2022 Spring Symposium on “Structures of Knowledge”

March 15, 2022 in Abstracts of Conference Papers, Conference, Conference Announcement, Uncategorized

2022 RGME Spring and Autumn Symposia
on “Structured Knowledge”

1 of 2: Spring Symposium
“Structures of Knowledge”
Saturday, 2 April 2022 (Online)

2020 Spring Symposium "From Cover to Cover" Poster 2

2020 Spring Symposium Poster 2

[Posted on 15 March 2022, with updates]

In 2022, the Research Group returns to our series of Symposia (formerly held in person). The series underwent an interruption with the cancelled 2020 Spring Symposium, “From Cover to Cover”. See its record in the illustrated Program Booklet, with Abstracts of the planned presentations and workshops. Its core and its promise inspire this renewal.

This year, each Symposium in the pair is designed as a one-day event, with sessions and workshops of about 1 and 1/2 hours, giving scope for discussion. The Spring Symposium will be held online by Zoom. (The Autumn Symposium would be held online, but, conditions permitting, it might be hybrid, that is, partly in person, as well as online.) See 2022 Spring and Autumn Symposia.

  1. Structures of Knowledge (Spring)
  2. Structures for Knowledge (Autumn)

These events, by request, flow in addition to — and partly from — our other activities during the year:

1) Continuing Episodes in the online series of The Research Group Speaks (2021–)

2) Our four sponsored and c0-sponsored Congress Sessions at the 57th International Congress on Medieval Studies (online) in May

Structured Knowledge (Parts I and II)

The interlinked pair of Spring and Autumn Symposia examine themes of Structured Knowledge.

Some proposed presentations at these Symposia offer refreshed materials which had been planned for the cancelled 2020 Spring Symposium.

The Spring Symposium is dedicated to “Structures of Knowledge”. The Autumn Symposium considers “Supports for Knowledge”. Sessions include approaches to databases and library catalogs; specific case studies and projects; issues relating to reproductions and display, research and teaching, and more.

Part I: Spring Symposium (Saturday, 2 April 2022)
on “Structures of Knowledge”

Note: If you wish to register for the Symposium, please contact director@manuscriptevidence.org.

Eugene, Oregon, University of Oregon, Knight Library, MS 027, folio 25r. Manicle as outstretched paw, with cuff. Photography Zoey Kambour.

Presenters, Respondents, and Presiders for the Spring Symposium include (in alphabetical order): Phillip A. Bernhardt-House, Linde M. Brocato, Mildred Budny, Katharine C. Chandler, Barbara Williams Ellertson, Howard German, Hannah Goeselt, Thomas E. Hill, Eric. J. Johnson, Zoey Kambour, David Porreca, Jessica L. Savage, Derek Shank, Ronald Smeltzer, and David W. Sorenson.

As the Program evolves, adapting to changes in some speakers’ plans or requirements, we thank all the speakers who responded willingly to such changes, even at short notice, for example by expanding an intended “Response” to a “Presentation”, or the reverse, so as to keep to the time-allotments of the Sessions. We also thank the Presiders for their help in monitoring each of the Sessions during the course of the Symposium.
We acknowledge, with thanks, the renewed sponsorship of the Symposia this year by Barbara A. Shailor.

Timetable for Saturday, 2 April
Online via Zoom

Session 1. 9:30–11:00 am EDT (= GMT -4): “Teaching With (and Through) Manuscripts”

Break 1. 11:00–11:30

Session 2. 11:30 am – 1:00 pm EDT: “History and Uses of Paper”

Lunch Break 1:00–2:00 pm

Session 3. 2:00–3:30 pm EDT: “Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases, Part II”

Break. 3:30 –4:00 pm

Session 4. 4:00 – 5:30 pm EDT: “The Living Library”


Provisional Program [> Program on the Day]

As the structure of the Symposium continues to evolve (given issues with illnesses, timetables, time-zones, and other interventions), it is possible to present a Preliminary Program. Certain elements might move from one Session to another, or within a given Session, if work timetables and other factors require.

We continue to enter updated information as it arrives. Please watch this space.

