The Research Group Speaks: The Series

A New Series of Events
(Beginning in 2021)

In 2021 the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence launches a new series of online Events, in quarterly sessions to take the forms of interviews, lectures, webinars, round-tables, workshops, and more.  It joins the diverse range of our Activities & Events over the years, which take place at conferences and in other settings, as Seminars, Symposia, Workshops, and other formats.

2020 Symposium "From Cover to Cover" Poster 1

2020 Symposium Poster 1

This new Series was inspired by our first online event, the Pre-Congress Business Meeting in May 2021, which adapted to the conditions of the 2021 International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS), taking place wholly online this year after a one-year hiatus in 2020.  Customarily, in recent years, we hold Open Business Meetings in person at the Annual Congress, but the changed circumstances of the 2021 Congress encouraged a new tradition.

And so, before the Open Business Meeting later in May at the online Congress, we prepared the ground for it with a Pre-Congress Business Meeting in early May.  See our Business Meetings.  Available for download, the 2021 Agenda and 2021 Agenda Report tell the story, and help to set the scene.

The Pre-Congress Business Meeting was hosted by our Associate, Barbara Williams Ellertson.  At the Meeting, plans arose for more online events. It seemed clear that the Research Group could progress with gatherings by such means, to consider a variety of subjects, already before the chance could return to resume meetings in person — like our 2020 Spring Symposium, “From Cover to Cover”, which had had to be cancelled.

The suggestions for specific subjects allowed for a fuller series of events online than one or two on their own. Then came the title, for which we thank our Associate, Linde Brocato.  With the plan came offers to speak, converse, demonstrate, attend, and present.

“The Research Group Speaks”

The gatherings are intended to consider textual and other materials in various forms.

As the series begins, we reflect upon images of books in various forms.  A specimen, suggested by our Associate. Barbara Williams Ellertson, as we prepared to launch the first Episode in an interview with her, forms a partial set of mid-15th-century panels surviving in Lisbon from a larger polyptych, formerly displayed in the Cathedral there.

Books on Display:  Group Portrait with Books

Here is a reassembled Group Portrait with Books of various kinds, to set the scene.  As we prepared the series, our Associate Barbara Williams Ellertson drew our attention to this image.  A set of panels, surviving from a larger set, depicts multiple human figures, male and female, from far and near, in collective aspects of dedication, books included.  The suggestion led to a closer look.

Lisbon, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga: The six surviving mid 15th-century Saint Vincent Panels, attributed to Nuno Gonçalves. Image via Creative Commons.

The Saint Vincent Panels in Lisbon (see also Panéis de Sâo Vicente de Fora).  Six surviving oak panels from a polyptych of more than twelve panels, attributed to the Portuguese painter Nuno Gonçalves (circa 1425 – circa 1491).  Image via Creative Commons.

Formerly displayed at the Cathedral of Lisbon, these survivors are preserved at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiqa in Lisbon. Depicting scenes of the Veneration of the Deacon Protomartyr Saint Vincent of Saragossa (died circa 304 CE) by 58 men and women of different ages and social stations, both secular and religious, the Panels (from left to right at present) represent: the Friars and Monks, the Fishermen, the Infante, the Archbishop or Bishop (facing forward at upper left), the Knights, and the Relic (a skull-bone fragment resting reverently on a cloth).  The short-haired saint, richly robed as a Deacon in red and gold, appears twice, full-length.  In these views, he holds a book either open, with both hands, or closed, wrapped in cloth, under his arm.  On the proposed identifications of the persons depicted and the script of the double-columned book held open at the far right, see, for example, Saint Vincent Panels and The Saint Vincent Panels in high-definition.

The scenes gather men and women with different backgrounds and functions in specific moments of communal focus.  The figures’ accessories or attributes include some books, shown both opened and closed.  Their detailed depictions indicate specific forms, formats, and bindings; their openings show lines of text in one or two columns per page and approximately legible texts, as might be recognizable as individual or idealized specimens which may have existed in the known world.

