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Monday, April 28, 2014

HiMMeL ändert sich wieder - Renovation and Enhancement at HMML (2014)

A certain emptiness pervades the atmosphere ...

In recent weeks the scene at HMML has been a little like one of those Star Trek episodes, where the universe is shrinking and parts of the ship are gradually disappearing. The gift shop held a clearance sale and has closed, cabinets and screens have disappeared, and even my office is nearly entirely moved into the building next door. Feeling unsettled in times of transition is only normal, but when the movers came and packed up the reference books in HMML last week, it hit home harder than ever (for me at least) that our future will look quite different at the Library.

See a small slide show of the new HMML.

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (formerly known as the Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Project, the Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Library, and the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library) will soon undergo its largest remodeling since our Marcel Breuer-designed basements opened in 1976. And yes, that is plural (basements)--for our offices occupy two underground levels, and we have grass for a roof!

Christmas party in December 1968 in the original HMML offices in the basement of Alcuin Library.
It was not always so, of course. In the earliest days of the microfilm project (1965-1966), the microfilm library was located in the middle level of the then-brand new Alcuin Library. Other units in that cluster of rooms included the rare books collection and the Kritzeck collection of documents signed by famous people in history. However, already at that early stage, the microfilming field director, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, complained that the space designated for the film library was far too small:
"When I first returned from Austria in 1966, the films were simply stored in a small seminar room on the library’s second level. Few thought that there should be extensive facilities for consulting the films.  The new library [i.e., Alcuin Library] was already under construction when the microfilm project was conceived.  By chance I met Fr. Paulin (Michael) Blecker in the library.  He from the beginning had shown an interest in the project, and I mentioned to him the pitiful way in which the films were being stored.  He asked me to come with him to the basement of the library, where he showed me to larger adjoining rooms not being used for much (I believe they were intended for the education department).  Since after another year the seminar room on the second level would already be crowded with stored films, I called the abbot’s and president’s attention to these available rooms in the basement of the library for the microfilm collection."
Staff meeting in the director's office (ca. 1970). The cork wall in the
background is still there, but has been painted white! Now filled with compact shelving.

Lots of room (?) for visiting scholars in the adjacent microfilm reader/reference area.
Oversized rare volumes are now stored along this wall.

Ms. Marianne Hansen at the typewriter, while a student worker retrieves a microfilm from the cabinets.

To say that Father Oliver caught the abbot's ear is perhaps phrasing it a bit mildly. He was able to get the spaces assigned to the microfilm library in time for the arrival in early 1966 of Julian Plante, who was to remain the director of MMML/HMML for about 25 years.

Today these rooms have again been given new life--now as the repositories for the rare book collections at Saint John's University. This is the only way that I have ever seen them--filled with compact shelving, itself filled nearly to capacity! In fact, however, remnants of the early HMML can still be found in places: different colored floor tiles that show where a wall once had stood, or a cork wall that has been painted white (thus camouflaging it as painted concrete!).

The space for researchers, with a steel door in the background
(which is still there, only painted light blue).

Incipit files to identify the first line of texts in manuscripts. Some of these files are still in HMML,
although we are attempting to find a better way to store them!

Note the omnipresent typewriter in the background--back before personal computers were even an option.

It is hard to imagine that visiting scholars could accomplish much with such tight conditions!

A New (Trapezoidal) Home

Father Oliver wrote his version of early HMML history after the new Library was built (1975-1976),  but his efforts to find a home for the microfilm proved effective at the outset:
"Some time after my return to Europe, the films were moved to the two basement rooms in the library where, before many years, the situation again became crowded not only with films and reference works, but also with people.  Catalogers, scholars, and visitors were falling over each other. Even the approach via a long stairway was awkward and uninviting, especially for elderly scholars, and there was no public elevator in the library."
So it was, that in the early 1970's, new plans were proposed for a fabulous new center that would house this blossoming collection. An addition to Alcuin Library--to have two floors above ground and two below--would be built immediately to the west of the university library.

The view from above, from the west.

Marcel Breuer's design for the library addition at Saint John's (seen from the north).

Now known as the Bush Center, the addition only appears in photographs today
as a grassy plot with a concrete retaining wall around the edge. Seen from the south.

The angled side (producing HMML's quirky trapezoidal shape) was intended to follow the
path of the adjacent access road to campus.

