Category Archives: Rare Books

TBT – Rare Online Showcase

Originally published November 2011 on our Rare Books Online Showcase: Diary of Private Evan Patterson

For the November edition of the Rare Books Online Showcase to celebrate Remembrance Day, the University of Saskatchewan is showcasing our World War I Diary of a Canadian Private Suffering in the Trenches by Private Evan Patterson dated from late May 1915, saving two early entries: December 30, 1914, “Signed on with 3rd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles at Medician Hat Alberta Canada” and on 2 January, “My birthday, had poor time.” This manuscript is a handwritten diary of a soldier serving in the trenches with the 3rd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles. On 22 September, he left for France, marked on his calendar for 9 weeks.

The 3rd Canadian Mounted Rifles were raised 15 March 1915 in Medicine Hat and Edmonton, AB from the 21st Alberta Hussars and placed under command of the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles Brigade. However, once overseas, it was found that requirements for mounted units were lower than that for infantry. (from The beginnings of the diary include name, infantry division, height, age, complexion, and many other physical details about Private Patterson.


Many of the Diary’s entries are brief – one gets the impression that one would have but little time for reflection, but it paints a realistic picture of life in the trenches. There is excitement, but also concise, curt admissions like “feel miserable” or the mention of injuries and casualties. The diary also contains interesting tidbits regarding the travelling from place to place that was done and it gives a wonderful textual map of his personal war experience.


For more information about Remembrance Day visit the Wikipedia page here or visit the Royal Legion of Canada website here. The symbol of the poppy we wear in remembrance comes from the Canadian poet John McCrea poem “In Flanders Fields.”

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below…
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields…
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields…

The information contained in the Diary is at times very different from this high literary conception and the historical study of war relies on both forms of textual documents for a complete picture of what happened. To see the diary or other items like it come on up to the 3rd floor of the Murray Library and visit Special Collections.


TBT- Rare Books Online Showcase 2011

Originally published June 2011 on our Rare Books Online Showcase; written and compiled by our maestro of digital projects (then supervisor), Joel Salt.

June: Ulysses

Marilyn Monroe reads UlyssesIn honour of Bloomsday, celebrated 16 June (the day in which the entire novel of Ulysses takes place), Special Collections will showcase its first edition of Ulysses published in 1922. Ulysses was banned from England until the 1930s so Joyce took it to Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare and Co. in Paris to first have it published, which was done quickly and with many errors. Special Collection’s edition was published by Egoist Press in London, but it was printed at Dijon, France. It was a limited edition print run; Special Collections owns number 512 out of 2000 copies. Ulysses is well-known for its difficulties in printing. According to Joyce scholar Jack Dalton the first edition of Ulysses contained over two thousand errors but was still the most accurate edition published. Several other attempts at correction took place, notably in 1932 by Stuart Gilbert for the Odyssey Press, the Bodley Head Revised Edition in 1960, and notably in 1984 by Hans Walter Gruber who used a computer to collate Ulysses manuscripts, though this edition has come under heavy criticism for a variety of reasons. Many publishers briefly used Gruber’s edition before going back to the 1960 text.

Ulysses edgesJoyce SpineUlysses spine

Bloomsday was invented in 1954 on the 50th anniversary of the day the events take place in the novel when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Flann O’Brien organised what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. Ulysses is renowned for its attention to the detail of its Dublin setting. Joyce once even joked that if Dublin were wiped off the face of the earth it could be rebuilt accurately simply by reading his novel. Joyce’s chef d’oeuvre mirrors the structure of Homer’s Greek epic poem The Odyssey, and Ulysses is the Latinized name for the eponymous Greek hero Odysseus. Headings suggesting a similar structure to The Odyssey were added later to quell certain allegations of obscenity.