As our new series advances, other images may come to the fore as we prepare and report the individual Episodes.  The set of panels at Lisbon accord with the theme of the first Episode, focused upon the long-term development of a project dedicated to the images of books in works of art in various media (paintings and more) in the late medieval and early modern periods.

Episode 1 (July 2021):
Interview with Barbara Williams Ellertson
The BASIRA Project and a Timeline

The Series began with an Interview with our Associate, Barbara Williams Ellertson.  (See also Ellertson.)

The Event took place via Zoom in July 2021, with a small invited audience, and with scope for questions, comments, and discussion. Barbara spoke about the BASIRA Project, its background, and her other interests.  For information about the Project on Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art, its subjects, its scope, and its aims, see https://basiraproject.org.

Barbara and Milly meet at a conference.

Barbara described key stages in her education, upbringing, and career, as she offered an illustrated Timeline for the origins and development of the BASIRA Project.  She presented a selection of images to exhibit aspects of her own work, the work of creating the project, several key stages in its evolution, and some favorites among the subjects which it covers. The Timeline takes the form of an 8-page Booklet, laid out in RGME Bembino, in the style of our recent Publications. The questions and discussion addressed a wide range of interests in the subject matter, the approaches to its structures in the database and metadata, the expanding coverage of the project, and its future work.

The recording of the event is being edited for presentation and wider viewing as a podcast.  It will take two Parts, with the Interview and the Question-and-Answer portion.  It should become available soon.  Watch this Space.

See Barbara Williams Ellertson and BASIRA, with a Timeline.

We thank Barbara for her generous preparation and presentation. We thank the participants for joining the online gathering and offering feedback and encouragement.  The informal, but structured, Event gave a superb beginning to our new Series. Congratulations!

Episode 2 (September 2021):
Presentation and Demonstration by Linda Civitello
“Southern Italian Cuisine before Columbus”

For an invited audience on Saturday, 18 September, 2021, the food historian Linda Civitello, PhD, talked about the early history of Italian cuisine, especially Cuoco Napolitano, and its ingredients, sources, and influences — for Southern Italian cuisine and beyond.   Inspired by the 15th-century sources in manuscript and early printing, Linda described approaches to the subject and gave a demonstration.  A recording of the event will soon become available.

For information about Linda‘s accomplishments and publications, see, for example, https://www.seriouseats.com/lindacivitello-5118846.

Platina, De honesta voluptate et valetudine (Venice, 1494), Opening page. Image via Biblioteca Europea di Informazione e Cultura, via Public Domain.

Reference points for her talk:

Vernacular Italian sources for Cuoco Napolitano include
Studies include
  • Terence Scully with Rudolf Grewe, Cuoco Napoletano:  The Neapolitan Recipe Collection (Ann Arbor:  The University of Michigan Press, 2000).

By request, Mildred Budny presents a brief guide to the manuscript, printed, and online digital resources, leading to Linda’s presentation and demonstration, followed by a discussion with questions and answers.

Invitation Card to Linda Civitello’s presentation on 18 September 2021

See Southern Italian Cuisine Before Columbus, with Linda Civitello.

Episode 3 (November 2021):
A Roundtable
“Tales from the Library Crypt”

On 20 November 2021, with an invited audience, in a roundtable discussion, we explored ‘secrets’ and ‘treasures’ in bibliographical quests during a time of pandemic.

Worcester Cathedral, Crypt. Image from geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons.

The plan:

Over the past year and more, under exceptional circumstances, there are doubtless to be encountered challenges and disappointments through closures of libraries, access to library resources, and other factors.  But there can be successes, through serendipity, resourcefulness, friendship, and solidarity across institutions and wider readership. Comparing notes might offer tips and guidance.  Commiseration can come in handy.  And there are successes worth celebrating.  There are stories to tell.

Speakers include Jessica Savage and Pamela Patton at the Index of Medieval Art at Princeton University; David Porreca at the University of Waterloo; and Linde Brocato at the University of Miami.

The recording might become available.  We will confer with the participants about permission, just because that is the right thing to do.

See Tales from the Library Crypt.

