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Thursday, April 16, 2015

It was 50 years ago today ...

The library at Kremsmünster Abbey, from a book plate (ex libris)
in the Saint John's Collections.

The following article is dedicated to the monastic community at Kremsmünster Abbey in gratitude for their enthusiastic support in 1965 that started HMML's whole process of manuscript preservation through photography.

The Work (Finally) Begins: Getting Started in Kremsmünster (April 1965)

On this date, April 16, 1965, the first actual photography took place in all of HMML's preservation work. The very first manuscript filmed was a collection of sermons, which happens to share the primary position in the Kremsmünster collection, where it is listed as "Codex Cremifanensis 1." Unfortunately, we have no photographs of Father Oliver working in Kremsmuenster, except one possibly of him with his colleague for technical support, Eugene Power.

Father Oliver describes Kremsmünster  in his second Progress Report (June 1965):
“The Abbey of Kremsmünster was founded in 777 by Herzog Tassilo III of Bavaria, as a religious shrine to commemorate the sad event of the death of his son, who was killed in the area by a wild boar during a hunting expedition. Except for the tragic years of 1939-45, when the entire monastic community was ejected by the German warlords from the north from what had been its home for over a thousand years, the Abbey has enjoyed an unbroken and flourishing existence. During the Nazi occupation the entire manuscript collection of the Abbey was transferred elsewhere. Thanks to the generous cooperation from American military forces, the collection was recovered shortly after the war, with the loss of only a few codices. It goes without saying that their precious manuscript collection is now dearer to the Benedictine monks than ever before.”
The Mirror of Human Salvation from the Kremsmünster Monastery Library. From color
microfilm photographed by Father Oliver Kapsner and his team in 1965.

Father Oliver Kapsner’s brief synopsis of Kremsmünster Abbey’s history does little justice to the work that he and his colleagues accomplished in getting this first microfilming site set up and running smoothly. After his brief respite at the Benedictine house of Einsiedeln (Switzerland) during the Christmas season, Father Oliver returned to the logistical planning for the microfilming. Already in January he met with the director of University Microfilms, Mr. Eugene Power:
“Mr. Power telephoned again a few days ago, now wants me to meet him in Vienna next week, to inspect the electric power situation in a few abbeys before moving in with equipment. He almost upset the applecart by suggesting using women employees. I has specifically mentioned in my letter to him “Women excluded.” Yet he dares to come back with the idea, as if I have not had enough trouble as it is to get entrée. Is there a shortage of the male species in America? To get at the manuscripts we must enter intimate parts of the monastery in most instances.” (Father Oliver to Father Colman, January 18, 1965; from Einsiedeln)
Biblia pauperum from the Kremsmuenster Monastery Library. From color microfilm
photographed by Father Oliver Kapsner and his team in 1965.

Fortunately, today women are no longer “excluded” from HMML’s work—quite the contrary. Many of our overseas photographers (from the 1980’s to the present) have been women. However, the world was still quite different in 1960’s Austria, and such access into libraries within all-male monasteries was too difficult for Father Oliver to manage. Indeed, finding appropriate personnel was just one of the problems he faced in these early days:
“Mr. Power came to meet me in Vienna last week. Together we visited four of the abbeys on our schedule. While some of my problems have been solved, his are now beginning, namely: variety of manuscripts and bindings, variety of electricity (three of the four abbeys do not have sufficient amperes on their regular circuit), right manpower, patience. He thinks we may be able to start in about five or six weeks, at Kremsmünster.” (Father Oliver to Father Colman, February 5, 1965; Schottenstift, Vienna)

Many other aspects of the work were ironed out during the months of February and March 1965, such as the annual renewal of the contract with University Microfilms for the technical aspects of the project, and the storage of negative copies of the films at the company’s Ann Arbor offices. The films would be developed in Austria, and then shipped to Michigan, where two positive copies would be made—one for Saint John’s and one for the owning library. Father Oliver also discussed the difficulties of hiring camera operators from the United States, since they would likely feel isolated in a German-speaking world. In light of the difficulties related to unusual work spaces, varying electrical supply, and the materials themselves, Mr. Eugene Power also suggested to Father Oliver that he should expect an operator to produce an average of about 1000 exposures per day, not the 1500 that was a common output at locations in the United States.

The prophet Joel from a Latin Bible in the Kremsmünster Monastery Library. From color
microfilm photographed by Father Oliver Kapsner and his team in 1965.