[Update:  David Porreca was unable to attend, to Preside for Session 2, to Respond to Session 3, or to Present a paper for Session 4.  Derek Shank ably presided in his stead; Mildred Budny represented his Notes for his Reponse; and his Presentation will be rescheduled to occur at another RGME event later this year.  See 2022 Autumn Symposium on ‘Supports for Knowledge’.

Further Update:  The recorded presentation by Thomas D. Hill for Session 4 has been issued in a slightly edited revision for viewing on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/715657872. Thomas reports: “I added a short passage about Betty Eisenstein and the printers’ marks and corrected a few glitches in the original”.  On the presentation, see below.]

Session 1 (9:30–11:00 am EDT). “Teaching With (and Through) Manuscripts”

This Session opens the Symposium by examining the case of a single manuscript, turning its pages to recognize its different scribal hands and their styles of marking or ornamenting the text, and the case of a newly discovered archival resource for clearer understanding of the complicated patterns of distribution of manuscripts, fragments, and other materials from a single, biblioclastic owner.

Eugene, Oregon, University of Oregon, Knight Library, MS 027, folio 34v, detail. Latin Decretals of Pope Gregory IX. Rome, 1290, folio 34v. Photography Zoey Kambour.


Mildred Budny (Research Group on Manuscript Evidence)

“Welcome and Introduction to the Structure of the Symposium”


Zoey Kambour (ZoeyK)

“Face Brackets, Cat PawsBuy Nolvadex UK

, and Hooked-nosed Bishops:
The Marginal Drawings in the Decretales Libri V of Pope Gregory IX (University of Oregon MS 027)”

  • A copy of the Latin Decretals in Five Books of Pope Gregory IX (University of Oregon, Knight Library, MS 027), dating from the late twelfth to mid-thirteenth century, and formerly owned by the Abbey of San Bartolomeo di Azzano d’Asti, shows multiple readers’ interactions with his papal laws. The original text is crowded with the notes of multiple hands; so much so that the line between original and editorial becomes literally blurred. Amongst the thralls of abbreviated words in a thick gothic script hide faces, hands, and fantastical marginal drawings of all kinds to catch a reader’s attention to a particular passage. These drawings are not made by “Artists”, in the formal training sense, but by the readers of the text. This paper asks what we can learn about the readers, their lives, and the text from these marginal and manicule images.

Eric J. Johnson (Associate Professor and Curator, Thompson Special Collections, The Ohio State University Libraries)

“ ‘Deathless fragments within the reach of many . . . ’:
Tracing four decades of manuscript fragmentation
via the Lima (OH) Public Library Staff Loan Assistance Fund ledger books”

  • On 8 March 2022, while sifting through old file cabinets in the basement of the Lima, OH, Public Library, I came across a set of ledger books and associated archival materials chronicling in detail the library’s decades-long partnership with Otto and Louise Ege to sell fragments of manuscripts and printed books to a diverse — and dispersed — clientele. This newly discovered material will extend our knowledge and understanding of the sale of Ege manuscripts (and others, it turns out) over the course of more than 40 years in some very significant ways. In this informal talk I will provide some preliminary insight into the valuable information the ledgers preserve, discuss some of the ways these records might shed new light on Ege studies and mid-20th century North American manuscript commerce more generally, and describe the work I am undertaking to make all this data available to the scholarly community through a variety of different packages.

Questions & Answers

Break 1–2. 11:00–11:30 am

Session 2 (11:30 am – 1:00 pm EDT). “History and Uses of Paper”

Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection, Société des Lunetiers, Letterhead.

This session gives the opportunity to examine specific examples of paper, carrying printed or manuscript materials, from different regions, cultures, languages, genres of book, and purposes. The presentations approach their materials severally from the perspectives of the text or material structure, with selected case-studies.


Derek Shank (Research Group on Manuscript Evidence)


Ronald K. Smeltzer (Ronald K. Smeltzer, Ph.D.)

“Advertisements in 18th ­– early 20th Century Scientific Publications”

  • Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection, Société des Lunetiers, Advertisement in 1908.

    Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection, Société des Lunetiers, Front cover

    Among the authors of early scientific texts were makers and vendors of instruments for the users of scientific equipment. The publications often included advertising material with details and pricing for instruments and sometimes such information as notices of royal appointments, workshop notes, sales agents, business plans of the maker, and terms for subscribing to lectures by the author. In a few cases, criticisms of competitor’s products were included. In addition to the advertisements to be illustrated, unusual aspects of a few publications as printed objects will be noted.Representative examples of publications to be described include:

    • Benjamin Martin, Micrographia Nova: or, A New Treatise on the Microscope (Reading, 1742).
    • George Adams, An Essay on Electricity (London, 1799).
    • Benjamin Martin, Description and Use of Both the Globes and Orrery (London, [1762]).
    • Société des Lunetiers, [Instruments pour les Sciences] Tarif – Physique, Acoustique, Electricity, Optique, Météorologie (Paris, 1908).
    • Frederick Accum, Description of the Process of Manufacturing Coal Gas, 2nd ed. (London, 1820).
    • John Cuthbertson, Description of an Improved Air Pump. n.d., n. p.[London] Printed for the Author, signature on title page. “J. Prince’s” verified (Boston College collection) as that of Rev. John Prince (1751–1836, Salem, MA, one of the earliest instrument makers in America).

Phillip A. Bernhardt-House (Phillip Bernhardt-House)

“When Do Books of Magic Become Magic Books?
Book Arts and Esoterica in Four Examples from a Bibliophile’s Files”

  • This presentation will not be any sort of complex essay or argument so much as an attempted (and likely failed!) adult version of “show-and-tell“. The books in question are all creations of Ben Fernee of Caduceus Books in the United Kingdom, under the aegis of the Society for Esoteric Endeavour, making certain singular manuscripts or other obscure works more accessible (and yet in a very limited fashion) in extremely fine editions, often with unique inclusions and other customizations or personalizations. These books are Tom Johnson’s The Graveyard Wanderers (an example of a Swedish “black book/graveyard book”), Nigel Pennick’s The Ideal Tower, Herbert Irwin’s Book of Magic (including magical seals described in the text), and William Dawson Bellhouse’s A Complete System of Magic (in a boxed set with several volumes by Daniel Harms), which has secrets in its very fabric that will astound and delight! As these are presented, the question stated in this presentation’s title will be considered in closing: What makes a book of or on magic cross the line into becoming a “magical book”?
Cover Page for Sorenson (2020 Spring Symposium Paper as Draft for Comment), with an array of illustrations and the title "Introduction to Indian Manuscripts"

Cover Page for Sorenson, “2020 Spring Symposium Paper as Draft for Comment”.


David W. Sorenson (Alan Berman, Numismatist)

“An Introduction to Indian Manuscripts for the Non-Specialist”

  • The published “Draft for Feedback” from the planned 2020 Spring Symposium paper on this subject (An Introduction to Indian Manuscripts for the NonSpecialist: Draft for Feedback) now calls for updates, with examples.

    The bewildering array of material found in and around the Indian Subcontinent can be intimidating to the nonspecialist, as much for the array of materials and formats as for the languages and scripts. Nonetheless there are ways to sort out this material, and gain at least a basic understanding of what is available, whether one is a general research librarian, a private collector, or an interested observer. This paper is a beginners’ guide to making some sense out of Indian and related manuscript material.

Note: Depending upon his work-timetable, David might be able to attend to describe his work and answer questions, and engage in discussion about the subject. His Draft Paper offers a place-holder, for which questions and suggestions are welcome, both on the day of the Symposium and beyond. (See below for Suggested Reading.)

[Update:  David was able to telephone in from work, to present highlights of his paper, and to respond to questions.  The pdf of his paper (available for download online, as above) could be viewed on the shared screen, following the sequence of his observations.]


Lunch Break 1:00–2:00 pm

Session 3. 2:00–3:30 pm EDT

“Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases, Continued (Part II)”

This Session builds upon our Roundtable in February on Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases, Part I, and seeks to lead to Part III on these subjects in the Autumn Symposium. (See 2022 Spring and Autumn Symposia.)

Card Division in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Photograph circa 1900-1920. Image Public Domain.


To refresh the issues, and the progress of the explorations so far, we offer, with thanks, the Notes by David Porreca, Respondent to the February Roundtable (Part I), as a summary and a reference point for this next stage. While we find resources for editing and presenting that recording, these records from Part I may readily set the stage for Part II.

