Folklore of the Caucasus

Archives and Special Collections recently received a donation of six books on the Folklore of the Caucasus region of what is now Georgia. The history behind these books is as follows: prior to about 1910 there was no written language in the region. In the mid 1800’s Russia took control of the region and since then Russian scholars have recorded much of the Folklore and translated it into Russian. In the 1990’s, Dr. David G. Hunt translated these tales from the Russian into English and self-published about a dozen copies of each book. About 60 of the tales were published in “Georgian Folk Tales”, Merani Publishing House, Tbilisi, 1999 (ISBN 99928-16-42-2). Another 100 or so were published in “Legends of the Caucasus”, Saqi Books, London, 2012 (ISBN 978-0-86356-473-4).The six donated volumes are the originals and contain nearly 600 Folktales from which the 160 published tales were selected. The donor believes these are the only copies in Canada, and probably in North America. 

The Pitcher Plant Press

Brought to Newfoundland in the 1840s and later purchased by William Squarey to print the first issue of the The Standard, and Conception-Bay Advertiser in 1859, the press saw continual use until the Harbor Grace Standard ceased publication in 1936.  The “Washington” press equipment, manufactured by R. Hoe & Company, used to print the Standard, was still being used by Munn & Oke, Ltd. to print posters when Memorial University of Newfoundland purchased it in 1962 and named it the “Pitcher Plant Press”. It was subsequently used by Professor George Story to teach bibliography. It was later moved to Grenfell campus in 1994 where it was used in relief print making courses. It was returned to the Queen Elizabeth II Library in 2010 and is now part of the holding of Special Collections.

We hope to get the Pitcher Plant Press back in operation this year. Stay tuned!

New Acquisitions 2018-2019

MS 8: Tractatus de Superstitionibus by Polish scholar Nicholas Magni of Jawor (d. 1435) and Tractatus de Indulgentiis by  Franciscus de Mayronis  (Francois de Meyronnes,  d. 1327)

Treatises on superstition and indulgences. 83 folios on paper, complete (penultimate leaf cancelled). Germany, ca. 1460-1480: 308 mm x 215 mm (justification, ca. 230 mm x 140 mm). Double column, 46 lines. Vertical rulings only. Watermark close to Briquet 11799. Foliated 1-83 in modern pencil in upper right corner (both rectos and versos are foliated). Red tabs indicating the first and third texts (fols. 1r, 76r resp.). Corrections and emendations entered in the margins throughout. Decoration: multi-line rubricated initials; initials highlighted in red; red underlining.

A unique and unpublished treatise on superstitions. [Briefly described by Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, vol. 2, p. 24.]


Fols. 1r-53r. Anon., Tractatus de supersticionibus; incipit, “Utrum ydolatrie peccatum sit peccatorum gravissimum arguitur”; explicit; “et sic est finis deo gratias.” The text is anonymous, unidentified, and apparently unpublished. It cites a number of authorities, including Thomas Aquinas, William of Paris (perhaps the Inquisitor), and certain Church Fathers (Bede, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, etc.). Of particular interest is a long section on music and demonology.

Fols. 53r-75v. Nicholas Magni of Jawor, Tractatus de superstitionibus, part II; incipit, “Questio est hec utrum quis licite possit uti ministerio demonum utpote ad prenunciandum futura”; explicit, “et presupposicione divine voluntatis vestre. Amen.”

Fol. 76r-83r. Franciscus de Meyronis, Tractatus de indulgenciis editus a fratre Francisco de Maronis fratrum minorum sacre theologie doctore; incipit, “Quodcumque ligaverit super terram erit ligatum et in celis”; explicit, “Restat ergo ibi locum sorciatur ubi nullus ordo sed sempiternus horror inhabitat a quo nos defendat qui in secula seculorum vivit et regnat.” This text has been written in a different hand.


Formerly Ampleforth Abbey (not before 1803), with their purple ink-stamp and shelf mark label “MSS. 8” on front pastedown.

Binding: Nineteenth-century (ca. 1870) three-quarter black goat over pasteboards with red, blue, and orange marbled paper. Ampleforth Abbey shelf mark on a paper label pasted to the spine reading “MSS. 8.” The binding remains in excellent condition, slightly faded at top.

Condition: Water-stains affect approximately the upper third of each leaf, but the text remains entirely legible; fol. 19 has a tear in the outer margin; fols. 82-83 somewhat degraded at top.

New Acquisitions 2018-2019

A Collection of French Charters 13th-16th centuries

The present collection comprises approximately 50 charters of French origin, for the most part on parchment, in Latin and in French (one offers passages in Catalan). They offer historical and local interest, and provide today’s scholar and collector with a rich corpus of material to study the evolution of administrative and judiciary documents, the evolution of scripts, of the formulae and forms adopted by different chanceries and notaries, and the slow yet steady introduction of the vernacular, eventually superseding Latin in administrative and legal documents.

