Rare Book and Manuscript Library Acquires First Edition of Plato’s Works in Greek

RBML curator Cait Coker, left, RBML director Lynne Thomas, and librarian Elias Petrou of the Literature and Languages Library helped guide the purchase of the book.
(Photo by Fred Zwicky / University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

News release courtesy of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign News Bureau:

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has acquired a rare first edition of Plato’s works printed in the Greek language.

The “editio princeps” was printed in Venice in 1513 by Aldus Manutius, the founder of Aldine Press, one of the most successful printing houses of the time.

“It was the beginning of a flourishing of classical studies, and this work contributed to that in great measure. One can’t overestimate the importance of the work in its time and place and what it did for classical scholarship,” said Kirk Sanders, a professor of classics and of philosophy and an expert in ancient philosophy.

The purchase of the book was a joint effort between RBML; the classics library collection, part of the Literatures and Languages Library; and donors George and Jamie Reveliotis of Chicago. George Reveliotis is an Illinois alumnus and a supporter of the classics department.

“We are deeply pleased to add this landmark work of Greek letters to the collections here at Illinois and we’re grateful for the donors that made that possible,” said Lynne M. Thomas, the head of RBML.

It is estimated that around 200 volumes were printed and about 40 are still in existence, Sanders said. “Our classics library is one of the largest and the best libraries for classical studies in North America and in the world. It has an enormous collection. To add something like this in RBML is a wonderful new acquisition,” he said.

The book was part of an attempt in the 16th century to revive classical studies and the study of Greek philosophy.

“This was part of a conscious attempt to make accessible in their original language the entirety of the works of Plato for study. It was incredibly important for reigniting interest in the study of Plato in the West,” Sanders said. “It was dedicated to Pope Leo X in the hope that he would be the savior of classical studies and establish something like a new Platonic Academy.”

RBML has about 30 other titles printed by Aldine Press, including about half of the works that were printed in Greek during Manutius’ lifetime. Aldine Press was “a precursor of what we think of as a university press. It was the first to put together side-by-side translations and works for scholarly study,” Thomas said.

Printing the volume of Plato’s works in Greek was a massive undertaking, said RBML curator Cait Coker.

“One of the things that is extraordinary about it is that the Greek typography is really challenging because of all the accents. The letter ‘a’ has 46 different versions,” Coker said. “Despite the difficulties of developing Greek typography, Greek literature was very important, and its classical texts were standard bodies of work read by scholarly people.”

Manutius created new set of Greek typographical characters based on handwriting and made specifically for printing this work, said Elias Petrou, the librarian for classical studies, medieval studies and modern Greek studies in the Literatures and Languages Library. The process of creating the typeset itself may have taken up to a decade, he said.

Manutius implemented several technological advances in printing the Plato volume, Petrou said. Manutius created smaller, portable books that could be carried around, in contrast to the massive books that had to be used in the place where they were kept. While the Plato volume is quite large by today’s standards, it was small for its time, he said.

Manutius used compressed paper and italics to save space, and he introduced the use of punctuation such as the comma and semicolon to help readers better understand what they were reading, Petrou said. The text of the Plato book is in the middle of the pages, with wide empty margins for users to make notes. The book purchased by RBML has very few notes and is in its original condition other than being rebound in the 17th or 18th century, he said.

“This is in mint condition. It looks like almost no one touched it,” Petrou said.

Sanders said he is looking forward to taking students to see the volume.

“It’s amazingly beautiful. It’s the sort of thing to get students excited about the history of scholarship and ancient philosophy,” he said.

The book will travel to a Feb. 10 event at Chicago’s National Hellenic Museum to celebrate its acquisition with the Reveliotis family, other members of Chicago’s Greek community, the consul general of Greece in Chicago, Greek dignitaries and classics scholars. The event coincides with celebrations for the International Day of the Greek Language on Feb. 9. The volume will be packaged in a padded travel case, and RBML commissioned a new traveling exhibit case, which is being made by the university’s mill shop, Thomas said.

A similar event to showcase the new volume will take place on campus in May.

The University of Illinois System Announces Open Publishing Agreement with Elsevier

The University of Illinois System is pleased to announce an open publishing agreement with Elsevier, a global leader in research and education. The five-year agreement, which will be effective as of January 1, 2024, grants the three universities access to publish and read in Elsevier’s core-hybrid journal portfolio, as well as a 15% discount on publishing costs for Elsevier’s Gold Open Access portfolio. 

Under this new agreement, lead authors at all of the University of Illinois’ campuses will be able to publish their articles as open access, ensuring that their research will be immediately open and available to the public and that they will retain rights in their own work. Core-hybrid article publications are free of charge, eliminating the need for authors to pay publication fees. 

The agreement’s first two years provide a bridge to a fully open access model with coverage for 80% and 90% of anticipated publishing in Elsevier’s core-hybrid titles for each year. By 2026, 100% of projected core-hybrid OA publication is expected to be covered, and in the subsequent years, coverage for up to 114% of projected publishing is included. This agreement positions the University of Illinois and Elsevier to transition Illinois’ scholarly publishing environment and enhance the reach of Illinois’ scholars.  