In a letter to Father Oliver, dated February 9, 1965, Father Colman informs him that the Knights of Columbus have decided to donate $10,000 to help start the project. Along with this gift came a request that Father Oliver provide photos of the work being done. This is likely the ultimate impulse for the documentary photographs taken at Seitenstetten Monastery later in 1965 (See: They Shoot Manuscripts, Don’t They?). Father Colman’s secretary (Elaine Vogel) appended her own note to the letter that the Knights of Columbus had requested a thousand copies of Father Oliver’s first Progress Report to distribute to its members.

Finally, in the second week of April 1965, Father Oliver was able to report to Father Colman directly from Kremsmünster:
“At long last Mr. Power of University Microfilms arrived in Austria in order to start the microfilm project. The last time he was here (Feb. 1) the flu bug hit him. It apparently took a long time to recover from it back in the States, but fortunately he did recover. The Austrian President Schärf was also hit by the flu (Grippe) a week after Mr. Power, and another week later he was buried. …”
Codex Cremifanensis (Schatzkasten) 6. Vaticinia et imagines Ioachimi abbatis
Florensis Calabriae ... From color microfilm photographed by Father Oliver Kapsner
and his team in 1965.

“Anyhow he is here now. But what a headache to get this project off the ground in a foreign country. We have spent three days now in the offices of lawyers, customs, insurance agency, bank, Kodak Co., Volkswagen Co. Yesterday I sat three hours in a lawyer’s office (we are a foreign corporation, with foreign equipment and foreign employee in this highly socialized state). Yesterday we also spent three hours in the customs office, and still did not get the equipment (12 pieces) cleared. We have to return to customs today, and if we get the equipment we can finally proceed tomorrow to Kremsmünster, to wrestle with the local problems there. Holy Week is obviously not the best time to proceed there, but we must go when the going is possible. Yesterday we also received our Volkswagen Kombi (small truck with removable seats). And I will be responsible for the whole work and works. Brother, if my next letter to you comes from jail, I hope you are disposed to send me some food parcels. Anyhow, keep your fingers crossed. The people at the Nationalbibliothek admire the scope of our project and our courage, which may be a polite Austrian way of saying we may be presumptuous. They know that we will not be doing this work in a convenient laboratory, but under a variety of local conditions. However, they would very much like to have a positive microfilm copy of all the manuscripts in Austrian monasteries. That could be settled when the Austrian project is done.” (Father Oliver to Father Colman, April 13, 1965; from Kremsmünster)
Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, and Eugene Power from University Microfilms, in front of the
van used to transport the microfilming equipment and team. Photo taken in Austria.

He also reports in this note the appreciation at Kremsmünster for the gift copy of Father Colman’s history of Saint John’s, Worship and work. He also notes with pride that he has added four more monasteries to his list of microfilming partners! In the midst of the busy-ness of getting the equipment and team in place, Father Oliver did not write for almost two weeks, at which point he could finally report the start of the actual microfilming:
“Here is a continuation of my last epistle, and of our work and problems. It will still take all of a month till we really know how we are doing, not till after University Microfilms has received our products and approves our work.
Probably the very first photograph taken for all of HMML's preservation
work--the identification plate on the first reel of film shot.

We arrived here with staff and equipment on Wednesday of Holy Week [April 14, 1965]. It took two days to get set up. Electricity will be quite a problem wherever we go. We really needed Mr. Power on the spot to put all the parts together and pull this through; he really knows his stuff. By Good Friday afternoon, of all days, the first photographs could be taken, and work continued till Saturday noon. Easter Sunday Mr. Power left, feeling certain that we could manage, and obviously fed up with this weather. The two camera operators, one from abroad, the other an Austrian, are trying their best, but need experience to handle these tricky medieval manuscripts. The films are developed in Vienna, 120 miles away, and one shipment has now been returned. We ship every day. It would be a catastroph[e] to really lose any films in the mail. We need twice as much work space as I had thought, and it may not be so simple to get that much in all the monasteries. Besides being responsible for the work, workers and equipment, I prepare the materials, and my typed bibliographical entry has to be filmed first. In addition, in my eagerness to get the project on the way, I volunteered to Mr. Power to inspect the films, but I must leave off on that, as my eyes just can’t stand all day work with old manuscripts and the microfilm reader. Incidentally, have you somebody ready to take over in case I should falter, for as you know, I am no longer a spring chicken, and neither this life nor this work is a picnic. Like anybody else, I can just try my best and leave the rest in the hands of the Lord.” …

Codex Cremifanensis 1 (HMML Project no. 1) - a collection of sermons.
The manuscript is about 400 leaves long!

“The first week of April looked like spring, then Austrian winter returned and hasn’t let up since. The big hills outside my window are covered with white snow, the real stuff. The newspaper headlines for April 22 read: König Winter kehrt wieder zurück [King Winter comes back]. And on April 24 the newspaper headlines announced: Regen, Regen, Regen—und dauernde Kälte [Rain, Rain, Rain--and lasting cold]. There are floods in eastern Austria and in Burgenland (Abbot Alcuin’s homeland). Imaging all this in Austria at this time of year. I still wear my overcoat in choir (their own monks do the same) and in the library workroom, as neither place is heated. The natives are hardened to all this, though they do not like this return of winter a bit. Brother, if I ever live through all this and survive, I may become so tough that you may have to use an axe to dismiss me from this vale of tears. The friendly Austrian attitude continues through all this, which is indeed a blessing and a help.” (Father Oliver to Father Colman, April 26, 1965; from Kremsmünster)
The Ascension from a Latin Bible in the Kremsmünster Monastery Library. From color
microfilm photographed by Father Oliver Kapsner and his team in 1965.

Father Colman did his part by supporting the work from afar—he sent a copy of his history of Saint John’s (Worship and Work) to the abbot and community at Kremsmünster. They responded enthusiastically and noted that they are trying to help Father Oliver in any way they can:
“Es freut uns alle, dass P. Oliver bei uns ist und er mit dem Fortgang der Arbeiten zufrieden sein kann. Soweit wir können, unterstützen wir die Arbeiten.” [We are all glad that Father Oliver is staying with us and that he is satisfied with the progress of the work. We try to help with his tasks in any way we can.] (Albert Bruckmayr, OSB, to Father Colman Barry, OSB; May 8, 1965; from Kremsmünster)
"Unserem lieben P. Oliver Kapsner, St. Johns USA. Zur freundlichen Erinnerung
an seinen Aufenthalt in Kremsmünster 1965 ..." [To our dear Father Oliver Kapsner from
St. John's, USA. In friendly remembrance of his stay at Kremsmünster in 1965 ...]

Finally, on June 8, 1965, Father Oliver reported to Father Colman from Kremsmünster:
“Today we finish the photographing of manuscripts at Kremsmünster. Enclosed is my second Progress Report, which embodies a job actually completed, and for which St. John’s should be having the films, all of them, before too long, probably another month before the last ones will arrive from University Microfilms. We shipped the last ones there today.”
Books given to Father Oliver during his stay at Kremsmünster .

He noted as well the irony that the Abbey’s most famous manuscript—the Codex Millenarius—was away on exhibit. He was able to microfilm this landmark manuscript later during the Austrian project. From Kremsmünster, Father Oliver and his team continued on to Lambach Abbey and shortly thereafter to Seitenstetten. After several months of delays, the photographic preservation of manuscripts was now (finally) in full swing!

The Codex Millenarius (the evangelist Matthew) from the Kremsmünster Monastery Library. From
color microfilm photographed by Father Oliver Kapsner and his team in 1965.

Thanks to the community at Kremsmünster Abbey and their then abbot, Albert Bruckmayr, HMML had a successful start to its now fifty-year-old mission of preserving manuscripts through photography. With the help of partners like those at Kremsmünster , HMML has been able to pursue an international undertaking unimaginable to Father Oliver when the first pages were microfilmed!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

HMML Celebrates its 50th anniversary at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo)

Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, and his Austrian team at Seitenstetten Abbey in 1965.

HMML at Kalamazoo 2015

Listed below are the sessions sponsored (or co-sponsored) by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at the 2015 International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Additional information on the Congress is on the Medieval Institute website:

Come help us celebrate 50 years of manuscript preservation!

May 14

Session 46
Waldo Library
Classroom A

Digital Humanities Resources for the Study of Central Europe in the Middle Ages
(A Roundtable)
Sponsor: Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML); Special Collections and Rare Book Dept., Waldo Library, Western Michigan Univ.
Organizer: Susan M. B. Steuer, Western Michigan Univ.
Presider: Matthew Z. Heintzelman, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
A roundtable discussion with Klaus M. Schmidt, Univ. Salzburg/Bowling Green State Univ.; Ramona Fritschi, Univ. de Fribourg/e-codices; Eric J. Johnson, Ohio State Univ. Libraries; and James R. Ginther, St. Louis Univ.

May 14

Session 76
Schneider 2345

HMML at Fifty: Preserving Manuscripts and Providing Access for Five Decades
Sponsor: Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)
Organizer: Matthew Z. Heintzelman, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Presider: Daniel K. Gullo, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

Across Four Decades and Two Continents: HMML in Austria, Spain, Malta, Ethiopia, Germany, Portugal, England, Switzerland, and Sweden
Matthew Z. Heintzelman
HMML’s Past Decade and the Turn ad Orientem: Digitizing Threatened Manuscripts in the Middle East, Africa, and South India
Columba Stewart, OSB, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Applied Digital Humanities: Supporting Scholars and Students of Medieval Studies with vHMML and Reading Room
William Straub, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

May 14

Session 126
Schneider 2345

Slavery and Slave Trade in Medieval Mediterranean Society
Sponsor: Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)
Organizer: Daniel K. Gullo, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Presider: Shannon N. Godlove, Columbus State Univ.
Slavery along the Christian-Andalusí Borderlands
Yasmine Beale-Rivaya, Texas State Univ.–San Marcos
On the Slaves’ Network of Communication in the Ottoman Crimea
Oleksander Halenko, Institute of History of Ukraine, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Observations on Slavery and the Slave Trade in Late Medieval Malta
Daniel K. Gullo

May 15
9:00 p.m.

Bernhard 208
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)
Reception with open bar

Groundbreaking ceremony for the HMML building in April 1975 (40 years ago!).

Friday, January 2, 2015

50 Years Ago: A Cold House of God

40 years ago: Father Oliver looks on as the president of St. John's University
(Fr. Michael Blecker, OSB) and the director of HMML (Dr. Julian G. Plante)
break ground for the future home of HMML's microfilm collections.

Fifty years ago, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, was taking a short break from his travels and celebrating Christmas at the hospitable abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland. This interlude marked the break between the heavy activity of visiting several monasteries in a relatively short time and the actual start of microfilming (with the need for a staff and the camera set-ups).

In a letter to Father Colman Barry, OSB, dated January 2, 1965, he reported the following from the comfort accommodations at Einsiedeln:

"Christmas was nice, and I enjoyed some desired peace and rest. Outside it looks much like Minnesota, with two feet of snow on the ground and crisp winter air, quite in contrast to November-December weather in Austria which could offer only fog, drizzle, snow and slush. In fairness I should add that the grand hospitality experienced everywhere in Austria, by the guestmaster, abbot and monks, helped considerably to offset the persistent miserable weather. My room here at Einsiedeln is warm, being centrally heated, but the huge church is completely unheated, and, brother, it is a cold house of God. The monks say all the Divine Office there. In Austria the Office was always said in some small room in the monastery; the big church was used only for Mass and Vespers on Sunday.

"I will be here till Jan. 8 at least, but mail will be forwarded from here to my next address, in Austria, I hope. Incidentally, my command of German was a handy asset in Austria. Even my white hair, or what is left of them, helped to make a favorable impression."


Father Oliver at the Schottenstift (Vienna, Austria) in the 1960's.

 Next up: Putting the technology into place to start microfilming (January-March 1965).

Monday, December 29, 2014

50 Years Ago: "The Austrians are a most congenial and delightful people, everywhere"

The library at Melk Abbey, Austria.

Since his last letter in early November 1964, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, had been on the road throughout Austria, staying only a few days in each location. By December 23, however, he had returned to the Abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland, where he had planned to spend the Christmas season. During his time on the road, Saint John's University had (perhaps prematurely?) announced the new project--the Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Project--in the press:

"Dear Father Colman [Barry],
Upon returning here [Einsiedeln] yesterday from a six-week journey through Austria, I found your letter of November 9 waiting for me, along with the news release enclosures. I had made Einsiedeln a center for assembling mail, as I was constantly on the move, 2 or 3 days in each place.
Thanks to a highly successful trip, and surprisingly so, through Austria, the news release is now not disturbing, as it might have been, had the Austrian contact been a failure. All the 16 abbeys which I contacted have agreed through signed statements to join our microfilm project, this in spite of an earlier decision, in August, made a a meeting of the Austrian Abbots, not to join. Their decision was based on several objections sent in by librarians. Actually, I have not found a single Abbot who is opposed to the project. The difficulties always came from the librarian or archivist, four that I know of, all of whom I converted except one, at Admont. At Admont the Abbot (and his name is Coloman) through chapter action is overruling the librarian. Abbot Coloman also told me that if it had not been for my personal visit, the project would never have won approval in Austria. The weather was miserable throughout my Austrian journey, but hospitality was grand without exception. The Austrians are a most congenial and delightful people, everywhere."
As a holder of a master's degree in library sciences, I can only say: "those pesky librarians!" Already in this earliest stage of the project that would become the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, it was becoming clear how complex it would be to deal with other communities that have their own internal complexities. Through it all, Father Oliver would work tirelessly to assure everyone that the microfilming project offered benefits to all.

Fragment in the Saint John's Rare Books collection that was used as the backdrop for the announcement of the Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Project in the November 1964 Saint John's alumni magazine (the Off-Campus Record).

In his letter, Father Oliver summarizes the results of his trip: agreements with 10 Benedictine abbeys, 3 Cistercian abbeys and 3 abbeys of Augustinian canons. Now he must approach University Microfilms--the technology partner in the project--with a one-year proposal to move forward with the filming. He still has hopes for work in Switzerland (which was not to materialize for another 30 years, until after his death, unfortunately), but he is suspicious of suggestions that the project also use color photography for parts of the collections.

Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB (center), with his replacement, Father Urban Steiner, OSB,
at the Kodak offices in Vienna, Austria (1971).

He closes his letter:

"Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gesegnetes neues Jahr especially in your new important office [i.e., as president of Saint John's University]. Please pray for me too. My survey trip is finished now, but it has been rugged during the fall and winter months and constant change of place and meals. I have grown three years older during the past three months, and am that much closer to that final important resting place up on the hillside. But I am still alive and kicking, and now getting a needed rest here at Einsiedeln, where winter is just as in Minnesota. I will be staying here till Epiphany, after which I have suggested to University Microfilms to meet their representative in Vienna for important business, if agreeable to them."
Indeed, Father Oliver often complained in his letters about advanced age and the physical difficulties of his work, but then he lived another 27 years after starting this project! Perhaps his Austrian work kept him young?

In a follow-up letter from December 27, 1964, Father Oliver expands on his experience at Kremsmuenster Abbey, his feelings about color photography, and the situation at the Swiss abbeys. Also in that letter is a list of the Austrian monasteries that have agreed to join the project (in the order he listed them):
Vienna. Schottenstift
St. Florian
Salzburg. St. Peter
St. Paul in Carinthia (im Lavanttal)
He notes that, "These abbeys are rather conveniently located. The first 14 on the list lie on the 200-mile stretch from Vienna to Salzburg, 6 directly on the main railroad, the other 8 within 10 to 40 mi. off the main drag. Only Admont and St. Paul are out of the way. no wonder they used to say: Oesterreich, klosterreich."

Father Oliver with one of his microfilming team at Seitenstetten in 1965.

When we return to Father Oliver in January 2015, we will learn about the next phase of the project--getting the technology in place to start the actual microfilming.

Monday, December 1, 2014

50 Years Ago: "Sie werden in Kremsmuenster anfangen."

In a slightly later photo, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, types a manuscript
description on an inventory card to go on the microfilm.

We last visited with Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, in Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland, where he was facing the prospect of an early return to the United States, with only very limited results to show for his travels to several European Benedictine monasteries. The hoped-for, bigger collections at Monte Cassino, Saint Gall and Einsiedeln refused his request to microfilm their precious manuscripts. He announced in a letter dated November 7, 1964, that he was about to embark on a five-week tour of Austrian monastic houses in hopes of finding some support there. So, exactly 50 years ago at this time (mid-November to mid-December 1964), Father Oliver was on the road. I have not yet found exact dates for his stops in Austria, so I don't have exact dates for the events described below. Suffice it to say that we are likely now (in December 2014) at the 50-year mark for the real "start" of the work in Austria! Here is Father Oliver's account, as he himself recounted the events. This account later appeared in two different publications (Scriptorium, vol. 25, 1986, and A Sense of Place, vol. 2):

1986-12 Scriptorium Volume 25 Christmas 090

 "My first stop in Austria was at Saint Peter’s Archabbey in Salzburg. The abbot was most gracious and felt favorably inclined towards our project but hinted that not all Austrian abbeys felt the same way. In fact, he said that two abbeys had telephoned him to inform me that I need not come there at all. But he signed a written agreement to indicate his willingness. Lambach Abbey was the next stop. There the abbot had just been deposed, and there was no librarian; hence, not much could be accomplished."

"The next stop was Kremsmünster Abbey. When I arrived, the porter immediately told me that the abbot wanted to speak to me on the phone, whereupon I was set for the next treat of bad news. But his first words on the phone were: Willkommen in Kremsmünster. Sie werden in Kremsmünster anfangen (“Welcome to Kremsmünster. You will begin your work here”). Brother, what a day that was for me, to hear such good news with my own ears. The abbot, Albert Bruckmayr, was newly elected four months previously. In Rome he had been a classmate of Fr. Vitus Bucher. He said that after all that Saint John’s had done for them during the hard years after World War II, it just would not be right to turn Saint John’s down now. Here I also learned that during the general chapter of the Austrian Benedictine Congregation in the summer of 1964, Abbot Baldwin’s offer was considered and was turned down. Ironically, the instigator for this unfavorable decision was the librarian from Kremsmünster, who had recently attended a convention in Munich where the director of the mighty Bayerische Staatsbibliothek had thundered against fulfilling requests coming from other countries to photograph whole portions of their manuscript collections. So the assembled Austrian abbots simply said that if the librarians don’t want it, that’s it. Ever so fortunately, the aged abbot president of the Austrian Congregation neglected to inform Abbot Baldwin of this decision. If he had done so, I would not have left for Europe."

"When Abbot Albert informed their librarian of his decision to let us begin our work at Kremsmünster, the librarian turned about completely and was totally cooperative. He even went out of his way to improve the reading of the agreement which I was presenting for signing, making a few minor modifications, and rendering the German more elegant. He then also duplicated enough copies for my use during the rest of my trip. Next, he asked why we planned to contact only Benedictine monasteries in Austria? Why not also the Austrian Cistercian, Augustinian, and Premonstratensian abbeys? I told him that I had no objection whatever if that would be arranged. So the next day he himself accompanied me to Sankt Florian, a famous Augustinian abbey thirty miles away that possessed an excellent manuscript collection. And a contract was signed at Sankt Florian."
Undated photo of a microfilm camera, probably taken at Saint John's University.

"The sky was beginning to clear before me. Three monasteries had signed the agreement. Now negotiations were considerably easier. First, Michaelbeuern signed, then Seitenstetten, then Melk, then Göttweig (the abbot of Göttweig was also the new administrator of Lambach, so he signed for Lambach). From Göttweig the Cistercian abbey of Zwettl lay to the north, and another Cistercian abbey, Lilienfeld, to the south, both of which signed. I met a Cistercian monk at Lambach who also encouraged me to visit the Cistercian abbeys in Austria, gave me their names, locations, and directions for reaching them conveniently on my visitation tour of the Benedictine abbeys. Then I was off to Schottenstift in Vienna, which signed the agreement. There too the librarian was most gracious to me. One day he accompanied me to Klosterneuburg of Augustinian canons ten miles north of Vienna, which signed the agreement."

"The following day he accompanied me to the Cistercian abbey of Heiligenkreuz, twenty miles south of Vienna, which signed. Only here the abbot, who had a reputation as a stickler, required that I obtain a letter for him from my abbot showing that I was duly authorized to do this work. The Austrian Benedictine abbots had all received such notification beforehand. From Vienna I went way down to the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Paul in Lavanttal in Kärnten. At first, the abbot hesitated but then did sign the agreement."

"Then came my last stop, Admont, where the librarian was vehemently opposed to our project. The kind abbot called a meeting of the Small Chapter to which I was invited to explain our offer. The meeting ended with the signing of the agreement."

"Now I could return to Einsiedeln on December 20 to relax a bit and to enjoy Christmas. What a Christmas gift I had in my bag: fifteen Austrian abbeys had signed the agreement: ten Benedictine, three Cistercian, two Augustinian. and the big break had come when least expected."

Bookplate in the Saint John's University bookplate collection, showing the interior of the
Kremsmuenster Abbey Library, from about the year 1899.


When we next return to hear more from Father Oliver, he will be back at Einsiedeln for a Christmas break! In the coming months I hope to return occasionally to his story with posts on the preparations to start the microfilming in January-March 1965 and the start-up of the microfilming in April 1965.