Photo © Linde M. Brocato 2011. Cordoba, Passage.

Episode 4 (December 2021):
Presentation by Linde M. Brocato
“How to Be Indiana Jones in the Catalog”

In this Episode, our Associate Linde M. Brocato, scholar-librarian, reveals “How to Be Indiana Jones in the Catalog:  Treasure and Power in/of the Bibliographical Record”.

Understanding the dynamics and rules of cataloging gives strong insight into how to search:  When to use the basic search box, i.e. keyword search; when to use advanced search, i.e. the indexes.  I will discuss the bibliographic record, the kinds of decisions catalogers make about how to encode information, and tools to release and enhance your power to find the bibliographic treasure you seek!

A downloadable 1-page Handout accompanies the presentation.

See How to Be Indiana Jones in the Catalog, with Linde Brocato.

Episode 5 (January 2022):
Presentation by Ronald K. Smeltzer

Dupain de Montesson, Le spectacle de la campagne and La science de l’arpenteur (1777), First Title-page, Vignette. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

“The Curious Printing History of
La Science de l’Arpenteur by Dupain de Montpasson”

For this episode, on 23 January 2022, our Associate Ronald K. Smeltzer examines a telling case of multiple editions of an eighteenth-century treatise on surveying by the French military engineer Louis Charles Dupain de Montesson (circa 1720 – circa 1790).  Between 1766 and 1813, La science de l’arpenteur dans toute son étenduë (“The science of the surveyor in its full extent”) was issued in editions which exhibit changes from printing by intaglio, through a mixture of intaglio and letter-press, to letter-press in full.  Some of the later changes were a direct result of the French Revolution (see also Révolution française).

Assembling examples of all the known editions of this treatise has taken twenty years.  As Ronald reports, “the process attests to the value of direct inspection.  This presentation describes the results.”

Dupain de Montesson, La science de l’arpenteur (1780), Title Page, Vignette. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph by Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

See The Curious Printing History of “La Science de l’Arpenteur”, with Ronald K. Smeltzer.

Episode 6 (February 2022):
“Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases (Part I)”
A Roundtable

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

Planned for February 2022, by special request, a roundtable discussion aims to consider challenges and opportunities encountered in making, and using, catalogs and databases — with a focus especially on bibliographical and manuscript materials.

Examples include the BASIRA Project on “Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art”, the Index of Medieval Art Database, Digital Scriptorium 2.0, the Pinakes/Πίνακες Database of Greek Texts and Manuscripts, and approaches to cataloging collections or source materials (such as artists’ books).  Subjects for consideration are “Standards and Vocabularies in Art-History Cataloging”, “Labelling, Way-finding, and Meaning”, “About ‘Aboutness’ “, “Teaching Cataloguing Today”, “The Pinakes Database”, “Digital Scriptorium 2.0:  Manuscript Description in a Linked Open Data Context”, and more.

See Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases (Part I).

As intended, this Roundtable prepared the way for the Session on “Catalogs, Metadata, and Databases (Part II)” in our 2022 Spring Symposium.  It took place by Zoom on Saturday, 2 April 2022, with most of the same participants in the Roundtable. See 2022 Spring Symposium on “Structures of Knowledge”.

We plan for Part III in the 2022 Autumn Symposium scheduled for Saturday 15 October 2022 (online or hybrid). See 2022 Autumn Symposium on “Supports for Knowledge”.

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

Episode 7 (July 2022)
“Falling in Love with a Source . . .
Or: How Much fou Is There In This amour?”
– An Interview with Michael Allman Conrad

Poster for our Sponsored Session on the " 'Libro de los juegos': Big Results from Small Data", organized by Linde M. Brocato and sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence at the 2018 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Poster set in RGME Bembino.

2018 Poster for ‘Libro de los juegos’ Session

Planned for Saturday, 23 July 2022, our Associate Michael Allman Conrad (see also his Curriculum Vitae) will consider, in conversation, the choice of subject for his Ph.D. Dissertation and its resulting book, in the light of the journey toward discovery involved in the process.  Michael received the Ph.D. from Humboldt University, Berlin, in 2021.  The book was recently published:

The detailed examination, years in the making, as both Michael and the world changed, centers upon the remarkable Libro de los Juegos, or Book of Games commissioned by King Alfonso X of Castile.