“This agreement removes a significant barrier to open access publishing for our researchers,” said Thomas Teper, Associate Dean for Collections and Technical Services. “Moreover, it opens venues for open access publishing to disciplines lacking the supplemental resources to pay directly for such access, giving a broader reach to academics from across the institution.” 

The University of Illinois System includes the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Illinois at Springfield, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  

For more information, visit guides.library.illinois.edu/oapolicy/apc


Elsevier is the world’s largest publisher and a global leader in scientific research and career-connected education. Founded in 1880, Elsevier has transformed from a traditional publisher to become a global leader in information and analytics, helping researchers advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society.  

Kaczmarek Named University Archivist and Head of Archival Programs

The University Library is pleased to announce the appointment of Joanne Kaczmarek as the new University Archivist and Head of Archival Programs, effective November 17, 2023. With an illustrious career spanning over two decades at the institution, Joanne brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the UIUC Library. Her appointment is a testament to the university’s commitment to nurturing talent and recognizing the exemplary skills of its library colleagues.

Joanne Kaczmarek holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and a Bachelor’s degree focusing on Engineering Technology/Social Ecology, both earned from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Currently serving as the Interim University Archivist, Joanne has been instrumental in shaping the university’s archival landscape. She also served as the Director of Records and Information Management Services, overseeing a comprehensive records and information management program that ensured compliance with federal and state laws across the University of Illinois System Offices and its three universities.

With a remarkable track record, Joanne has played pivotal roles in prestigious organizations such as the Society of American Archivists, the Central Illinois Chapter of the International Association of Records Managers, and the Midwest Archives Conference. Her contributions extend beyond administrative roles; she has spearheaded research grants in collaboration with esteemed institutions such as the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress, and the Illinois State Library, focusing on archival materials and digital access/preservation.

In addition to her academic and professional achievements, Joanne has been actively involved in various university committees, task forces, and working groups, including the Library’s Inclusion in Governance Task Force and the Archives and Special Collections Building Working Group. Her dedication to the University of Illinois is evident through her extensive service, reflecting her commitment to enhancing library services, preserving the institution’s rich history, and supporting teaching, research, and public engagement.

Joanne Kaczmarek’s appointment comes at a pivotal moment of opportunity and change for the university. Her expertise and leadership will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the establishment of a new, dedicated research center for Archives and Special Collections.

University Library Names 15-Millionth Volume

The Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has named its 15-millionth volume. Ceo ditte de husbonderie fist un chivaler sir Walter de Henleye has been added to its collections, acquired through the generosity of Library Friend Betty Jean Peters Albert in honor of her husband, Waco W. Albert.

This acquisition is a scarce early 14th century Anglo-Norman manuscript containing a nearly complete text of Henley’s 13th-century Hosbondrye, one of the most influential works on agriculture and land management of the middle-ages. This is one of only 41 surviving manuscript copies. Walter of Henley, who was both a knight and a Dominican friar later in life, wrote the Hosbondrye as a didactic treatise on estate management in the form of a sermon from father to son and giving advice on animal husbandry and livestock farming.

“We are thrilled to be able to add this important volume in the history of agriculture to our collections through the generosity of Waco Worthy Albert and Betty Jean Albert,” said Lynne M. Thomas, head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“The addition of this manuscript as the University Library’s 15-millionth volume is a nice recognition of the importance of agriculture at this institution,” said Sarah Williams, head of the Funk ACES Library.

The purchase of the 15 millionth volume was made possible through three separate endowment funds from the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Funk ACES Library, and the Veterinary Medicine Library all established by Betty Jean Albert, as well as a bequest from her estate.

“This remarkable book is not only of great intrinsic value as a precious historical document, but it is both symbolically and in reality an important example that helps underscore our library mission: to unite knowledge across centuries and across cultures as we collaborate with the researchers who will feed the world and save the planet,” said Claire Stewart, Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian.

A framed digitized image from this newest volume will join a display, recognizing all of the University Library’s millionth volumes, permanently installed on the first floor of the Main Library building on the Urbana campus.

For a digitized version of the manuscript, visit go.illinois.edu/15Mdigital. To see the catalog record created by RBML graduate student Marigabriella Stuardi, go to go.illinois.edu/15Mcatalog.

Big Ten Open Books Project Launches

The University Library is pleased to be part of the launch of Big Ten Open Books, a collaboration between the member libraries of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) and six member university presses. This project demonstrates and nurtures a robust partnership based on mutually held values between presses and libraries to address the future of scholarly monograph publishing, access, and preservation.

The first 100-title collection of open access materials, published on open access infrastructure and distributed through open discovery systems, centers on Gender and Sexuality studies.

“This is an exciting example of what’s possible when our Big Ten libraries and presses work together to design entirely new models for disseminating scholarship,” said Claire Stewart, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at Illinois. “I’m optimistic that this strong start will lead to even more ambitious collaborations in the future. Vibrant university presses are an essential part of our shared knowledge creation mission, and I’m delighted that we’ve reached this key milestone.”

