Red, not dead

8 11 2011

No need to mourn: despite the prolonged lack of activity on this blog, it’s not dead, but has gone red instead. Since July I’ve been working on a new JISC-funded learning and teaching initiative, the SCARLET project (Special Collections using Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching). The project is a collaboration between academics in Italian, English, and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, the John Rylands Library, Deansgate, and MIMAS, the University’s research computing unit.

We’re drawing on the astounding Special Collections at Deansgate to create an augmented reality app which will support new learning and teaching activities. The idea is to surround the physical object (such as an incunable Dante edition, seventeenth-century editions of Paradise Lost, ancient Greek papyri) with a range of digital assets, and then pilot and evaluate the app’s use in teaching during the academic year 2011/12.

The project is being documented as we go along: for the original project spec, see our JISC page; and for more details, the recent MIMAS news item. All of the project participants are also blogging on the Team Scarlet project blog, and you can also follow us on Twitter as @team_scarlet.


Gendering the Dinosaur

7 05 2011

We interrupt this transmission of the American tour to bring you a picture of my second year group for Italian 20612, ‘Gendering the Canon: The Problem of Women in Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio’. Thursday was our last lesson, so after a final stirring consciousness-raising discussion, we went to the University Museum to look at the dinosaur.

His name is Stan, apparently.

I had such a good time teaching this group this year: they’re all really bright, funny, committed, and worked so hard on some really challenging medieval texts. We were extra lucky having three Italian Erasmus students in the class as well, which really enriched everyone’s perspective. See you all after the Year Abroad, I hope! (And Italians, come back and do your Masters with us!)

The Folger Corbaccios

27 04 2011

Or, what a privilege it is to be insulted by Boccaccio.

I made the most of the Folger collections and checked out their Boccaccios. First up was their copy of the 1587 English Amorous Fiammetta, one of only seven extant copies in public libraries. I’ve seen the British Library and the Bodleian copies, so only four to go.

So then I decided to concentrate on their different editions of the Corbaccio, Boccaccio’s misogynist dream-vision, which does exercise the sensitivities of his readerships. I was really excited to find one with copious annotations, giving me some grist for my feminist mill.

The underlined phrase in the dedication reads: ‘è piu d’honore alle femine esser vituperate dalla penna del Boccaccio, che lodate dall’inchiostro di molti scrittori plebei’ (roughly, ‘it does more honour to women to be vituperated by Boccaccio, than praised in the ink of many plebeian writers’).

Where to begin? Sexism is OK from the patrician class? Didn’t we see that on the news today? I suppose I’d better calm down, it’s only a joke, after all. *sighs*

(Grateful thanks to the Folger, for allowing me to take the photo, none the less.)

UPDATE: For international viewers who have no idea what I’m on about, the story is here.

Hello to the Folger

27 04 2011

Glossing over my nightmarish flights from Ithaca to DC via La Guardia, we arrive in Washington DC on Saturday afternoon, bang in the middle of a thunderstorm. The pathetic fallacy is not sustained for long though, or maybe it is, as the sun comes out the next day and stays out until I leave. Hurrah! I even wore my sunglasses.

On Monday I had a free day, so I spent it in the Folger Shakespeare Library reading room:

As you can see from my artful annotations, there were three real Fuseli paintings on the wall opposite me. The old reading room is even more impressive, a facsimile Elizabethan hall with wood panelling and stained glass and tapestries and fresh flowers on the table. (If any readers have ever been to Edinburgh University, it has more than a touch of the Teviots about it, but thankfully without the Union Committee…)

Goodbye to Cornell

27 04 2011

I felt quite bereft to leave the Olin Library, after spending the best part of three days in there. Marilyn Migiel and her colleagues looked after me so well that it has been a most cruel awakening to have to feed and entertain myself again now that I’ve left them.