Ulysses FrontisNegative InscriptionJoyce FrontisNew CoverEdgeRebinding

Ulysses was a polarizing novel when it came out. Certain critics, mostly those now called modernists such as Ezra Pound, immediately found it revolutionary.  Many other critics, along with government officials and the general public, found it offensive, obscene, lacking structure, and even at times bordering on the unintelligible. Random House eventually secured a court ruling in 1933 that deemed the book not pornographic, and hence not obscene, after a shipment of copies of the book was seized at the border. In Canada Ulysses was banned until 1949, though it was apparently still taught in class and illegal copies still resided in some University Libraries. ( In Australia the ban wasn’t finally lifted for good until 1953, over 30 years after it was first published.

Odyssey PressOdyssey PressUlysses Text

Ulysses is often called the perfect example of high modernism; some would say it was the culmination of modern beliefs and indeed had already started to become “postmodern.” Others reserve this latter claim for Joyce’s next novel, Finnegan’s Wake. Regardless, Ulysses is without a doubt one of the most important works of literature due to its allusive style, multi-lingual punning, parodies, and stream-of-consciousness style. Joyce once quipped he “put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant” and so far, it has proved true. It has also been described as using ‘every possible literary device available to him’ and it resides as the best novel on Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century list. It is a constant contender in academic debates, along with the likes of George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, for the distinction of best novel of all time.

James JoyceJames Joyce was born in Dublin into a Catholic family, but he would later renounce the church and be buried without a funeral mass because his wife “couldn’t do that to him.” Joyce was educated in Jesuit Schools then University College in Dublin. Joyce went on a first date with his soon-to-be wife Nora on 16 June 1904 (the day Ulysses takes place) and the two soon-after went into a self-imposed exile to Trieste and Zurich. In 1920 Joyce then went to Paris for what he thought was only a couple of days but turned out to be the next twenty years. There he hobnobbed with other fine modernist writers like Ezra Pound and Eugene Jolas, the man who would publish his final novel Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce fled the Nazis in 1940, going to Zurich where he died of a perforated ulcer in 1941. Swiss tenor Max Meili sang “Tu sei morta” (you are dead), sometimes refered to as “Addio terra, addio cielo” (goodbye earth, goodbye sky), from the then recently revived early 17th century composer Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo (1607) at the funeral service.

Special Collection’s copies of Ulysses can be found in the catalogue here; or, you come on up to the third floor of the Murray Library to see them yourself!

Some further resources:

Frank Delaney has a blog/podcast available here where he talks in depth about each page of Ulysses.
Ulyssesseen is a webcomic adapted from Ulysses.
There was a movie adaptation in 1967 entitled Ulysses.

Rare Books Feature : Apocalypse 1313

The second guest post by practicum student Andrew Moore. Andrew Moore is from Saskatchewan, but decided to move 4000 Kilometers away to become a Librarian. An Alumnus of the University of Saskatchewan (B.A 2011), and a current MLIS Candidate (2016) at Dalhousie University, his interests include cooking, reading and history



Figure 1- Recto 86. Demons herd naked and terrified sinners into the mouth of hell, depicted here as the mouth of a ravenous beast.

There are some who might argue that because the art in medieval books lacks perspective and that the text is difficult to read, that they are uninteresting. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many medieval manuscripts are full of art that is fantastical, gruesome and occasionally, downright strange. There are few (if any) modern books that use artwork to depict demons menacing and stuffing sinners into the mouth of hell, and fewer still that depict a crowd of men being trampled by the


Figure 2- Recto 75. A smaller illustration perched atop the main illustration.

Beast with seven heads and crowns (of Biblical infamy). And as far as this writer is aware, there exists no modern book that was created specifically for crowned royalty that was also given absurdest illustrations of a hand with a lion’s foot and tail, balancing a chalice, perching atop the full-page illustration (depicted below).

The University Archives and Special Collections have a special treat for lovers of the strange, apocalyptic and unusual, as well as for those fond of medieval art and illustration. The UASC has acquired a rare, beautifully crafted and 100% faithful reproduction of L’Apocalypse 1313, a medieval Apocalypse Manuscript originally owned by the infamous Isabella “The She-Wolf” of France, Queen to Edward II of England.