RGME Roundtable, 19 February 2022

Main take-away points:

* For database construction, one of the challenges is trying to foresee or anticipate what future researchers will be interested in searching about. This is an exercise in imagination of future needs. Cataloguers and database managers need the skills of diviners. The lists of terms developed by the Getty Museum would appear to be impressively comprehensive and therefore quite helpful in this regard.

* Databases must balance the material and the conceptual.

* In terms of cataloguing images (and cataloguing in general), it seems like 5% of the books pose 95% of the problems and challenges with respect to cataloguing.

* Indexing & cataloguing images is conceptually analogous to indexing a complicated book (reminiscent to me of building the index to the English translation of the Latin Picatrix, or the Joy of Cooking).

* The contrast between the humanities and STEM disciplines is especially observable in the longevity of the relevance of materials. Just as substantial portions of my 21st-century PhD dissertation relied on a series of articles published in 1916–20, today’s obscurely published humanities articles or books could become seminal for a scholar undertaking research in 2097. The time-horizons are different, and therefore the weight and value attributed to any given piece of published research is much more difficult to predict for the humanities than for any of the STEM disciplines. That said, I think our discussion would benefit from the perspective and nuance that a current STEM researcher could provide.

* Most databases are perpetual works in progress – like dishes, they do not stay done at the end of the day. There will always be new needs identified that require further refinement in existing databases, as well as new materials produced or discovered that generate necessary additions. Completeness is an ever-receding goal.

* Linked data in older catalogues based on narrative style of older printed catalogues suffer from the weakness of being dependent on the word order characteristic of non-inflected languages like English; no Latin-speaking person would naturally have thought along these lines to generate such a database structure.

Session 3


Jessica L. Savage (https://theindex.princeton.edu/)


Katharine C. Chandler (https://www.linkedin.com/in/katharine-chandler/; https://kcchandler.com/)

“Teaching Cataloging Today; With an Update on the DACT Fragments Campaign and Controlled Vocabularies for Fragmentarium and Cantus

  • Teaching cataloging to library and information students today involves instruction about past, present, and future technologies, as well as guidance for “critical cataloging” (i.e., recognizing the ways in which classification systems are biased and codify long-held prejudice through language and erasure). I will speak some about this instruction and the increased interest of students in work with special collections.Additionally, I will provide information about the DACT (Digital Analysis of Chant Transmission) project (https://dact-chant.ca/ ), which is a multi-pronged effort to create workflow and controlled vocabularies for uploading fragments to the Fragmentarium (https://fragmentarium.ms/ ) and the CANTUS Chant (https://cantus.uwaterloo.ca) databases.

Note: About, for example, Controlled Vocabularies, see Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases: A Handlist of Links.


1) Barbara Williams Ellertson (https://basiraproject.org )

“Risk and Migration in Databases”

  • Every electronic resource will probably require migration several times over its lifespan. The BASIRA Project has just completed its migration from a FileMakerPro database to one constructed in Ruby on Rails for a generic web browser interface. The constraints of a proprietary system were our primary motivation for the change; forward migration within a large university library system was another major concern.Planning for the transition provided us with the opportunity to re-think and re-organize our schema; the revised version doubled the number of data fields and introduced several levels of nested complexity. While we did not lose data during the migration, the process was very, very time-intensive, in spite of automated mapping of many old fields to new ones. When possible, try to plan for data integrity by using explicit structure, designed for compartmentalized flexibility.

2) Howard German (https://www.linkedin.com/in/howard-german-a16ab7b/ )

“Risk and Migration in Managing Large Databases and Their Strategies”

  • This Response to the series on “Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases” (See Part I) offers experience from a business perspective in working with very large databases, whereby I have managed and executed many data migrations.
    Lessons learnt from large data migration projects:
    • Improve the data quality from the source (legacy) data repository
    Note: The best location for data cleansing is the source system, cleansing during the migration process requires additional business logic.
    • Access and investigate the legacy data early in the process
    Note: Refresh data from Production database regularly. Know your data.
    • Create and maintain an accurate data dictionary
    Note: This is the centralized repository of the metadata. Modifications to the dictionary must be monitored and controlled.
    • Talk to all stakeholders and users of the data
    Note: This is necessary for the build-out of data migration rules and validation of testing results.
    • Design the new system with migration in mind

    Note: Migrations are difficult if conducted as an aftermath of the new system design.