 The model makes this new center look promising indeed! As tall as the Alcuin Library, with a walkway joining them, this new library would likely have housed both HMML and added space for Alcuin.  The explanation on the model states:
"The proposed two-stage addition to Saint John's Alcuin Library. The first stage, to be begun this Spring, will be completely underground. Funded largely by grants from the Hill and Bush Foundations, this stage wil provide new quarters for the Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Library (MMML). Plans have not been complete nor construction scheduled for the second stage."
Unfortunately, the plans for the second stage never were fulfilled, and thus only about half of the building was actually built.

In an earlier post, I spoke of the 1975 groundbreaking ceremony for the new center that now houses HMML. So, I will not go further into detail here, except to reproduce one of the pictures from that day:

Breaking ground for the Bush Center/Hill Monastic Manuscript Library in April 1975,
when the microfilming project was about 10 years old.

Construction (1975-1976)

Construction started already that summer, and soon a giant hole located HMML's new home.

Taken from the bell banner of the Abbey church (I believe).

The HMML hole in the ground, with the bell banner in the background.

All projects require supervision (or at least multiple supervisors).

So that's what's under the grass!

Alcuin Library in the background, our immediate neighbor to the east.

Building pillars.

More concrete.

Walls begin to emerge from the hole.
I guess you need floors, too.

Did I mention that the architect, Marcel Breuer, was noted for his use of concrete in construction? As you can see, we are essentially all poured concrete walls and ceiling.

August 1976: Moving In

Bring on the books!

Finishing touches.

The HMML front office - the file cabinets are still there, but the desks have moved around.

Building the interior (upstairs).

Building the interior (downstairs).

the view toward the director's office.

Settling in: HMML as it appeared from 1976 until the early 1990's

Finding room for films (Dr. Julian Plante).

A staff gathering at the round table (in what was later the gift shop).

The round table for meetings - in what has been the gift shop for over 15 years.

The waiting room - right at the entrance to the library. Larger than the spaces in the old MMML?

The Jerome Hill Reference area - for scholars and students. Originally open to the aisle as in this photo.

Ms. Marianne Hansen filing into the HMML card cabinets.

2014 Renovation

In the early to mid 1990's, the HMML space stayed relatively stable. However, it became apparent that the space needed some reorganization and the carrels, classroom and book stacks all were re-arranged. What had originally been the classroom area became a small gallery space for exhibits. The classroom was behind this (as late as 2001, when I started at the Library) with a capacity of about 30-35 visitors. About a decade ago the gallery was expanded to accommodate exhibits from the Saint John's Bible and the classroom shrank to about 10-15 seats.

The 2014 renovation will not only rearrange the layout of the space and furniture in HMML, but it will add new walls to create enclosed office spaces, greater separation between the public and staff areas of the Library, and open up the wall more between Alcuin Library and HMML. This will also provide a more inviting atmosphere that will enhance the interaction between the libraries.

And it will have a real classroom!

But first the HMML space (aka the Bush Center) will have to be closed for three months, while all the construction is underway. One of the ironies of this project is that HMML will be returning to its "roots" in the basement of Alcuin. We won't be in the exact rooms of the old HMML (which now have compact shelves full of rare books), but in the office spaces immediately adjacent to those rooms. It will be a little like a class reunion ...

Come visit HMML and see our new space, but wait until September 2014, so we can move in first!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Handschriften in der Hill Museum & Manuscript Library - German Manuscripts at HMML

Even bookbindings can be enlightening! One of the earliest manuscripts in German at HMML--a recycled scrap of parchment in the binding of Barton Williams Ms. 2.

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library has provided access to other people's manuscripts for almost 50 years now. The Library's focus has always been on photographic preservation of manuscripts elsewhere in the world -- far from the edge of the prairie in Minnesota. Indeed, the largest single group of these manuscripts is still the 30,000 microfilmed in Austria (along with about 14,000 from Germany and 1000 from Switzerland, and you have nearly 50,000 manuscripts from Central Europe in one library!).

However, during that same time, the library has also received numerous gifts of rare books and manuscripts (the vast majority of our rare collections have come as gifts), which today are kept with the rare books and manuscripts that had come to Saint John's Abbey and University since the nineteenth century.  There are three main collections: Saint John's Rare Books, Arca Artium Rare Books, and HMML Rare Books. Among these books are a number of manuscripts which are in the German language, dating from the 15th century (above) to the 20th century. These are mostly codex manuscripts, with a couple archival documents thrown in.

Ironically, while a large part of our films come from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, our original manuscripts are not very well represented. Aside from the few listed here, there are manuscripts in larger numbers in Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic.


Barton Williams Ms. 2 - pastedown leaves (recycled)

Charter used as a pastedown to help the late medieval binding.

Charter dated 1442 inside the cover of Barton Williams Ms. 2

Contemporary cover on Barton Williams Ms. 2.