The manuscript is a recent addition to University Archives and Special Collection’s Rare Book Collection.

So, What the Heck is an Apocalypse Manuscript?


Figure 4- Recto 3. St. John of Patmos receives the divine revelation that will lead to the eponymous book.

The simple answer is that it is a manuscript that provides both imaginative imagery and commentary on the text and ideas found in the Biblical book of Revelations.

The somewhat longer and more complicated answer lies at the roots of medieval Christianity; books such as L’Apocalypse 1313 are a part of a larger tradition of Biblical exegesis (critical interpretations or explanations of text). Books such as L’Apocalypse 1313 strove to allow their readers to both understand the sometimes difficult theological ground of the Book of Revelations, and to allow the reader to conduct religious meditation on these mysteries.


Figure 5- Recto 87. Sinners being tormented by demons in a variety of gruesomely creative ways.



The genre of Apocalypse manuscripts is one with a fairly long life; examples of the genre appear in Spain, Italy, France, England and Germany. Nor are exegetical manuscripts limited to a particular time-frame; while the genre was most popular in the 12th Century, examples of the genre appear in both early and high medieval Spain, and examples appear in the Low Countries and Germany as late as the 15th Century. Because the Genre of Apocalypse Manuscripts is so broad in both geography and time, a given manuscript can be placed into different ‘families’ that best represent the specific style. The original manuscript and the reproduction of L’Apocalypse 1313 available in Special Collections are examples of the Gothic Anglo-French Apocalypses, which were created in the 13th and 14th Centuries.


Figure 6- Recto 26. A useful example of Exegetical metaphor; Satan was frequently depicted as a ravening wolf in medieval artwork. He is seen here, pursuing a lamb which personifies the Church.


Figure 7- Recto 26. The Beast with seven heads and seven crowns depicted trampling people.

Apocalypse Manuscripts such as this represent an important cultural and religious facet of medieval European life, as well as being beautiful, strange artistic works in their own right. The trip to view the original L’Apocalypse in the National Library of France might be beyond the means of many local lovers of rare books and medieval art/manuscripts; fortunately, the trip to view the reproduction is far simpler, and the staff at UASC would be pleased to let those interested discover it for themselves.

About the Manuscript

Because the reproduction of the original L’Apocalypse 1313 is a faithful one, a description of one manuscript also describes the other.


Figure 8- Recto 165 & 166.These pages are an example of the reproduction’s attention to detail. The original L’Apocalypse has had parts of Recto 165 torn away, which is exactingly shown here.


L’Apocalypse 1313 is a small volume; including the bindings, it measures only 23.7 centimetres high, 16.7 centimetres wide and about 6 centimetres thick on average. The book is bound using wooden boards and six ribs. T he ribs, head and tail all have gold fillet adorning them, though this decoration appears to have been added in more historically recent times. The volume consists of 167 folios and two unnumbered leaves.

Given the volumes physical size and its patron, it was likely intended to be a non-ceremonial book; that is, it is small enough to be used and carried on a regular basis. This notion of usability is supported by the genre of the volume; exegetical works such as L’Apocalypse were intended to guide readers in contemplative meditation on the allegories of the Book of Revelations.


Figure 9- Verso 19. The writing in the margins and centre spacing between the main text columns is unusual for this volume.



While Chadewe Colins (discussed below) may have been the primary force behind the work, he is not the only one. The reproduction of the manuscript is accompanied by an excellent, detailed commentary by Moleiro, who identifies five separate scribal hands that took part in the production of the text to the original manuscript.

Even if the modern reader is not given to religious meditation, looking at the reproduction of L’Apocalypse available in Special Collections is still greatly worthwhile, both for the fantastical and often gruesome medieval conception of the end of the world, and to appreciate the tremendous planning and preparation that must have gone into creating such a functional work of art.

About the Author


Figure 10- Regrettably, no artistic depiction of Chadewe Colins is extant.