L'Inferno di Topolino

Here is Professor Migiel in front of the poster for the Kroch Library’s current exhibition, Animal Legends: From the Trojan Horse to Godzilla. The banner nods to the library’s historic Dante collection (erm, perhaps), with an image taken from a 1949 Italian adaptation of the Commedia which appeared in the monthly comic Topolino. More details here. And if nothing else, I recommend you check out the Unimal in the online exhibition.

And here I am, for posterity, on my way out of the Kroch Special Collections. I hope I come back soon.

Why has he written the title on the back cover?

Information Design in Dante’s Commedia

27 04 2011

After another glorious lunch on Cornell (this time with Professors Migiel and Kathleen Long, righteous pre-modernists both), it was back to the library for my Dante workshop.

It was just like Orbital at Glastonbury

With the picture of Deansgate behind me to inspire me, I talked a bit about the historic links between the Rylands and Fiske Dante collections, before doing a not-very-whistle-stop tour of the development of the Dante editions (2 hours and counting…). I began with the 1472 Foligno editio princeps, zipped through my old favourites the 1477 Venice and Landino (but missed out the Nidobeato for time), then showed some milestones in the visual tradition, with the 1487 Brescia, one of the 1493 Venice editions; a quick detour into the smaller book with the 1502 Aldine and 1506 Giunta, then back out again with more illustrations in the form of the 1512 Stagnino and 1544 Marcolini editions.

I had an extraordinarily distinguished audience of Italian pre-modernists: Professors Marilyn Migiel, John Najemy, Bill Kennedy, and Professor Emerita Carol Kaske. Also present were Visiting Fellow AmyRose McCue Gill, and PhD student Joel Pastor, plus a visiting scholar from Toronto whose name I unfortunately didn’t get. (If you ever read this, do contact me so I can update the post!)

I really hope we get to do this again sometime, and that this is only the first of many further collaborations between the collections.

From the Vaults

27 04 2011

I was overtaken by events after the last post, so am now belatedly updating my American diary somewhat after the fact (i.e., from the UK). So, where were we?

On the Friday morning, I met with Patrick Stevens, the curator of the Fiske Dante collection, to look at the books for my afternoon workshop. The Dante collection is stupendous, so I decided to request nine of my favourite editions, and here they are:

That timeless composition: the trolleyfull of Dantes. Plus bag.

We worked ourselves into quite the bibliomaniacal frenzy, which is perhaps not surprising, given the quality of the books. Unlike the Rylands editions, the Cornell ones have much more in the way of readers’ annotations, and in one case even some children’s drawings in them. I think this is probably a function of the two collections’ respective histories: while our copies tend to have been acquired via Mrs Rylands’s purchase of the collections of the early-nineteenth-century bibliomanes, who valued pristine copies, Willard Fiske bought many of his in Italy and from a wider variety of booksellers. There’s so much work to be done on these long-gone readers’ marks on these books, so that might give me a good excuse to come back sometime in the future.

It was fantastic to be able to compare the Cornell Dantes with the Manchester ones. The Cornell Landino is heavily cropped, so much so that at first I thought it was one of the later 1490s printings; but when I called up our digitized edition on Luna I could see that it was still the same edition. The registration of the copper-plate prints was quite different to ours, but it turns out that they are facsimile leaves, inserted later.

As a special treat, Patrick took me into the stacks, which were as amazing as they always are. I saw a sixteenth-century Vita Nuova manuscript, and a manuscript of the Corbaccio, bound in a parchment leaf from an earlier music manuscript, as well as Ezra Cornell’s magnificent safe, and a large model of the Globe theatre. (I do love the objects you find in Special Collections; when I worked at the Brotherton, it was rumoured that there was a large man-trap somewhere on the premises…).

On the way out, we even met the legendary John Najemy, who is looking into the ownership history of the Fiske copy of the 1472 editio princeps of the Commedia. It was a most memorable morning, so thank you, Patrick!

Patrick J. Stevens