News release courtesy of the Big Ten Academic Alliance

IFSI Library Receives IMLS Grant

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) Library has been selected to receive an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) FY2023 National Leadership Grants – Libraries award. This grant funds the “Libraries as Partners for Emergency Response and Preparedness in Times of Crisis” project. The Illinois Fire Service Institute and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, in partnership with the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois and the School of Information Sciences at UIUC, will conduct a preliminary investigation into partnerships between libraries and community emergency response by focusing on three key areas: 1) types of emergencies that libraries have responded to in the past, 2) scope and nature of library-community partnerships; and 3) role of libraries during a crisis. The project will create case studies, survey libraries and community partners, and host two Community Engagement Roundtables (CERs) with library staff, community partners, and participants nationwide. Project results will provide a baseline understanding of how libraries can establish and maintain successful partnerships with community emergency response groups during crises.

For more information about the IFSI Library, visit fsi.illinois.edu/content/library.

The National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program (NLG-L) supports projects that address critical needs of the library and archives fields and have the potential to advance practice and strengthen library and archival services for the American public. For more information, visit imls.gov/grants/available/national-leadership-grants-libraries.

University Library Taking Precautions Handling Victorian-Era Book Cloth

In light of recent research showing the possible presence of heavy metals in 19th Century book cloth, the University of Illinois Library is advising all staff and patrons to use caution when handling books in original cloth covers dating from 1800-1899. Monographs published between 1800-1899 will be temporarily inaccessible while we assess the scope and potential risk, but we will be working as quickly as possible to make items available for checkout. Many of these titles are available digitally through HathiTrust and are linked within our online catalog. If an item you need is not available digitally, it may be available via I-Share (linked within the catalog record) or through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). If the item is not available through I-Share or ILL, please use the Public Domain Digitization Request Form to request digitization. Digital Reformatting staff will assess the condition of the item to determine whether it can be scanned. 

Until we know more about which items may pose a health risk, please:  

  • Wear disposable nitrile gloves if you may come in contact with 19th Century materials in original cloth bindings 
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling materials 
  • Do not rub your eyes, nose, or touch your face while handling materials  
  • Wash hands with soap and water immediately after handling materials 

Visit the Heavy Metals in Book Cloth webpage for guidance on identifying original publisher cloth bindings and to learn more about this project. 

Please also see “University Library taking precautions with Victorian-era books that may have heavy metal-based pigments” from the News Bureau.

Interim Closure of the Mathematics Library at Altgeld Hall

The Mathematics Library will be closing to the public at 5pm on May 12, 2023, for the renovation of Altgeld Hall and the current Library space. During this interim period of renovation work, the Mathematics Library collections will be transferred to the Main Library Stacks (1 East Main Stacks area) and the Grainger Engineering Library Information Center (GELIC) and can be physically viewed at these locations starting later this summer (2023).

Mathematics Library items can still be requested and picked up (and returned) at any campus library during this interim period.

The Mathematics Library staff will continue to be available by phone (217-333-0258) and email (math@library.illinois.edu) for your research needs and Mathematics Library services are accessible through its website at library.illinois.edu/mtx/.

Extended and Expanded Free Open Access Publishing in Wiley Journals

News release courtesy of the Big Ten Academic Alliance:

Following a trial in 2022, the University Library, as part of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), has extended and expanded an agreement with Wiley to waive article processing fees for open access articles published by University of Illinois researchers. There are no fees, no caps, no limits, no hassle; authors keep rights to their own work under a Creative Commons license. This includes all hybrid and fully open access journals published by Wiley, including Hindawi journals. For more information on this waiver and others negotiated by the Library and BTAA, follow the link to the BTAA news release above.

UIUC Becomes Full Member of Digital Preservation Coalition

News release courtesy of the Digital Preservation Coalition:

The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) is delighted to welcome the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as they become the Coalition’s newest Full Member.

With a mature digital preservation program, the University of Illinois Library has a bespoke digital preservation repository and staffing for digitization, curation, and computer programming. Its mission is to ensure continued access and use of digital materials stewarded by the library.

“Since our first engagements with the DPC, faculty and staff at Illinois have found it to be a critical connecting mechanism as part of the international digital preservation community,” explains Christopher Prom, Interim University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The work in which the DPC engages cuts across typical boundaries, and we look forward to deepening our own connections to the DPC member network.”

Juan Bicarregui, Chair of the DPC was delighted to welcome the team at the University of Illinois saying: “Through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s membership, we not only extend the community of DPC Members in the USA, as they contribute their experiences to this growing network of expertise, but we also build upon that all-important collaboration and connectedness which are so vital to building a coalition scaled to the global challenge of digital preservation.”

The DPC is an international charitable foundation which supports digital preservation, helping its members around the world to deliver resilient long-term access to digital content and services through community engagement, targeted advocacy work, training and workforce development, capacity building, good practice and standards, and through good management and governance. Its vision is a secure digital legacy.