3) * David Porreca (https://uwaterloo.ca/classical-studies/people-profiles/david-porreca )

“My $0.02 Worth”

[* Update:  In David’s absence, Mildred Budny represented elements intended for David’s Response, by describing his training and experience and by considering his Notes (reproduced above in the Prelude to the Session).]

Presider’s Response, Summary, and Segue to the Q&A, by Jessica L. Savage

Questions & Answers

Break 3–4. 3:30 –4:00 pm

Session 4 (4:00 – 5:30 pm EDT). “The Living Library”

This Session examines the life, or lives, of a Library, whether institutional or individual, as it might evolve or disperse and, it might be, regroup over time. Here, we examine some living libraries which still remain in their places (or in a repositioned place), and also some specimens of broken-up books which, through careful exploration, might come back to life, as it were, as their dispersed parts become recognized for what they are, or used to be.

[Update:  As David Porreca could not attend to make his Presentation, it will take place at another RGME event.]


Mildred Budny (Research Group on Manuscript Evidence)


Smith College Museum of Art, Accession SC 1950.147. Leaf from ‘Otto Ege MS 8’, detail: Opening for the Book of Tobit. Photography by Hannah Goeselt.

Hannah Goeselt (Hannah Goeselt and Journey)

“Fragments and How to Structure Them:
Some Initial Forays into ‘Ege Manuscript 6’ and a Shahnameh from Shiraz”

  • Two projects that are current works-in-progress examine fragmentary manuscripts of different kinds. The first examines the textual structures of ‘Otto Ege Manuscript 6’, a portable copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible from the early thirteenth century made in England. The second explores the history of dispersed copies of the Persian Shahnameh (“The Book of Kings”) and what can be learned by using principles of Fragmentology to examine a fragmentary example from sixteenth-century Shiraz.

[* David Porreca (Classical Studies, University of Waterloo)

“The Warburg Institute Library: Where Idiosyncracy Meets User-Friendliness”

  • The Warburg Institute’s Library began to be constituted over a century ago, and has been in continuous development and refinement ever since. It features an idiosyncratic division and organization of materials into four conceptual categories — Image, Word, Orientation, Action — inspired by the vision of its founder, Aby Warburg (1866–1929). This presentation will offer a brief summary of the history of the Institute and its collection of printed materials (I will leave to others to discuss its photographic collection, which lies beyond the purview of both my experience as a user and my expertise as a scholar), followed by a discussion of the principles and ideas behind its unique layout. The plan is also to share my personal experience in attempting to replicate usefully the structure of the library within my own collection of books.]

In the entry to the Frederick Thompson Memorial Library, Thomas Hill explains the set of tapestries to his attentive audience, including Vassar alumnae Sally V. Keil (foreground) and Mildred Budny (behind the camera).

Thomas E. Hill (Art Librarian, Vassar College; Thomas Edward Hill, About Me, and Another Visit to the Library Cafe)

“Psyche’s Library: Reading the Library as a Text
Illuminated by the Cupid and Psyche Tapestries in the Frederick Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College

  • My contribution will present the architectural program of the Frederick Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College, as the instantiation of the introduction of the concept of research into American undergraduate education by female Vassar faculty who were invested in the direct study of material reality as a path to female self-empowerment. The educational curriculum is written especially in the library’s visual program, which features college and university seals, the great stained glass window depicting Elena Lucretia Piscopia Cornaro receiving in Padua in 1678 the first doctoral degree granted to a female scholar, and a series of five Gobelin tapestries depicting the Tale of Cupid and Psyche from the Metamorphosis (or The Golden Ass) of Apuleius. I will embed my presentation in the context of the phenomenological force this material program has had on Vassar students past and present, and as it is yet circulated orally and embodied by Vassar faculty, students, and alumnae/i.

See below, Suggestions for Reading and Browsing.

