Medieval (and other) manuscripts in Special Collections

Within The Ames Library’s 4th floor department called Tate Archives & Special Collections are thousands of unique materials and all are available to benefit people in the IWU and surrounding communities.

Our collections include 12 medieval manuscript leaves and three manuscript books from the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. A two volume set of the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus, the first bound facsimile edition of the Old and New Testaments, is also available.

Click to enlarge

[Pictured] A Buddhist manuscript in Pali (shown here in two parts), dating from the 19th century, is at the back of the shelf. The matted leaves are from
(L) a Bible in Latin, on vellum, with contemporary glossing. England, ca. 1220.
(R) a Bible in Latin, on vellum, with decorated initials and marginal penwork, including a scribe’s use of the pointing finger. The text is from Zachariah. Italy, Bologna, ca. 1280.

This display holds just a small portion of the kinds of materials found in Tate Archives & Special Collections. These collections are in a variety of languages and formats (artifact, book, manuscript, and media) and creation dates range from the 11th-21st centuries. Some collections are completely described and identified and some have yet to be thoroughly organized or examined.

Although many holdings do have a direct connection to the University, many are distinct and unrelated to the others such as the supporting materials for research on the people who created and collected the pottery and basketry items displayed in the entry level rotunda.

Curious minds seeking inspiration for creative works and original research are welcome to stop by and explore the possibilities!

Medieval manuscripts in IWU’s Special Collections

The Ames Library is pleased to participate in IWU’s “A Year with The Saint John’s Bible”! The first volume completed for The Saint John’s Bible project, Gospels & Acts, will be a featured part of many campus activities and presentations in Spring 2018. From June – December 2018, we will have the Pentateuch Heritage Edition.

Illuminated initial letter Q

16th Century illuminated Q

The original is on vellum and was created in using traditional medieval techniques of calligraphy and illumination. Illinois Wesleyan’s Special Collections holds 11 vellum leaves of medieval manuscripts (see more images below) and one bound folio of liturgical music created in that same era.

Manuscripts, meaning documents created by hand, are part of the historical evolution of books and one of the many book arts traditions used to enhance the way we convey information. Some manuscripts like The Saint John’s Bible are illuminated, or decorated, also by hand and hand bound.

The Special Collections vault in Tate Archives & Special Collections on the library’s 4th floor holds these and thousands of other unique items that curious minds are welcome to explore.

Rare treats

October 22-24, 2014 marked a unique series of events for IWU students, staff, faculty and the wider community. With funding from the Mellon Foundation-sponsored series titled Re-centering the Humanities*, The Ames Library hosted a visit by University of Iowa professor Florence Boos and noted book collector Jack Walsdorf. The topic that brought them here was their shared interest in and knowledge of 19th-century English designer, writer, philosopher and founder of the Kelmscott Press. Walsdorf and Boos are current and past-presidents of The William Morris Society in the United States. Links to a press release and follow up story are included at the end of this post.

Overall,110 students in seven classes, 66 guests in three public campus events and 25 participants in an event held at the McLean County Museum of History were beneficiaries of the expertise our guests shared across our community.

In the classrooms, our students heard about Morris’s influences in design elements for architecture, clothing, home furnishings and more. Our guests addressed these topics in a frame that conveyed the stark conditions of life for people in Victorian Era England, with all the excesses and blight brought on by the Industrial Age, and drew a line to contemporary issues. Environmentalism, labor issues, equity of speech and free expression of ideas are concerns in society today and were issues that Morris and his peers engaged with in their society.

Mr. Walsdorf loaned us more than 60 items from his personal collection on Morris. Some were used by students during the classroom visits and many more were displayed in the library, in varying combinations, from October 17-November 14. One class also made a follow up visit to Tate Archives & Special Collections where they were able to view selected Morris works up-close and to handle Kelmscott proof sheets loaned by Walsdorf.

The library exhibit carried the title “Boundless Spirit: The Words, Works and Legacy of William Morris.” This image gallery contains selections from the class visits, campus and community events.

* Other campus events in this series can be viewed at On campus viewers will also be able to access the original grant proposal on this page.

On October 13, University Communications’ distributed a press release that is available at
[Note: The permanent IWU News archives is located Stories are harvested and collected there annually to prevent loss of information due to website changes.]

Anna Lowenthal’s Argus story about these events was published on October 31, 2014 and is available at,38360

more Book Arts news

Ever wanted to make your own book? Curious about careers in bookbinding or wondering what the Midwest Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers does?

ISU’s new Conservator Andrew Huot sent the information below, and I thought it would be of interest to others. Sign up today!