Already in conversations and with presentations for Research Group events, we have had the opportunity to learn about Michael’s approach to these and other materials of study.  (See our Reviews.)  For this Episode of “The Research Group Speaks”, we look forward to hearing more about the origins, sources, opportunities, challenges, choices, and discoveries involved in engaging in the quest that is this “Love Story”.

See Falling In Love with a Source: An Interview with Michael Allman Conrad.

Episode 8 (Saturday 17 September 2022)
“Tarzan-Moves of the Mind — or — Brachiation in Research:
Going from Indiana Jones’ Big Picture
to Effective Research Moves”
Linde M. Brocato

Color cover of the book Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914). Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Planned for Saturday, 17 September 2022, Episode 8 complements Episode 4 on “How to be Indiana Jones in the Catalog:  Treasure and Power in/of the Bibliographical Record” .  This time, another imaginary figure takes the stage, or climbs the ropes.

Our presenter Linde M. Brocato, scholar-librarian, is Associate of the Research Group on Manuscript [and Other] Evidence, and long-time contributor to our events of various kinds. On her experience and expertise, see Linde Brocato, Linde M. Brocato, Curriculum Vitae, and Google Scholar.

She describes the plan for the Episode:

This workshop / demonstration of how to leverage the power of the bibliographical catalog follows up on Dr. Brocato’s  presentation in Episode 4 on 11 December 2021, “How to be Indiana Jones in the Catalog:  Treasure and Power in/of the Bibliographical Record” (see above).  The next installment applies those ideas and techniques to specific bibliographic problems.

I invite submissions of irritating and evasive bibliographic problems for a demonstration of how I would go about solving them.  Let’s see if we can!

See How to Be Tarzan in the Catalog, or, Brachiation in Research.

Episode 9 (Saturday 19 November 2022)
“The Making of The Book of Kells:  The Making of a Masterpiece
Donncha MacGabhann

In an informal Conversation or Interview with the author, our Associate Donncha MacGabhann will speak about his new book on The Book of Kells:  The Making of a Masterwork (Leiden, 2022).

As one of the chief treasures of the Library of Trinity College Dublin (since at least 1661), and the subject of widespread fame, the Book of Kells might need no introduction.

  • Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. I. [58], the Codex Cennanensis, now with 340 vellum folios, bound (since 1953) in four volumes.

Front Cover of Donncha MacGabhann, “The Book of Kells: A Masterwork Revealed” (2022).

Donncha’s Book has emerged from his detailed study for the Ph. D. dissertation (London, 2016), as well as his own experience as an artist.  For our Episode, he will tell us about the making of his Book on the making of the Book of Kells . . .

His Book:

The Ph.D. dissertation leading up to it is freely available for download:

  • The making of the Book of Kells: two Masters and two Campaigns (Doctoral thesis, University of London, 2016)  https://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/6920/ (via Creative Commons)

For the first time in our Series, the registration for this Episode will be automated through a registration portal.  Details will appear on the webpost announcing the Episode.

See Donncha MacGabhann on The Making of The Book of Kells.

Episode 10, Etc.

Further Episodes are being planned.  Suggestions are welcome.   Watch this Space.

Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, Anonymous, Still Life, German school of the XVI century, circa 1510, oil on wood, 70.2 × 65 cm. Opened book with fanned leaves showing pages of text and music set out in double columns and adorned with decorated initials and illustrations. Image via Wikimedia, public domain.

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Plans for 2022 include episodes which may interlink with, or augment, our sessions for the 2022 International Congress on Medieval Studies. For those sessions, see our 2022 Congress Program.  Some episodes may lead to, flow from, and augment sessions in preparation for a pair of symposia in the Spring and Autumn.

Do you have suggestions and comments for the Series?  Please leave your Comments here, visit our Research Group Facebook Page, or Contact Us.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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