The charters are largely unstudied. We have provided a few sample analyses of certain documents. The bulk of the work and proper identifications needs to be conducted: a large number come from the French provinces, allowing the modern-day scholar to travel through the French realm before the modifications brought to cities and country sides.

A few charters still have remnants of wax seals.

Two Guest Exhibits: 2019

Classical Antiquity and Local Identities: from Newfoundland to Nigeria and Ghana March 7-9, 2019

Dr. Luke Roman in situ

One installment of a two part exhibit (the other piece was at the Rooms) created by Dr. Luke Roman and Classics graduate students Karen Gill, Kara Hickson, Morgan Locke and Marina Schmidt for the conference: Classical Antiquity and Local Identities: from Newfoundland to Nigeria and Ghana March 7-9, 2019. Program here.

The group worked with staff of the Archives & Special Collections, and the Centre for Newfoundland Studies to identify and select materials. The QEII exhibit includes newspaper articles, scripts, posters and a selection of Early Modern editions of the classics.

A Journey through Illustrations of the Past

Emma Hollett in situ

This exhibit looks at a collection of manuscripts and rare book leaves complied by New York book dealer Alfred W. Stites (1922-2016). Stites created “leaf books,” sets of leaves removed from rare books and manuscripts and made into portfolios. His intention was to show the progress of writing and printing over the centuries. The exhibit selects pages from Portfolio 1, History of the Written Word, number 10 of 15 numbered sets. The entire collection consists of 157 original leaves and artefacts. Digital copies of the pages can be found here.

The exhibit highlights 31 pages from the Portfolio 1. The leaves are organized into various categories: people, scenery, Persian literature, art & architecture, and miniatures. Most of the illustrations are in black and white, so the few that are in colour stand out.

The exhibit was curated by Emma Hollett, a third-year student at Memorial University, majoring in Folklore with a minor in Archaeology. Emma also works as a student assistant in archives & Special Collections.

New Acquisitions 2018: Artists’ Books

In 2018, Special Collections purchases a collection of approximately 300 artists’ books from Newfoundland book artist and painter Tara Bryan. Here are some examples.

Bryan, Tara. Walking on Eggs. St. John’s. Walking Bird Press, 1997.

30 x 11 x 7 cm. The work is contained in a Newfoundland brand egg carton (moulded pulp by means of a mechanized papier-mâché process). 1/1.

The inside of the lid functions as a title page and offers a minimalist introduction to the work in the form of a definition of the word poverty. The work plays on the notion of the egg as a staple source of protein. In 2011, approximately 70.7 million metric tons of eggs were produced worldwide (“Global,” 2018). Each egg in the carton is a discrete unit, and might be considered as a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter—or perhaps, because each one is a whole, as a poem or a short story. All twelve of the eggs are blown, the whites and yolks removed. Inscribed on the fragile, empty shells are various statements related to poverty, some attributed to Statistics Canada. The concept plays ironically against the decorative arts associated with Easter and the message of resurrection through rebirth associated with the egg.

Michaelis, Catherine A. Old Flames Mismatched. Vashon Island, Washington: May Day Press, 2000.

5.0 x 3.8 cm unused matchbook.

Each of the 30 matches in the book is imprinted with a word or a phrase. The top row of ten matches reads as follows: “Lisa / loved / tiny things / like / miniskirts. / David / was a / great lover / but had / bad values.” The work plays on the notion of the book (book of matches) and the concept of finding a match (in terms of relationships). The story changes as matches are used. If the “Lisa” match is removed, the match underneath changes the narrative to “Peter / loved / tiny things / like / miniskirts. / David / was a / great lover / but had / bad values.” If the “bad values” match is then removed, the lines change to “Peter / loved / tiny things / like / miniskirts. / David / was a / great lover / but had / muscles.” This is a clever work that uses a static medium to play with meaning and narrative the way hypertext or computer-generated stories often do. It manages to reimagine the miniature book while at the same time using the structure of the matchbook (and the nature of it) to say something about the combustible and ephemeral nature of relationships.

Leñateros, Taller (writer), and Ambar Past (artist). The Lady of Ur. Taller Leñateros, 2004.

12.5 x 9 x 7 cm closed. Twenty-five folds, printed on both sides. The concertina form extends to approximately 5 m. 24/50.

The bas-relief cover in papier-mâché is the work of Maribel Rotondo and was inspired by a Sumerian sculpture (c. 3500–3000 BCE) of Inanna, a goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. The cuneiform/pictogram inscription on the back cover (c. 2112–2095 BCE) translates: “For Inanna the Lady of Ur-Nammu: the powerful King of Ur. Ruler of Sumer and Akkad has built your temple” (from the colophon).