Bookbinding and Book Preservation Workshops at Milner Library

The Center for Conservation and Preservation at the Milner Library is

continuing to offer workshops in bookbinding, book arts, and book repair

to students, faculty, and staff. All levels are welcome, all tools and

materials provided. Bring your sense of adventure and come have some fun

making books.

The schedule and registration information is at

[The student discounts are available for IWU students.]

The Center is also sponsoring lectures on book history and the book

arts. All lectures are free and open to the public. The topics and dates

are at

Summer fun

Due to a combination of professional development time (thanks, Karen!) and vacation days, I recently spent two weeks at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for a class on letterpress printing. The class took place at the home of The Soybean Press in the Printing Services building. Soybean Press is a cooperative effort of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, The Graduate School of Library and Information Science, The University of Illinois Press, Facilities and Services Printing Department, and the School of Art and Design.

Some of the equipment we used and prints I created are in the gallery of images below. I’ll have these prints and more on display at this fall’s Faculty Scholarship and Creative Works Celebration. Additionally, my copy of the broadsides my classmates and I compiled into a folio with the theme of “State of Illinois” will be added to IWU’s Special Collections holdings of Artists’ Books. These books explore the many ways people interpret the idea of “book” as well as what constitutes suitable content for such vessels.

FYI, our Artists’ Books are a small part of a larger collection containing examples of changes in printing techniques and other types of book art throughout history. For now, suffice it to say that while I’ve always felt it was true, I now have the ink stains to prove I Love Type! (The blog at that link is not related to my class but the sentiment is 🙂 )

I started summer classes long before they were offering credit for them, but next summer I will have completed enough credits for the UIUC Certificate of Special Collections Librarianship. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever stop taking classes there, especially now that I’m hooked on book arts!

Religion collections

As can be expected, given IWU’s origins, special collections holds an array of books related to Methodist Church governance, history and liturgy. Sermons and insights into the religious and philosophical leanings of IWU presidents, many of whom were also Methodist ministers, are available in the archives. Samplings of other religions represented in special collections are below.

Additionally, we hold one manuscript collection of former Bloomington Wesley Methodist Church minister and mystery writer Charles Merrill Smith. Our collection holds photographs, book manuscripts, publicity material, correspondence and more. Smith was also an IWU Board of Trustee’s member from 1958-1968.

A selection of more traditional religious texts in the collection follows. Many are in languages students on campus are studying, and the varying publication dates offer opportunities for exposure to different type-faces. These books could be great for developing reading skills in languages over time!

[al-Qurơān]. Manuscript of undetermined date, written in Naskh letters within gold leave border and occasional floral illumination. (Call no.: BP100 1000z)

Lombardica hystoria. An incomplete incunable also known as Legenda aurea regarding the lives of saints. (Call no. BX4654 .J3 1496)

The life of Mahomet : together with The Alcoran at large / translated out of Arabick into French, by the Sieur De Ryer, Lord of Malezair, and Resident for the French King at Alexandria : now faithfully English’d. (Call no.: BP75 .L57 1718)

Directorio para informaciones de los pretendientes de el santo habito de N. seraphico P.S. Francisco. (Call no: F1381 .C37 1737)

Evangelische Deutsche Original-Bibel : das ist, die gantze heilige Schrift. Polyglot Bible in German fractur, Hebrew and Greek. (Call no.: BS701 1740)

Biblia Hebraica. (BS715 1753)

Vollständiges marburger Gesang-Buch. (Call no: BV410 .V65 1774)

The whole book of Psalms collected into English metre. “This Sternhold and Hopkins version of the psalter was given a first class treatment, with its green morocco binding with gilt decoration, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, and, most important, a fore-edge painting. Such paintings were expensive additions to books printed between the 1780s and the 1830s. A watercolor, applied to the edges of the pages as they were fanned, was evident only when the book was open. This scene shows an English cathedral.” (Call no.: BX5145 .S74 1787)

Codex sinaiticus petropolitanus. Two facsimile volumes of the Greek New Testamaent held at the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg. (Call nos.: BS64 .S32 1911 and BS64 .S3 1922)

Codex juris Canonici (Call no.: BX1935 .C31917)

And some texts mentioned in the last blog post. Click on the images for a larger picture and available descriptions:

1220 Bible created in England

1220 Bible created in England


Leaf from a two-column Medieval manuscript Bible. IWU has 10 matted Medieval manuscript leaves

pali mss Untitled Buddhist manuscript in Pali

This is a Burmese text with gilded edges, decorated front cover; written in ink on hand-made paper; accordion folded. The physical description is [247] p. ; 1072 cm., folded to 16 x 39 cm. And that’s everything we know about it!

Buddhist manuscript of unknown date

Buddhist manuscript