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At the Newberry:
The Newberry Library is a historical research library located at 60 W. Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois. It is a non-circulating library, meaning its collection never leaves the building and researchers come from all over the world to work there.
It was founded in 1887 with the estate of Chicago businessman Walter L. Newberry, who had made a considerable fortune dealing in real estate in the early days of the city’s growth.
Newberry’s will specified that if his children died without issue his fortune was to go to establish a public library in Chicago. Newberry died in 1868, and by 1885 both his daughters died young and without children, and his wife has died also.
Since there was already a public library established in Chicago and local universities could be expected to attract large collections in the physical sciences, it was decided by the library’s first trustees that the Newberry would be a non-circulating research library focusing on the humanities.
The Newberry is not part of the public library system and it gets no tax support. It is funded entirely out of its endowment.
While many researchers at the Newberry are graduate students, professional historians or college professors on sabbatical, its archive is open to the public as well. Any Chicago resident who is at least a junior in high school or at least 16 years old can obtain a “Reader” card allowing use of the library.
In recent years the Newberry has also established itself as a major genealogical research center, offering a vast resource of historical documents not available on the Internet or in many other libraries. The collection includes city directories, newspapers, ship passenger lists and military records.
On Wednesday afternoons the staff and readers at the Newberry meet at the end of the day for a colloquium with a short social gathering and a seminar by one of the researchers on the products of recent work. The articles on the Web site are taken from four of the recent colloquium talks.

The Newberry also hosts talks by visiting historians and authors, regular seminars on Renaissance and medieval history and literature, as well as meetings of the Chicago Map Society. The fifth article presented here is from a recent Chicago Map Society meeting.

For the recent reports, check out:

"Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance." A new book by art historian Mary Quinlan-McGrath explains how the progressive thinkers of the Renaissance thought about astrology, and employed astrological symbols and references in art and architecture. Check it out at Curious about Art.

The “Benefit of Clergy” means any literate person used to be able to escape punishment for major crimes. This tradition is examined in amusing detail by Lesley Skousen, a historian at the University of Wisconsin. Check it out in Curious about History - The Americas - Benefit of Clergy.

"A Diabolical Murder: the Clan, Cronin and Chicago in the Gilded Age." The 1889 murder of a physician and Irish republican in Chicago grew into a major international public event that shaped American attitudes about the Irish independence movement and did much to form public opinion about police and judicial corruption in Chicago. Check it out in Curious About History - The Americas - Cronin Murder.

"The Baker Who Pretended to be King of Portugal.” Ruth MacKay, A Newberry visiting scholar from Stanford University, outlines her new book about an imposter’s attempt to assume the crown of Portugal in the 1590s. Check it out in Curious about History -Europe

“Seeing the World Anew.” Martin Waldseemüller, who lived in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France, created two world maps in 1507 and 1516 that created a new image of the world. His maps were the first to show the North American continent separated from Asia, and the first to use the name “America.” Chet Van Duzer has researched primarily the 1516 map, and explained to the Chicago Map Society about the sources from which Waldseemüller gathered his material and how the later map was created for a very different purpose than the first. Check it out in Curious About History - The Americas.


“Drama of Assassination” in Early Modern France


When King Henry IV of France was stabbed to death in a Paris street in 1610, the act capped 60 years of misrule, regicide and two religious civil wars. The murder of the popular king threatened to plunge France back into anarchy and violence, but a deft change in the public mourning ritual kept the nation and Henry’s legacy alive.

John McCormack, a graduate student in history working on a PhD thesis at Notre Dame on the wars of religion in France, detailed how this happened at the weekly colloquium of the Newberry Library in Chicago, where McCormack has been doing research. His talk on 13 March 2013 was titled “The Drama of Assassination in Early Modern France.”

(Art from Wikicommons) 

The stage for the events of Henry’s assassination was set by a chain of events going back to the death of Henry II after a jousting accident in 1559. His son Francis II died after only 17 months on the throne, to be replaced by his younger brother, Charles IX, who died in 1574 at the age of 23.

Henry III, the last son of Henry II to reign, ruled from 1574 until his assassination at the age of 37 in 1589.

During most of the reigns of Henry II’s sons the country was misruled by the regency of their Italian mother, Catherine de Medici and her allies in the Guise family. The period included the Reformation conflicts between Catholic League and Protestant Huguenots in the Wars of Religion from 1562 to 1598. Henry III fueled the climate of assassination when he ordered the murder of the Guise brothers, in 1588.

The Wars of Religion turned into a war of succession in 1584 with the death of Henry II’s last son, Francis, made it clear that the Valois dynasty would die out. The throne went to Henry IV, a Protestant and prince of Navarre. Henry’s first marriage in Paris in 1572 had sparked a backlash of Catholics angered by the rise of Protestant power, resulting in the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre in August 1582.

Henry IV brought a relative peace to France with the Edict of Nantes in 1598, in which he granted the Huguenots substantial rights in a nation where they had been officially considered schismatics and heretics.

  Henry had officially converted to Catholicism in 1593 in order to firmly establish his legal right to a throne of a Catholic country, but he espoused toleration, equality and universal civil rights.

Henry was murdered in 1610 by a Catholic radical, Francois Ravaillac, and was succeeded by his eight-year-old son, Louis XIII, under the regency of his mother, Marie de Medici, a cousin of Henry II’s Catherine.

“Henry IV remains important as a peacemaker ending the wars between Catholic and Protestant forces,” McCormack stressed. “Religion is still an issue in a more tolerant and peaceful world, which was considered by the French to have started with Henry.”

The deaths of earlier kings had resulted in only two funeral orations, McCormack found. His research on Henry IV showed 50 funeral orations given for the dead king, and all where published and widely distributed throughout France.

“There was a significant common sense of grief,” McCormack said.

This was fueled by Henry’s mother, Marie de Medici, who made her mourning an event shared with the public. She had paintings make by court artist such as Peter Paul Rubens of herself in mourning clothing. Illustrations even emphasized the tears on her cheeks.

There were also plays written about the works of the late king, a feature borrowed from plays written about the Guise brothers after their murder 22 years before.

“The result was the ‘creation of an emotional community,’ to use a Barbara Rosenwein phrase," he stressed.

When Henry III had been stabbed to death in 1589, his assassin, Jacques Clement, was killed immediately by the king’s guards and retainers. His body was later mutilated, quartered and burned, but the impact of seeing the murderer suffer was lost.

In the case of the killer of Henry IV, Francois Ravaillac was 

condemned to a very public series of tortures and mutilations

before being torn to pieces by four horses. “Torture and death of the assassin was also important, McCormack said.


(Peter Paul Rubens, the Louvre Museum, France)