The scribe to whom the writing of L’Apocalypse 1313 is attributed identifies himself as one Chadewe Colins. Regrettably, as with many people involved in literary pursuits in the Medieval Period, not much more is known about the man. It is probable that he was a man of some degree of learning and artistic skill; the inscription where he identifies himself as the writer of the book also indicates he was the one who illuminated the manuscript.

Moleiro identifies five scribal hands that had a part in the production of the manuscript. Which of these was Colins is unknown, and any information on the identities of the other four scribes is likewise unknown.

About the Patron


Figure 11- Isabella “The She-Wolf” of France, as depicted in medieval art.

According to an inscription in the text, the Manuscript was made for Isabella of France (b.1295- d.1358), the wife and Queen of Edward II (b.1284-d.1327) and the mother of the future Edward III. Isabella was the daughter of King Philip IV “The Fair” of France (b.1268-d.1314), and was one of the most colourful and interesting figures of Late Medieval England.

Isabella was probably literate, and she was certainly cultured. Aside from L’Apocalypse 1313, her collection of books which survived to the modern day include seven other religious texts, eight volumes of romances, a collection of Arthurian legends, and the ‘Isabella Psalter’ (which also contained a bestiary).

Sent to England at the age of 12 to be a child bride to Edward II, her marriage was generally seen to be an unhappy one. She was much dissatisfied with the life at the English court, which was, to her a significant step downward from the vibrant cultural scene in Paris. Additionally, Edward II was a man who tended to be easily swayed by what both Isabella and the great magnates of England saw as bad councillors. Edward consequently ignored his wife, and invested great power in these advisers, first Piers Gaveston, and later Hugh Despenser the Younger.

This proclivity of Edwards to favour what his largest vassals saw as unworthy individuals led inevitably to conflict. English Barons who had long hated Gaveston, captured and executed him in 1312, and it was Isabella who managed to intercede between the King and his Barons, and thus preserve peace.

This changed by 1326. The new royal favourite, Hugh Despenser the younger was also much despised by the great magnates of England, but also by the Queen. In 1326, she led an army from France alongside expatriate Englishman Roger Mortimer (1287-1330), who was also the queen’s lover. Together, they invaded England to get rid of Despenser for good. Despenser was captured by mid-November of that year, tried, and then executed gruesomely by being hanged, drawn and quartered. Edward II was forced to abdicate by his victorious wife and nobility in favour of his son, and died by September of the next year.

pic12 pic13
Figure 12- Recto 16 and Verso 17.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Recto 16 depicts the Horsemen of Conquest and War. Verso 17 depicts the Horsemen of  Famine and Death. Also depicted are St. John of Patmos (At right, with a scroll), and symbolic versions of the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

All was not well in the land, though. Isabella and Mortimer ruled England as regents for the young Edward III, but their profligate spending and an unpopular treaty with the Scottish quickly led to them becoming unpopular in their turn. In September 1330, Edward III led a coup against his own mother and her lover; Mortimer was executed and Isabella was imprisoned.

Isabella did not stay imprisoned for long. In order to preserve her reputation and potential claims on the French Crown, Queen Isabella was allowed to retire from public life, given an annual salary of £3,000 and went to live quietly in the countryside. She lived in this manner until 1358.


Chadewe Colins (n.d). In Benezeit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Retrieved from

Hilton, L. (2008). Queens Consort. London, U.K: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Isabella (1295-1358)’ (2004). In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved April 27th, 2015


Klein, P.K. (1992). Introduction: The apocalypse in medieval art. In R.K. Emmerson and Bernard McGinn

(Eds.), The apocalypse in the middle ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

McGinn, B. (1992). Introduction: John’s apocalypse and the apocalyptic mentality. In R.K. Emmerson

and Bernard McGinn (Eds.), The apocalypse in the middle ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

Plukowski, A. (2003). Apocalyptic Monsters. In B. Bildhauer and R. Mills (Eds.), The Monstrous Middle

Ages. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Weir, A. (2005). Queen Isabella. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.