The earliest German-language manuscripts in the HMML collections appear to be recycled charters that were used for pastedowns in a 15th century manuscript called a "preacher's manual." The texts themselves are in Latin, but the contemporary binding is falling apart and the pastedowns have come loose, which make it possible to study the binding structure! Neither of these scraps has been identified or described fully, to my knowledge, but one seems to indicate a date of 1442!


Individual letters in the James Kritzeck Collection:
  • Emperor Maximilian I
  • Emperor Ferdinand I
  • Emperor Rudolph II
  • Emperor Matthias
  • Emperor Ferdinand II
  • Emperor Ferdinand III
  • Emperor Joseph I
  • Empress Maria Theresia (2x)
Letter from Emperor Joseph I (1705-1711).
The James Kritzek Collection of autographed documents from popes, kings, emperors, queens, empresses, and presidents, includes a number of items signed by Holy Roman emperors (and one empress). Not all of these are in German, but several of them are. The collection is more representational than deep, as there is generally only one signed document per ruler.


SJU Ms. 16 - Catholic Prayer book (1872)

A colorful title page from the 19th century.

The Saint John's Rare Books Collection includes two codex manuscripts in German. Both of these are prayer books from the 18th and 19th centuries. On its rather colorful title page, SJU Ms.16 is dated 1872. While the title page is in Gothic script, the bulk of the text is copied in Kurrent.


SJU Ms. 17 - Prayer book (18th or 19th century?)

Water damage to the first page of the manuscript. Note the use of both Gothic and Kurrent scripts.

This manuscript comes with a handy little protective leather pouch, which opens in the middle.

Once upon a time, this manuscript was shelved with the print books in the Abbey Library collection.
Another prayer book, this one undated, but likely from the 18th or early 19th century. This manuscript features its own little carrying case, as well as a circulation card in the back! A few decades ago the manuscript was cataloged and processed as any print book would be -- with call number, cataloging record, and a pocket for the circulation card. This book no longer circulates! There is a Dewey classification number on the pouch, indicating that the book was once in the Abbey Library and came to the University Library later.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 13 - Prayer book with engravings (1622)

Deutsch Passional (copied in Vienna, Austria, by Daniel Meltzer, in 1622)

The Passional starts with an engraving of the Last Supper. Printed on paper and pasted onto a parchment leaf.
First page of text in Kacmarcik Ms. 13.

Kacmarcik Ms. 13 (from the Arca Artium Rare Collection) is an unusual little book of prayers to remember the Passion of Jesus. Only about 3 inches tall, it is written on parchment (most of these later manuscripts are on paper), and has engravings of the Passion bound in with the prayers. The basic structure is to have one engraving (on the verso of the leaf), followed by 3 leaves of prayers. Unlike the other codices listed here, the script in this small volume is entirely in Gothic.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 14 - Prayer book with engravings ("Geistliches Hand-Buechel," 1778)

Engraving facing the opening page of the codex.

Geistliches Hand-Buechl.
Colophon identifying the scribe and for whom the manuscript was copied;
as well as giving a date of copying as 1778.

Kacmarcik Ms. 14 is also a prayer book with engravings, although this is not specifically tied to the Passion. As with many of these codices, the titles and headings are copied in Gothic script, while the contents are all in Kurrent. I hope to compile a list of the prayers in each of the prayer books soon.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 15 - Catholic Prayer book with engravings (18th century?)

Title page is in a different script from most of the rest of the codex.

One of several engravings bound into the book. Saint Michael slaying the dragon.
Note the hierarchy of scripts (Gothic for headings, Kurrent for text). Most of the text looks more like this.

Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 24 - modern calligraphy - essay by Friedrich Nietzsche (1944?)

Completed in Frankfurt, Germany, during World War II, this volume is largely noteworthy for the carefully prepared calligraphy


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 35 - Recessionale (1700)

Of a completely different nature is a very large and thick volume called the Recessionale, and dated 1700. So far, no research on this volume has been done, so we know very little about its contents.


Arca Artium Kacmarcik Ms. 36 - Lectures on Architecture with architectural drawings (18th century?)

This codex features a very new, modern bookbinding, along with several pages of architectural drawings. Some pages even have flaps to life. Referred to in our documentation as Architectural Lectures, There appear to be many references in other languages--most notably French.


Are there other German manuscripts in the Saint John's/HMML collections? Quite possibly, yes. However, the collections are still being cataloged, and new adventures always await those who are traversing these handwritten paths for the first time (in many years)!

Perhaps there are students out there who would be interested in helping to decipher and describe these manuscripts for us?


Matt Heintzelman