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Special Collections & University Archives

Manuscripts Division

The Manuscripts Division of the Department of Special Collections exists to arrange, describe, preserve, and make available documents and born-digital materials of enduring historic value, both as intellectual items and as historical artifacts, to support the research needs of the undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and other scholars at Stanford University and beyond. Stanford University Library subject curators actively seek out collections to enhance our holdings. Since 2009, Special Collections has been involved in developing a Born-Digital Program in collaboration with the Digital Library Systems and Services Department.

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Bridget Whearty and Astrid Smith in the digitization lab

As the CLIR postdoctoral fellow in Data Curation for Medieval Studies at Stanford I work primarily with data about large collections of digitized manuscripts and fragments. For example, I have helped to make our teaching collections more easily discoverable in Searchworks. I've also been bringing together partner institutions' descriptive metadata to feed a specialized manuscript search environment. 

In practice, I write code to transform batches of 70, 300, 500, or 1000+ manuscripts at a time: I've gotten very comfortable thinking of medieval manuscripts in the tens, hundreds, and even thousands. But the truth is that these large batches of digital-medieval manuscripts I curate are built of unique, single objects. Single objects that, just like the physical objects they grow from, are made by individual people, in particular environments, under specific institutional, financial, and social pressures. 

In order to better understand the process that leads to the creation of a digital-medieval book, I recently followed the digitization of a fifteenth-century book of hours, Stanford University Libraries, M0379, from the request for digitization, through the slow hard work of taking the images and hours of post-production labor, to its arrival in Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). 

A manuscript fair copy of the text an otherwise unrecorded work, Agamemnon, opéra des dames, Poëme heroique, don’t les paroles et la musique ont fait l’amusement d’un Particulier Vieux Stil, was recently acquired. It is believed to have originated in the second half of the eighteenth century and was apparently performed in Paris, “La Feste est au bord de la Seine près des Thuilleries” to mark the end of recent hostilities. The manuscript which also contains the text to three cantatas, L’innocence, L’amour vainquer, and Les regrets, originally scored for musette, vielle, flute, and bassoon, will be kept in the Department of Special Collections, Green Library.


Peg box of a baryton, Brussels (undated)Divertimento 24o per il pariton [original manuscript, 1766]

Link to downloadable images of this work

The baryton [pariton] is a bass instrument in the viol family that may be simultaneously bowed and plucked. It features a double set of strings, the upper set gut, for bowing, the lower set metal, for sympathetic vibration and for plucked accompaniment. The metal strings run the length of the neck behind the fingerboard, which is hollowed in the back to allow the left hand to pluck the strings.

Loosely related to the lyra-viol, the baryton likely originated in seventeenth-century England. Its moment in the sun, however, came in ighteenth-century Austria, at the court of the barytonist Prince Nicholas Esterházy, with music supplied in abundance by his ambitious young Kappelmeister, Joseph Haydn.