After driving about 90 miles north out of Dallas on I-35, we’ll cross the Red River into my home state of Oklahoma. I am certain that my Russian immigrant great-grandfather (who owned a drygoods store in the small town of Lehigh in the early twentieth century) could never have imagined that his great-granddaughter would someday be exploring centuries-old books in what was known until 1907 as “Indian Territory.” He certainly couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to do so while sitting at my desk in my Massachusetts home.
There aren’t many medieval or Renaissance manuscripts in public collections in Oklahoma, but there are enough to warrant a visit. We’ll start at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where we will find one of the strongest History of Science collections in the country. According to the library’s website, “The History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma Libraries was established in 1949 with an initial gift from OU alumnus Everette Lee DeGolyer. Current holdings of nearly 100,000 volumes, representing every field and subject area of science, technology and medicine, include complete sets of first editions of major scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Darwin.
Volumes range chronologically from Hrabanus Maurus, Opus de universo (1467), to current publications in the history of science.” DeGolyer was a renowned geophysicist with a powerful love of rare books. He donated his impressive collection in the history of science to the University of Oklahoma; the remainder of his collection was given to Southern Methodist University in Texas (a library we virtually visited a few weeks ago).
Among the works in the collection are several sixteenth-century treatises (in Latin, Persian and Arabic), two manuscripts connected with Bernadino Baldi, Galileo’s inscribed copy of his Sidereus Nuncius, and an important recent acquisition of a manuscript copy of the Tractatus de sphaera, by Oratio Grassi.
Just east of Oklahoma City in the small town of Shawnee is the Mabee-Gerrer Museum. Founded in 1919 by a well-travelled and artistically-minded Benedictine monk named Gregory Gerrer, the collection is home to several late-medieval manuscript leaves (my thanks to curator Delaynna Trim for the images) including a leaf from a Book of Hours that preserves Psalms from the Office of the Dead and a leaf from an Italian antiphonal that preserves the antiphon “Angeleus ad pastores” sung on Christmas morning:
A survey of early manuscripts in Oklahoma wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Green Collection, a massive and extraordinary faith-based private Oklahoma City collection focused on ancient Biblical manuscripts. More information about the collection is available here and here.
Before leaving Oklahoma, we’ll make two stops at the University of Tulsa: the Gilcrease Museum and Special Collections. The Gilcrease owns two early-American manuscripts describing explorations of French territories in North America and encounters with the Algonquin Tribe (one of which is known as the “Codex Canadensis“), along with several early Spanish documents. In the Library’s Special Collections department you will find one of Otto Ege’s combination manuscript/printed leaf sets titled Original leaves from famous Bibles: nine centuries 1121-1935 A.D (in which there are four leaves from manuscript Bibles), as well as several choirbook leaves and early documents.
Next time, I’ll take you back to Illinois and Wisconsin to share manuscripts seen on a recent actual road trip.