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ASU Libraries acquire English Renaissance texts

Chaucer codices include a 1550 Chaucer publication edited by William Thynne.
Books formerly belonged to Phoenix businessman and collector Robert A. Lawler.
September 26, 2016

Works include Geoffrey Chaucer, Francis Bacon, John Milton, Ovid, Sir Walter Raleigh, Jonathan Swift and William Shakespeare

For six centuries, Geoffrey Chaucer’s work has stirred continued re-examination, modern adaptations and fresh insight into English society in the 14th century. Now, scholars studying Chaucer, his contemporaries and the evolution of language in the Middle Ages will have access to a collection of rare, early printed books acquired by Arizona State University Libraries that promise new understanding of the classic works.

The codices, which date to the early 16th century, include varied editions of the collected works of Chaucer — notably, a circa 1550 publication edited by William Thynne — a decorative first illustrated edition of Ranulf Higden’s "Polycronicon" and literature by Francis Bacon, Robert Fabyan, Richard Grafton, Ben Jonson, John Milton, Ovid, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, Jonathan Swift and William Shakespeare.

The Chaucer texts contain "The Canterbury Tales" as well as the Chaucerian apocrypha, or works that were wrongly attributed to the author. According to professor of English and medieval studies Richard Newhauser, the apocrypha indicate Chaucer’s importance during his lifetime: it seemed as if almost any anonymous writing with literary value, especially a text related to women or love, was quick to be associated with the poet.

The libraries’ new collection brings together many of these texts in the same place for the first time in the Southwest. Some contain margin notes by early English readers or are structured differently than how the story is presented today.

“In some cases, these volumes are the only places the Chaucerian apocrypha exist together, and now we have them at ASU,” Newhauser said.

The books formerly belonged to Phoenix businessman and collector Robert A. Lawler. ASU’s procurement ensures they will remain part of Arizona’s heritage and will be accessible to scholars locally and from across the globe.

Plans are already in place to include the collection in the university’s biennial Chaucer Celebration alongside medieval music, food, drama and lectures from visiting professors. The next festival is planned for 2018, in the days leading up to Easter to correspond with when Chaucer’s name was first mentioned in archival documents in 1357.

Newhauser intends to study the texts to prepare "The Chaucer Encyclopedia," the first full compilation of Chaucer’s life, work and times, for which he is general editor and which will be published in four volumes. Current ASU doctoral students are pursuing research related to the collection’s Shakespearian editions and to the glossing, or margin notations, in the Chaucerian books.

“Books like those in the Lawler collection give scholars and students a precious opportunity to see and touch and even smell the past. We can think better about the past and thus about our present when we have the opportunity to work with them,” said University Librarian Jim O’Donnell.

The three dozen books that make up the ASU Libraries’ Lawler collection can be viewed in the Hayden Library Luhrs Reading Room by appointment through the Archives and Special Collections Reference Services.

Top photo: “Polycronicon” by Ranulf Higden; printed by Peter Treueris, 1527: The Polycronicon is considered the most important text pertaining to the history of England in the 16th century and is the first English book in which musical notation appears. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Beth Giudicessi


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F.W. De Klerk encourages support for ethical leaders at ASU event

De Klerk, president from 1989 to 1994, founded the Global Leadership Foundation
September 26, 2016

Former president of South Africa says developed world 'must create sensible platforms' to help developing world

The man who helped to end apartheid in South Africa said it’s in the best interests of the developed world to encourage ethical leadership in the developing world.

F.W. de Klerk, former president of South Africa, spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute, Arizona State University and the Thunderbird School of Global Management. De Klerk, president from 1989 to 1994, helped to broker the end of apartheid, South Africa's system of racial segregation and discrimination, and supported the transformation of the country into a non-racial democracy.

To do it, he worked with Nelson Mandela, an opposition political leader, who had been jailed in 1962 on charges of conspiring to overthrow the state. In 1990, de Klerk ordered the release of Mandela, who served as the country’s first black president from 1994 to 1999.

In 1993, de Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in ending apartheid.

Building humane leadership in developing countries is important for world stability, he said.

“The sad reality is that history has more often been driven by bad rather than good leadership,” he said.

“One thing we have learned since the beginning of the millennium and from globalization is that none of us can ignore developments in even the most remote societies.”

De Klerk said that he learned that power is corrosive and must be subject to checks and balances, and not based on ideology, with apartheid as an example of ideology run amok. De Klerk said he supported apartheid as a young man.

“I have made a profound apology," he said. "I apologized for the pain and devastation it has caused to millions of people.

“And we went further in South Africa. We didn’t only apologize. It was my privilege that under my presidency, we abandoned apartheid.”

A key factor in good leadership is respect for diversity, said de Klerk, who noted that under its new constitution, South Africa recognized 11 official languages.

“You manage diversity by having rules in place that allow space for the existences and acknowledgement of minorities as building blocks — not as stumbling blocks standing in the way of the greater good,” he said.

To help foster leadership in developing countries, de Klerk founded the Global Leadership Foundation in 2004, which includes more than 40 former presidents, prime ministers and statesmen.

“We understand the loneliness of leadership. We know that many of our closest allies and advisers have their own agendas,” he said. “And we operate with discretion, because the last thing a leader wants is to create the impression that he needs external advice. So we operate beneath the radar.”

De Klerk said that some people are born leaders and some are created in historic times.

“In the end, leadership was thrust upon me,” he said. “But we must create sensible platforms that can deliver such leaders.”

He said that countries embroiled in violence must pause, even temporarily.

“They must bring an end to the violence even for a limited period to create room and space for consensus-seeking dialogue. From such dialogue, leaders will emerge.”

De Klerk said he appreciated the mission of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who spoke briefly at the luncheon, and her institute.

“I know I am among like-minded people who share your vision that it is possible to solve important social, economic and political problems through civil discussion and civic action.”

Photo: Former South African President F.W. de Klerk says building humane leadership in developing countries is important for world stability. He spoke during the Distinguished Speakers Series put on by the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute on Sept. 26 at the Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News