressive Era

An immigrant couple and their children., circa 1910
An immigrant couple and their children., circa 1910. Philadelphia Jewish Archives photograph collection

As early as the 1890s, immigration bills with provisions for literacy tests were introduced in Congress as legislative measures to control the influx of immigrants into America. On several occasions these proposed literacy tests were passed by both houses of Congress, only to be vetoed later by the President.  In 1897, for example, Grover Cleveland rejected a proposed literacy law on the basis it was “unnecessarily harsh and oppressive.”

Beginning in 1907, the United States Immigration Commission, under the leadership of Vermont Senator William Paul Dillingham began its work to address the growing nationalist concerns over the ever increasing numbers of immigrants (over 1 million annually between 1905 and 1907) arriving each year. The Dillingham Commission completed its work in 1911 and concluded that immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe posed a serious threat to American society and culture and should therefore be greatly reduced. It further called for regulation of the “kind” or “type” of immigrants admitted to the U.S.

Dillingham bill
Dillingham Bill (S. 3175), March 1, 1912, Louis Edward Levy Family Papers

The Dillingham Commission’s work was part and parcel of a wave of xenophobic and nativist sentiment in the early twentieth century, which saw numerous immigration restriction bills introduced to Congress with measures that included not only literacy tests, but also head taxes and specification of “barred” or “undesirable” immigrants by geographic and ethnic origin, physical and mental health status, and socioeconomic means. As the twentieth century unfolded, this nativist sentiment drove a progression of severely restrictive immigration legislation.

William Howard Taft vetoed a 1913 bill including a literacy test, as did Woodrow Wilson in 1915, asserting that “it excludes those to whom opportunities of elementary education have been denied without regard to their character, their purposes, or their natural capacity.” Wilson vetoed a restrictive immigration bill containing a literacy test provision for the second time in 1916; however Congress was successful in overriding that veto.   On August 17, 1916, in support of the bill, Republican Senator William E. Borah of Idaho stated “we ought to have our fences up and be thoroughly prepared to protect those in this country who will be brought into competition with the hordes of people who will come here.”

The Immigration Act of 1917 enacted the literacy test as law and expanded the list of “undesirables” barred from entering the country including all persons originating from a geographic area termed the “Asiatic Barred Zone,” a region that included much of East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Letter to Congressman Moore
Letter to Congressman J. Hampton Moore, February 28, 1912, Louis Edward Levy Family Papers

Many individuals and organizations engaged in debates on immigration as this legislation was introduced, including Louis Edward Levy, a prominent figure of Philadelphia’s Jewish community. Levy spoke out against the literacy test as a prerequisite to entry into the United States. He did so both as a private individual and as President of the Association for the Protection of Jewish Immigrants, in published writing and in speeches and testimony. Recently prepared for research use, the Maxwell Whiteman Collection of Louis Edward Levy Family Papers, housed in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, includes some of these writings, extensive correspondence, and accounts of speeches that Levy gave on the subject.

The Levy Family Papers document the activities of Louis Edward Levy, the Association for the Protection of Jewish Immigrants, and other local and national immigrant aid societies and their efforts to mobilize and coordinate collective action against immigration restriction in favor of more liberal immigration policies. To use the Levy Family Papers, request materials from the finding aid  for use in the SCRC Reading Room in Paley Library, or view a digitized selection of files from the papers.

Anastasia Chiu, Resident Librarian
Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Digital Forensics

Examples of disks
Examples of 5.25” and 3.5” floppy disks from SCRC collections.

Readers of our blog and web site are well aware that the Special Collections Research Center contains many varied types of historical materials. We are proud stewards of published books, letters, administrative records, photographs, film, audio recordings, artists’ books, fanzines, and many other formats. We also actively collect materials in digital form: word processed documents, digital photos and videos, spreadsheets, etc. As archivists and librarians responsible for preserving the historic record, we are well aware that for the past few decades the historic record has increasingly been created via computer.

The SCRC has started testing use of the KryoFlux, a small device that attaches to floppy disk drives to read disks in almost any data format.

Computer technology evolves quickly, and while it is one (still challenging) thing to download recently created files and preserve them, it’s another to be confronted with a box of obsolete disks last used ten or twenty years ago. Paper documents hundreds of years old can still be read if you understand the language, but computer disks require compatible hardware and software to render their contents readable. What’s an archivist to do?

FTK Imager printout
FTK Imager displaying information from disk images of two 3.5” floppy disks.

The answer has emerged from unlikely sources. Computer forensics is used by police and other law enforcement officials to gather and preserve computer files which may be used as evidence in a court of law. Like archivists, law enforcement officials must be sure to preserve documents without altering or damaging them–in the case of law enforcement, for evidential use, and, for archivists, to preserve the historic record. Officials involved in computer forensics have created software that enables that to happen. Meanwhile, classic video game fans have created hardware that allows them to read, copy, and play games created on much older computer systems–and often stored on floppy disks.

The SCRC–and many other special collections and archives departments–has begun to create best practices using this hardware and software to care for digital materials in our collections. At Temple, we have used the FC5025 by Device Side Data to read and copy the contents of 5.25” floppy disks, and we have started testing the Kryoflux, developed by the Software Preservation Society, with 3.5” floppy disks. In both cases, this forensic hardware has been able to read disks that other drives were unable to read. We have also used FTK Imager by AccessData to extract access copies of files for use by our patrons in our reading room, just as they would use our paper collections. Digital forensics is a growing area of archival work, and an exciting new area of exploration. We look forward to sharing our old disks with you.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC