Tag Archives: workflow

Lottery puffs and uncontrolled vocabularies

It seems to me that I had heard dribs and drabs about the surprisingly long history of lotteries before starting work with the CLIR project.  I had not, however, come across the term “lottery puffs.”  The phrase came to my attention while reviewing the work of one of my peers (as per our workflow).  David had cataloged a broadside of a décret by the Convention nationale, the verso of which is a sheet of lottery ticket proofs for the Loterie de piété (Case oversize FRC 10427 no. 8).  Not long ago, I cataloged a similar broadside: Avis aux tuteurs, administrateurs et parens des pupilles et interdits (Case oversize FRC 27593) which has tickets for the Loterie royale printed on the verso.

Case oversize FRC 27593, recto and verso

The tickets themselves look like this:

Ticket proofs for the Loterie royale de France (Case oversize FRC 27593, verso)

All French Revolution Collection (FRC) materials are given a genre/form designation in the bibliographic record.  (In the online catalog, if you switch to “Staff (MARC) View,” these are found in the 655 field.)   Such designations must be drawn from controlled vocabularies; we most frequently use the Art & Architecture Thesaurus and Genre Terms: A Thesaurus for Use in Rare Book and Special Collections Cataloguing.  Most FRC materials are simply “pamphlets,” but there are also plenty of “satires,” “comedies,” “broadsides,” “librettos” (recently changed, midstream, from “libretti”), and — in the case of these two broadsides-plus-lottery-proofs — “lottery puffs.”

Strictly speaking, however, they are not puffs.  Puffs are bits of puffery — hyperbolic handbills, particularly suitable for lotteries and nostrums.  For a lovely introduction, see Gill Short’s blog post on lottery puffs in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library.  The Newberry, too, has a collection of such early 19th-century, English lottery puffs.

So why categorize our exemplars as “lottery puffs” and not “lottery tickets?”  Because a controlled vocabulary is a strict mistress.  “Lottery puffs” appears in AAT, and no other term comes close.  Better close than nothing at all — proving once again that cataloging is a fascinating, frustrating mix of science and art.

Sertor’s Conclave dell’anno 1774 revisited

The cataloging workflow works in mysterious ways.

Earlier this year, when Benedict XVI’s resignation triggered a papal conclave, I took the opportunity to write a post about Gaetano Sertor’s Conclave dell’anno 1774, two copies of which I had recently cataloged.  That very week, elsewhere in Collection Services, a manuscript of the libretto (Case MS V 461 .7743) landed on someone else’s desk.  The flurry of research by Alan and Jessica revealed nuances about the work’s history and publication that were necessary to distinguish its incarnations in our collection, which actually number five: the manuscript, an authentic edition, two counterfeit editions, and a French edition.

In the Bibliografia universale del teatro drammatico italiano, Salvioli and Salvioli attribute the work not to Sertor — who went to prison for its content — but to Prince Sigismondo Chigi.  They also go into detail about the distinguishing characteristics of the counterfeit editions.  The pictures below show our three Italian editions: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14); Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136); Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b.  The French edition (F 46 .655 v. 23 no. 16), cataloged in January, is in our collection of Dutch pamphlets, also cataloged as part of the CLIR project.

Second counterfeit: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14); first counterfeit: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136); authentic edition: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b


In contemporary wrappers. Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14), Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136), Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b.

Les temps sont bien changés! Heresy, satire, and immolation

While there were an enormous number of duplicates within the French Revolution Collection (FRC), there also quite a few duplicates with items either unrelated to FRC or cataloged before the advent of the CLIR project.  For those, we are not only adding holdings records, we are also recataloging to bring the bibliographic records up to CLIR standard.

The Newberry already holds a copies of the anticlerical satire Relation véritable et remarquable du grand voyage du pape en paradis and its continuation, Relation véritable et remarquable du grand voyage du pape en enfer, by Joseph Fiévée.  These send-ups lambaste Pope Pius VI personally and decry the church as a whole.  At the pearly gates, for example, Saint Peter doesn’t recognize his successor, who he finds too richly dressed, and when Pius tries to enter the gate he’s too overfed to fit; the removal of some masonry is suggested as a remedy.

Case FRC 18623 and 18624

Most  charming — and, of course, useful — about these pamphlets are the manuscript annotations on one of the duplicates of Paradis.

Il n’y a pas cent ans qu’en France un pamphlet de ce genre eût fait brûler solemnellement son auteur. Le siècle passé foutait[?] plusieurs exemples de gens grilles à bien meilleur compte. Témoins entre autres Geoffroy Vallés et Simon Marin, que au fond, n’etoient que des fous, des illuminés déraisonnants de la meilleure foi du monde, et plus dignés du Petites-maisons que du feu. Les temps sont bien changés!

Only one hundred years ago in France a pamphlet like this would have had the author burned at the stake.  The past century has spat out many examples of people grilled for better reasons.  Take for example, among others, Geoffroy Vallée and Simon Marin, who at bottom were nothing but madmen,  raving lunatics of the best faith in the world, and better suited to asylums than to fire.  The times certainly have changed!


Case FRC 18624


Sauts des mariés and fêtes baladoires: customs arcane and illicit

With the French Revolution Collection (FRC) all but cataloged in full, our primary task now is to deal with the hundreds of duplicates set aside over the course of the three year CLIR project.  In the end it was decided that the integrity of the collection was worth preserving, so all duplicates will be retained.

For bibliographic records pre-dating the project, we’ll be recataloging, but CLIR records require merely adding holdings records in Voyager.  The latter is a simple matter, potentially tedious but quick enough to allow for a satisfyingly high level of productivity.   This alacrity makes it easy to simply skim the titles, but occasionally — as with the monkey and nun that (metaphorically) leaped from the pages of a Saint-Sulpice volume last year — a an unusual word or two demand attention.  For Case folio FRC 27535, my eye was caught by (literally) jumping newlyweds:

Ruling of the Cour de Parlement that prohibits all persons, of whatever quality and condition they may be, to require newlyweds, resident in the parish of Verruyes, to jump, on the day of Pentecost or any other day, over any hole; and that equally prohibits any newlyweds from presenting themselves to make the jump [...]

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

As the 1786 arrêt goes on to describe it, the hole is to be at least half full of water, of a depth of about 12 feet or more, and if the newlyweds fail to make the jump they must each pay a fine of 60 sols.   One can’t help but agree with the court  that the custom “can do nothing but result in very great impropriety … regarding both the danger incurred by jumping … and the fear that may precipitate paying  the fine.”

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

The ruling also notes that the saut des mariés can be considered nothing but a “fête baladoire” which are already outlawed.   One such decree (conveniently available online via the French national library’s Gallica bibliothèque numérique) sheds light on what fêtes baladoires might entail, describing in some detail the disruptive hijinks in a particular area.

Arrest de la cour du Parlement défend les fêtes baladoires, les attroupements et assemblées illicites ... (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The decree pertains to assemblies

that could be regarded as fêtes baladoires (licentious festivals), during marrages and baptisms; that the inhabitants tumultuously gather together armed with rifles and pistols, having rockets and firecrackers, and lighting fires in different places around the parishes; that around the days of carnival the boys of the parishes go out looking for girls in the places where they are assembled, with drums, fifes, and horns, traversing during the night all the quarters of their villages leading around masked and disguised girls, and going from village to village; that the inhabitants of Couilly assembled in a cabaret where they wrote and composed defamatory libels that they had distributed; that during carnival they had an inhabitant of Couilly mount an ass [...] carrying and representing his effigy, which they burned, extorting from this inhabitant the sum of 60 livres, and then they assembled in the cabarets where they made a tumult and drank all night [...]

The high spirits — particularly the libel and effigy-burning — sound much like the 1791 case of the carementran in Crest that cropped up almost exactly a year ago.  Somehow these crop up on our work flow just after Ash Wednesday.  Go figure.


Embroidered bindings from Barcelona

Because most of the libretti in the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection (BLC) are housed in archival envelopes, the process of cataloging feels a bit like unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning.  Every  item has the potential to be a treasure.

Recently there were three in a row that were unusually thick and that grated strangely against their housing — what could these be?  They were the first of seven libretti in jewel-like bindings: boards covered in silk embroidered with metallic thread, ribbon, and sequins.

The first three jewels: Case ML50.2.A78 P53 1763 (BLC 439), Case ML50.2.P67 S33 1761 (BLC 440), Case ML50.2.M67 G65 1765 (BLC 441).

All of the works were published in Barcelona by Francisco Genéras. Although library collocation numbers on the inside front covers indicate that they came from the same library, no further evidence of provenance is immediately apparent.

Case ML50.2.A78 P53 1763 (BLC 439). Embroidered binding, detail.

Case ML50.2.M67 G65 1765 (BLC 441) — Carlo Goldoni’s Mondo della luna — was a particular treat since, in addition to the interesting binding, it offered up one of my favorite clusters of subject headings:

  • Credulity–Drama[/Humor]–Early works to 1800.
  • Marriage–Drama[/Humor]–Early works to 1800.
  • Extraterrestrial beings–Drama[/Humor]–Early works to 1800.

Case ML50.2.M67 G65 1765 (BLC 441). Embroidered binding, detail.


BLC beyond opera

The Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection (BLC) reflects Prof. Brown’s capacious interest in the ways that theater and music intersected.  The collection comprises not just opera libretti and playbills but a great many plays, collections of poetry, and other literary material of the early modern era that in some way inhabited the realm of musical performance.  Since this “other” material falls outside of the cataloging templates we’ve established for the CLIR project, it can be slightly less straightforward to catalog.  These moments of pause frequently become (at least for me) downright detours, as the workflow renders up some title ripped from the music-historical headlines.   Take for example these two volumes.

BLC 694 (Case PQ4617.C15 B59 1553) and BLC 649 (Case DG738.21 .R67 1589)

The item on the right is an account of the intermedi performed for the wedding of Ferdinando I, grand-duke of Tuscany, and Christine of Lorraine in 1589.  These intermedi were lavish spectacles in music and dance and are considered important precursors to opera.

Descrizione dell'apparato e degl'intermedi fatti per la commedia rappresentata in Firenze nelle nozze de' serenissimi Don Ferdinando Medici, e Madama Cristina de Loreno, gran duchi di Toscana. Case DG738.21 .R67 1589 (BLC 649)

For music historians, the 1589 wedding was a signal event, due in no small part to the detailed descriptions not just of the stage machinery and costumes but the performers, the instruments, and the composers.  From the description of the fifth intermedio, pictured below:

…cominciarono a sonare gli strumenti, ch’elle avevan condotti seco, che erano viole, e lire arciviolate, e Anfitrite, sonando sopra alla nicchia un liuto, cominciò soavamente a cantare …

(they began to play the instruments that they had brought with them, which were violas and arch-lyres, and Anfitrite, playing a lute from a niche above, began to suavely sing)

The text goes on to attribute the madrigals to Ottavio Rinuccini and the music to Cristofano (Malvezzi).

From the fifth intermedio, p. 56. Case DG738.21 .R67 1589 (BLC 649)

Perusing a book of such import–from the collection of a towering scholar, to boot–would be a treat for anyone with an interest in early music.

The other item pictured above, labeled “Ecloghe di Calmo,” has a more esoteric appeal.  The volume actually consists of three titles bound together, all by the16th-century Venetian actor, playwright, and poet Andrea Calmo. This was the volume I’ve been waiting to cross my desk (I knew it was in the BLC), for the work of Calmo figures prominently in the Venetian singing tradition which is the subject of my dissertation.

Le bizzarre, faconde, et ingeniose rime pescatorie. Case PQ4617.C15 B59 1553 no. 1 (BLC 694a)





Two "Epitaphii de molimenti antighi" (epitaphs from old monuments), p. 72. Case PQ4617.C15 B59 1553 no. 1 (BLC 694a)









Calmo calls his poems “rime pescatorie” — pescatorian (fisherman) rhymes — and notes that they are “in antiqua materna lingua,” which is to say, Venetian.  These comic verses, along with his letters, provided much of the material for the emerging commedia dell’arte character of Pantalone, the Venetian magnifico.  The two comic epitaphs in this image — “Zangarin Zazzareta Buranelo” and “Cuffeto Bon Haver, zentil brigae” — are alluded to in a comic, quasi-theatrical song called an “aria giustiniana” first published in 1566.

The text of this volume is sadly pristine (oh, for some revealing marginalia!), the only trace of a previous owner being this tidy monogram:

Title page verso. Case PQ4617.C15 B59 1553 no. 1 (BLC 694a)

Mixing and matching

Because our work is progressing so swiftly and efficiently on our French pamphlet collections, we have begun to catalog two additional collections at the Newberry, which up to this point had only been cataloged at the collection level.  The special strengths and backgrounds that our project team members bring to the table have allowed us both to maximize the efficiency of the project while maintaining an exceptional level of quality in our catalog records and to begin to process additional collections of scholarly importance that match their skill sets.

As both Jennifer D. and Shawn mentioned in previous posts below, they have begun to catalog the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection (BLC), a collection comprised mostly of Italian and French opera libretti from the 16th to the 20th centuries bequeathed to the Newberry in 1993 by noted musicologist Howard Mayer Brown.  As musicologists, they are the ideal candidates to catalog this collection, which complements the Newberry’s large music collections.  Just as with the French Revolution Collection (FRC) and the Saint-Sulpice Collection, Shawn and Jennifer submit their cataloging work for a peer review.  For BLC, however, they submit their work to each other rather than to other members of the project team.  Because of their music knowledge, they are very familiar with helpful bibliographies and other reference sources and are able to bounce ideas off each other.

Pamphlet from the Pamfletten-Verzameling (not yet cataloged)

Pamphlet from the Pamfletten-Verzameling (not yet cataloged)

The other collection that we recently added to our project is the Pamfletten-Verzameling, a collection of 1,600 primarily Dutch pamphlets published between 1574 and 1849 and bound into 45 volumes.  Most deal with the history of the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia, and especially with the relations between the Netherlands and England in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The pamphlets published during the late 18th century in particular are an essential complement to the French Revolutionary pamphlets in FRC.  Many of these pamphlets–such as the example pictured here, whose title translates in English to Europe Before the Bar of Justice, or, The Triumph of France –were published in French or espoused many of the revolutionary political ideas of the French Revolution.  This collection highlights the interconnectedness of all of European politics through many turbulent centuries.

David is the primary cataloger for this collection.  His facility with languages and adeptness at cataloging “bound-with” volumes are valuable assets.  He honed his skills cataloging bound-withs–volumes in which two or more separately published items have been bound together–with his fine work on cataloging the Saint-Sulpice Collection and assisting with other cataloging projects.  David’s work on collections of cartographic and travel materials have exposed him to plenty of publications in Dutch and German.  In order to ease into the Dutch language, he is cataloging this collection starting with the most recent publications and working back to the earliest.  In this way, he can avoid dealing with difficult Gothic typefaces present on older pamphlets until he has grown more accustomed to the Dutch language.

Stay tuned for more project management insights, cataloging banter, and new discoveries from all of our pamphlet collections.

Learning “purely by chance” from the Brown Libretto Collection

One of the delightful aspects of working behind the scenes in a library is the opportunity to lay your hands and eyes on large swaths of material.  If a scholar in open stacks is like a kid in a candy store, a cataloger is a kid whose job is to assay every piece of candy in a given box (and one box after another).  For the Brown Libretto Collection (BLC), Jennifer and I are cataloging libretti in batches of fifteen. We’re also peer reviewing each others’ work, so both of us are seeing every single libretto being cataloged.  In addition to being a real treat and a great learning experience, this process has the potential to unearth interesting information, and I have my eyes open for things that might be useful to my musicologist friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something peculiar in the libretto of Vologeso re de’ Parti (Case ML50.2.V65 S35 1759), performed at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence in 1759.   In the cast list, the dancers’ names are arrayed in a circular diagram.  I’ve never seen such a thing in a primary source, though it does bring to mind the sort of illustrations used by scholars of opera seria to express the hierarchy of relationships between and among characters.

Cast list for Vologeso re de' Parti. Case ML50.2.V65 S35 1759 (BLC 74)

I consulted with two of my colleagues, specialists in 18th-century music for the stage, and they’d never seen such a thing, either.  An anomaly, perhaps?  Well, yesterday I found another example.

Cast list for Enea e Lavinia. Case ML50.2.E53 G84 1789 (BLC 279)

In Enea, e Lavinia (Case ML50.2.E53 G84 1789), a 1789 performance at the Teatro Rangone in Modena, a certain group of the ballerini are listed in a circle with the description “a perfetta vicenda” (“purely by chance,” i.e. not by order of importance), and this explanation confirms the implicit meaning of such an arrangement.  For a genre as shot through with hierarchy as opera seria—both in its plots and character structure and in its performers jockeying for social and professional status—the circle is a strikingly egalitarian symbol.  German dramatist August von Kotzebue sheds light on this very issue.  In describing a particular opera seria performance in Florence, he is unable to identify an outstanding dancer by name.  This situation was unusual enough to demand an explanation.

The reason of my not being able to give the name of this lady with certainty proceeds, from a singular species of vanity or jealousy among the Italian singers and dancers.  When several lay claim to equal distinction, the director, to avoid giving offence, is obliged to have their names printed in a circle or a cross, so that a person cannot know where to begin reading; and a notice is subjoined of perfetta vicenda (“perfectly equal”), though this is scarcely ever true.

I find it interesting that both of my examples pertain to dancers and that Kotzebue’s specific reference is to a performer in a pantomime.  Could dancers possibly have been more vocal than singers in their complaints about top billing?  In any event, these circular cast lists index, in their own small way, the complex social negotiations that were the real fabric of opera as produced and as experienced in the 18th century.

Anyhow, no earth-shattering discoveries yet, but at least one interesting tidbit that was news to some scholars.  I’ll keep on the lookout as we continue cataloging and will share more highlights in later posts.

“Lecteur, prenez-garde,” or, Some duplicates do more than duplicate

As cataloging of the French Revolutionary Collection winds down, there are loose ends to gather up.  One such strand is to re-search the pamphlets flagged long ago as duplicates, so the non-duplicates can be cataloged.  In the batch that I searched, the number of titles already present in our catalog was surprisingly low, given how many pamphlets this project has churned through in two and a half years.

Not all duplicates are created equal, however, as librarians know.  A piece may be bibliographically identical but have unique value as an artifact.

FRC pamphlets set aside as duplicates, in the process of being rechecked



From my box of pamphlets, one such duplication-negating artifact emerged: a copy of the Décret de pacification proclamé par le Concile national de France  (duplicate of Case FRC suppl. 73 no. 8), filled to the brim with manuscript commentary.  For whatever reason, I opened to page 10 where my first glance landed on these words written at the foot of the page:

La religion chrétienne n’est point incompatible avec un gouvernement libre, il en existe des preuves; mais il est des gouvernements qui travaillent à la détruire et il ne couriant[?] point à ceux qui en sont ministres d’y [?] coopérer.

