Way back in January UBC Library scored a rare book coup, acquiring two exceptional examples of early gay literature that share a connection with famed Victorian writer Oscar Wilde.

Teleny and its prequel, Des Grieux, were first published in the 1890s. It’s long been suspected, but never confirmed, that Wilde may have authored or contributed to the texts.

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Click here to see Des Grieux.

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Click here to see Teleny.

Now both of these texts are available for online study and access through Open Collections. (But be aware before you click- this literature is a bit racy – don’t let anyone ever tell you the library isn’t exciting!)

“Even if Wilde didn’t write them, the speculation is still a fascinating part of his enduring mythology,” said Gregory Mackie, Assistant Professor in UBC’s Dept. of English.

Only five known sets of the two-volume publication Teleny remain, and there are only three known copies of Des Grieux. UBC is the only collection in the world with both texts- and now you can see them too!

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We’ve got another new (but actually really really old) addition to our digital collection. We’re excited to share that we have digitized a rare Latin Bible from the 13th century! You can check it out in out Western Manuscripts collection where many of our oldest books live.

 

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The pages are made from vellum or dried calf skin as most books were at that time.

This Bible is an amazing addition to our collection for a few reasons. First, it was a Student Bible made in Oxford England around 1250 AD, something that at the time was pretty remarkable. Back then most Student Bibles were produced on the continent, typically in Paris, for university pupils and professors who used them for their studies. This makes our Bible unique – and the only one like it in a Canadian collection.

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This book contains a fair amount of marginalia! Check out all the faded notes on the side.

A second special aspect of this Bible is the concordance at the end of the book. The concordance, pictured below, is an index created for the Bible on where to find certain words or phrases within the book.

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Click here to see the concordance for yourself!

One of the early owners created this concordance shortly after the book was finished. The concordance is obviously not part of the original book. We don’t know exactly when or who created it – and if any of you scholars out there want to try to find out, take a shot and let us know about it! We wholeheartedly support you!

Even you are not a scholar take a look at the book for yourself, or take a look at the UBC press release on this book. It might make you into a bibliophile!

Digitization of BC Sessional Papers, from 1933-1952,
 is on its way.

Phase 3 of Sessional Papers has been approved and digitization will start this summer! This phase will look at 41 bound volumes from the British Columbia Sessional Papers. It will increase our current collection by 19 years – and as an added bonus there will be fold out maps and charts to check out.

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More maps like this are coming to you soon!

The Sessional Papers are important provincial legislative documents that capture the economical, historical, political, and cultural atmosphere of British Columbia history. The Sessional Papers include official committee reports, orders of the day, petitions and papers presented, records of land sales, correspondence, budgetary estimates, proclamations, maps, voters lists by district, and departmental annual reports.

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There’s tons of historical content! – For a belated celebration of International Women’s Day – Sessional papers has women petitioning for the vote in Canada

Click here to visit our digital collections page to view the volumes we have digitized.

Click here to read more about what sessional papers are and how they can be utilized for research.

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Right now digitized content in Sessional Papers runs from 1878 to 1931

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You can find all sorts of things in Sessional Papers – take a look now and keep your eyes peeled for more coming soon!

Forget watching Star WarsAvengers, and Lord of the Rings on your cellphone– if you are looking for a larger-than-life story delivered to you in a small container check out our newly digitized epic poem Orlando Furioso in Western Manuscripts. The full size of the book is only 11 by 5 cm.

This preciously small package packs a punch though! Orlando Furioso is an Italian epic poem written in 1516. With 46 cantos (or chapters) this is one of the longest poems in literature. Our version, one of the earliest, was published in 1577.

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Orlando Furioso – when translated in to French became “Roland” – so a more apt translation of the title into English is “Raging Roland”

The poem follows Orlando, a singular knight involved in the war between Charlemagne’s Christians and the Saracen army that attempted to take over Europe. The setting ranges over the whole world, with a trip to Hell and the moon thrown in! As befitting any epic there are also soldiers, sorcerers, gigantic sea monsters, and even a hippogriff.

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This is the Canto where the main characters go from Hell to the moon. Hard to tell which one it is from this picture!

The poem focuses romantic chivalry, especially on Orlando’s love for a princess, which among other things drives him into a mad killing frenzy – romantic enough for Valentine’s day?

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A female knight is also one of the main character of the poem. Here she she is taking down a foe!

For us the tiny, tightly bound book was a challenge to digitize. Not only was it old, small, and fragile- the print often goes very close to the center binding, making it difficult to get a complete picture of for digitization.

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Can you spot the sea monster in this canto?

However here at the Digitization Centre we are nothing if not dogged in our pursuit of world digitization. To bring this epic poem to you in a digital format we used our ATIZ machine, shifting the book cradle from side to side as we digitized. It may have taken a few tries and a long while but, and this is a direct quote from our main digitizer, Leslie Fields “all in all it was really worth it”

So check it out for your self to see what all the fuss is about!

Ready for part 2 of our postings on the cuneiform tablets in the Ancient Artefacts Collection? In the previous post we learned a little about the cuneiform tablets and provenance in general – with a cliff hanger of course.

What IS the provenance of Rare Books & Special Collections cuneiform tablets?

This post we will come closer to finding out. Lisa Cooper, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Art & Archaeology in UBC’s Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies Department, was able to help us start to unravel the mystery.

Arriving at UBC at some time in the early 20th century CE the tablets were accompanied by a typed note intended to provide information about their provenance. However the note was full of, at best, misinformation and at worst? Lies.

 

Looks official doesn’t it? Much of the information here is untrue!

 

The note endowed the tablets with significant cachet – including stating that the tablets had originated in the famed city of Ur (mentioned in the Bible, among other things). It also states that the tablets been excavated through a University dig between 1905 and 1912 by Yale University under the direction of Professor A.T. Clay. Sounds pretty important doesn’t it? Too bad not one part of it is true.

Another note full of misinformation accompanying the tablets.

We know today the first excavation of Ur wasn’t until 1922 – by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. The professor in question, A.T. Clay, didn’t even visit Mesopotamia until 1920, about 10 years after the dates indicated in the notes.

So where did these tablets come from? How were they found? Who brought them to UBC?

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Where did this guy come from? Who found him? Will we ever know for sure?

We still don’t know all the answers to these questions, but we are starting to learn more. Unprovenaced items like the RBSC tablets can end up being the subject of much discussion. The debate centers around the morality and legality of the acquisition of these items by western institutions. For more information on that debate, check out Professor Lisa Cooper’s UBC news piece on antiquities from the Middle East.

The little we can conjecture about the RBSC tablets is that they were likely purchased in an antiquities market in the early 20th century.

Someone may have translated the tablets, seen the Third dynasty of Ur marking the era, and mistakenly believed the tablets were from Ur. The mistranslation could have been because the tablets were originally translated 50-60 years ago – before we have the knowledge of the past we do now.

Put that misinformation together with someone looking to make a profit, or even just guessing at a possible provenace, and volia! You have items originating out of thin air.

Due to contextual information in the tablet writing, we now believe that three tablets originate from the Umma region and two come from Puzrish-Dagan region. As well, recent scholarship dates the reigns of Shulgi and Amar-Sin – the two kings mentioned in the tablets – to almost 300 years earlier than originally thought.

Tomorrow, who knows? With the provenance of many ancient items, including ones such as these, there is always more to uncover.

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