[Update:  The recorded presentation by Thomas D. Hill for Session 4 has been issued in a slightly edited revision for viewing on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/715657872. Thomas reports: “I added a short passage about Betty Eisenstein and the printers’ marks and corrected a few glitches in the original”.]


Concluding Remarks
including Thanks, a Description of Future Events in 2022,
and an Invitation for Advice and Help for preparing future events.



Linde M. Brocato supplied a title and summary for her proposed presentations at both Symposia, in Parts I and II. As she asked, these contributions would come first or last in the day. In such position, appropriately, they would function as keynote presentations.
An unexpected problem arose, so that the presentation for the Spring Symposium perforce would enter the realm of papers intended, but not possible to be presented. It is a Research Group tradition to honor the intentions of authors preparing to present at our Symposia by representing their stated aims when the presentation itself could not take place. See, for example, the cancelled 2020 Spring Symposium and its Program Booklet.
With appreciation for Linde’s repeated suggestions, advice, and expertise, we record the aims of her presentation for the Spring Symposium, with title and summary, along with those for Part II in the Autumn. Seen together, the pair illuminates the structure, breadth, and depth of her vision.
Linde M. Brocato
Spring Symposium
“Paths of Access and Horizons of Expectation I: (Library) Cataloging and Classification”
  • The norms, traditions, standards, codes, and technologies of library cataloging are built on a horizon of expectation of what a “book” is, what part of that “isness” to express, and how to express that. These horizons of expectation are historically and contextually determined, and generally remain tacit and implicit. In this talk, I will make them explicit, and show how they both facilitate and impede access to materials, and how they problematize transparent notions of “book”, especially in current models of “the bibliographic universe”.
Fall Symposium:
“Paths of Access and Horizons of Expectation, II: From Book-In-Hand to Catalog(ues)”
  • Segueing from my talk for the Spring Symposium, I will demonstrate with some of Jennifer Larson’s books how “hybrid” can be cataloged under current models and technologies of cataloging. I will also address the different kinds of catalog(ues) that provide different levels and kinds of access to materials, and the kinds of bibliographic structures that allow us to access materials.


Thanks and Revisits/Revivals

We thank the participants for responding to the aims of the Symposia, and preparing contributions for the Spring Symposium, as described above in the Provisional Program. All the more so, when, particularly in some cases, illness, pressures of work and related timetables, and other factors, or a combination of them, encumbered the process of planning and preparing for the occasion.

As a volunteer organization, the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence remains grateful for all these contributions, even where the aim might not reach achievement, for whatever reasons. It is a solace, and encouragement, that this 2022 Spring Symposium brings back to life some of the intentions of Papers which had been designed for the 2020 Spring Symposium. We hope for future recoveries.

We look forward to the revisit, with updates, to some other Papers designed for that same 2020 Symposium, which might find their time in the Autumn Symposium this year. (See 2022 Spring and Autumn Symposia.)

Also, the RGME activities (4 Sessions and our Open Business Meeting) at the Kalamazoo Congress online in May 2022 explore a variety of subjects and give opportunities both to plan further activities and to gather their audiences.

Like last year, with the online Congress, the RGME will hold an online Pre-Congress Business Meeting, to include participation by people who wish to attend, and would not necessarily register to attend the 2022 Congress and our Congress Open Business Meeting.


(See 2022 Spring and Autumn Symposia.)


Suggestions for Reading and Browsing

(More to come.)

Additions to the Handlist of Links

See Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases: A Handlist of Links.

(More to come.)


Vassar College, Frederick Thompson Memorial Library, Entry, Ceiling and Gobelin Tapestry Series.


Suggestion Box

Do you have suggestions for subjects for the Autumn Symposium and other events, or offers to participate? Please let us know.  For updates, see 2022 Spring and Autumn Symposia and The Research Group Speaks: The Series.

If you wish to join our events, please contact director@manuscriptevidence.org.

Do you have suggestions for more Links of Interest (Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases: A Handlist of Links)?

Would you like to donate to our mission and activities, in funds and/or in kind? Suggestions about methods, causes, and purposes are described for Donations and Contributions.

Please leave your Comments below, Contact Us, and visit our FaceBook Page. We look forward to hearing from you.