(The Christian religion is in no way compatible with a free government, the proof exists ; but it is the governments that works to destroy it [the church] and it is not up to those who are her ministers to cooperate.)

Annotations are fun. Annotations that enter into a dialogue with (rather than simply glossing) the text are interesting. Annotations that read like an articulate election-year blog comment are arresting. This pamphlet arrested me with a mixture of solace and sorrow that there is nothing new under the sun.

Every page of this gem is crowded with marginal notes responding to specific points in the text.  The annotator has even written his own caveat lector beside the caption title (photo below).

"Reader, beware" -- marginalia on duplicate of FRC suppl. 73 no. 8

Lecteur, prenez-garde—vous allez bien entendre la voix de Jacob, mais les mains que vous touchez sont les mains d’Ésaü, dont le Seigneur a dit : j’ai chéri Jacob et j’ai haï Esaü : vox quidem vox Jacob, manus autem sunt manus Esaü. Souvenez-vous toujours que vous devez vous défier des faux pasteurs qui se couvrent de la peau des brébis, mais qui ont la méchanceté des loups-ravissants.

(Reader, beware : you are going to hear the voice of Jacob but touch the hands of Esau, of whom the Lord said: I cherished Jacob and I hated Esaü / vox quidem vox Jacob, manus autem sunt manus Esaü. Remember always that you must defy the false pastors who dress in sheep’s clothing, but have the maliciousness of ravaging wolves.)

He’s speaking here of the French “constitutional clergy,” priests and bishops whose election had been taken out of the hands of the Catholic church.   The Concile national of 1797  reaffirmed this civil religion, and French reconciliation with the Holy See would have to wait for the Concordat of 1801.  Meanwhile, the one-sided “pacification”  presented in this 1797 pamphlet was not a reconciliation that the Catholic Church or French Catholics could live with, and it was roundly condemned in ways big and small… from the pope’s bully pulpit (as it were) and from the voices and pens of individuals like our anonymous commenter.


Making assumptions about the Sulpicians

Portrait of Louis Boucherat

Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 5 no. 3

One of the emphases in cataloging materials at the Newberry, and one of the special focus of the library’s collections as a whole is the examination of collections of materials. Putting together a collection requires certain decisions, and analyzing the state of the collection can help provide insights into the motives of the collectors who put them together.

The Saint-Sulpice Collection provides some easy opportunities for putting these principles into practice. From a cataloging perspective, these collection-management decisions make a real impact on the cataloging workflow – dramatically, in the case of these materials.

The obvious aspect of the Saint-Sulpice Collection is the binding – unlike the French Revolution Collection, where virtually all of the pamphlets are loose, the Saint-Sulpice materials have been bound into discrete volumes. This makes the material more useful from a user-centered perspective, assuming a relatively small number of individuals will be accessing the material, but presents technical difficulties when cataloging the material. This is compounded by the organizational method used on these volumes.

The collection is organized biographically by subject – this (probably) reflects the purpose of the collection – it is not organized by author, so the emphasis is demonstrably not on the potential literary criticism aspects of the collection. This organization was taken to such an extreme that collective biographies were, for the most part, split so that the pages dealing with specific individuals were bound with the other material on those persons. This creates fairly unpleasant chores for the cataloger, who must then decide to either create a record for the intact item and link all the various parts (strewn across multiple volumes) or to create new records for each individual part and somehow convey that they “belong” to a larger volume.

While these decisions create more work for lonely catalogers, they make sense in the context of the collection and its uses. Binding all of the pamphlets into larger volumes makes them less likely to be misplaced and helps protect the original ephemera from damage. Binding the items together and organizing them by subject rather than author is also much more convenient for users. All the items on a given individual are contiguous, and because they are bound together no matter how they are used, short of disbinding  the volume, they will not end up out-of-order.  In some ways, this demonstrates how much library collections have changed – techniques which make organizing a collection easier in an age before fancy OPACs now make cataloging more time consuming, if not more difficult.