Purpose or Scope of Collection
A. Curricular/Research/Programmatic Needs
The Medieval and Renaissance/Early Modern Studies collection supports instruction, research, and teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels on the period of history from the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. through the Renaissance and early modern periods of Western Europe. The Renaissance occurred over a period of time and the dates vary from country to country, from the late 14th century through the early 1600s. The term "early modern" is now often used instead; it covers to 1800. Materials purchased are primarily in the English language. The English department offers 17 courses touching on these periods; the history department offers 19 such courses. Additional entities in the University offering courses covering aspects of Western Europe from 476 through 1800 include: Epidemiology, French, History of Art and Visual Culture and Apparel and Textile Design, Interior Design, Lyman Briggs College, Linguistics, James Madison College, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, Romance and Classical Studies, Theater, Urban Planning, Women’s Studies, Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities, College of Law, Journalism, and Sociology.
Medieval pilgrims, pilgrimage, church history, Christian, Jewish and medieval Spain, heresy, preaching, and deviance; Christian martyrdom, medieval universities and learning, updated and corrected editions of medieval primary sources, English legal and constitutional history, Anglo-Norman law, cartularies (records of monastic, etc. communities), science and religion, the Jesuits around the world in the age of discovery, history of science, the Atlantic World, history of slavery, Indian and white relations, and religion in America are the specific research interests of the current history, Romance and classical studies, and religion faculty members.
Medieval English language, literature, and culture, Chaucer, death and dissent, Arthurian literature, manuscripts, textual transmission and editing, history of the English language, medieval medicine, literature and medicine, sex, aging, and death in medieval medical compendiums, Langland’s Piers Plowman, marriage and family, Henry of Lancaster’s Book of Holy Medicines, devotional literature; Shakespeare’s language, performance of Shakespeare, silence in Shakespeare, theatrical dimensions of Shakespeare, poetry and drama of the English Renaissance; 16th and 17th- century English literature and culture, rhetoric, theory, gender, scientific and medical discourse, historiography, drama and drama about science; Shakespeare and feminist politics and 17th-century travel narratives about India give a flavor of the research interests of the current English department faculty.
Presently, there are 52 names on the subject librarian's private mailing list in medieval and Renaissance/Early Modern Studies.
B. History of the Collection/Existing Strengths and Emphases
Study of the Western Middle Ages and Renaissance/early modern periods has long been a prominent aspect of the study of Western European literatures and history in American universities. Sets, series, primary sources in print and on microform, as well as secondary literature in monograph and periodical forms have long been collected. We own, for example, microforms contained in STC I and II (early English books, 1470-1700), French Books before 1601, Italian Books before 1601, and German Books before 1601. Many online electronic resources are now owned and offered: EEBO (Early English Books Online), Medieval English Compendium, Domesday Book, Corpus of Middle English Prose adn Verse, Early English Prose Fiction, English Drama, English Poetry Database, English Verse Drama, Birish Newspapers 1600-1800, British History Online, British Records on the Atlantic World 1700-1900, Early American Imprints, Series One: 1639-1800, Early Encounters in North America, Empire Online, The Gerritsen Collection, Jewish Life in America, North American Women's Diaries and Letters, Sabin America, Slavery and Anti-Slavery, a Transnational Archive, Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, Times Digital Archive, and Women and Social Movements. In addition many more primary sources are offered in the Texts and Links section of our Electronic Resources pages that are freely available to scholars on the internet.
The present bibliographer’s immediate predecessor, Robert Mareck, was a Ph.D. level trained medievalist, a former religious, with excellent skills in classical and Western European languages. At the time he was hired, 1979, the History Department offered a defined graduate studies track in medieval history led by nationally known scholars and the English department also had a medieval studies program. At this time there was only one fund used to purchase all materials for the East Wing stacks in the Main Library. At the time individual discipline, area, and other funds were created, in the mid-1980s, Dr. Mareck’s knowledge and University teaching suggested that we ought to have a fund to select on the medieval period. Selections on the Renaissance period in the English language were also made on the medieval studies fund because of the non-proclivities in this direction of the U.S./U.K. literature bibliographer, Joe Natoli. Now we are anticipating the retirement of one of our prominent English literature medievalists and the other one has recently passed away, too young. The University has some newer hires that focus more on the Renaissance and early modern periods in both the history and English departments.
Special Collections (SPC hereafter) began to collect illuminated manuscript facsimiles in the 1950s. SPC contains full and partial facsimiles, as well as a solid collection of secondary literature on various aspects of manuscript illumination and catalogues of collections. The scope of the collection ranges from a 6th c. A.D. Bible fragment to 16th century Books of Hours. The 1993 edition of Shirlee A. Murphy’s Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscript Facsimiles at the Michigan State University Libraries describes 187 items.
SPC contains 12 incunabula, works produced from the infancy of printing to 1501. SPC has another 137 works produced between 1501 and 1601. These early printed works are or are about English history, early veterinary medicine, witchcraft, histories of France and Italy and specific places and periods in these countries, Roman, Canon, and civil law, religion, the Catholic Church, Greek and Latin authors’ works, works on various sciences before 1800, such as agriculture, gardening, zoology, and botany, government, cookery, poisons, emblem books, diplomacy, Bibles, architecture, prudence, wood-engraving, epigrams, bees, logic, the Reformation, excommunication, monarchy, education of princes, magic, and political science.